January 2018 II: late winter application of horn manure

Last winter, I applied the biodynamic spray called Horn Manure to my no dig garden, which certainly seems to have benefitted the pear tree (which was not decimated by pear midge for the first time).

The days suggested to be favourable in early 2018 for such an application are:

3rd-6th February;

3rd -4th March.

These dates are root days in the Maria Thun calendar when the moon is descending in its monthly cycle.

However, others also allude to a damp, cloudy day as being beneficial so, if dry sunny conditions are indicated for the above dates, others may be more appropriate.

In reality, little clear data exists suggesting that a huge difference will arise from treating the soil on a specific day, so one suspects that treating the soil and the trees sometime before spring is better than no treatment.

Please read the February 2017 blog entry on this subject for further details on how to prepare dynamised horn manure.

January 2018 I: ideas for lunar sowing in 2018

In February last year, I wrote a post discussing various cycles of the moon and how lunar gardeners plant using such cycles.

One which has been tested by Charles Dowding is sowing two days before full moon.

The dates for full moons in 2018 of relevance are:

31st January; 2nd March; 31st March; 30th April; 29th May; 28th June; 27th July; 26th August and, for autumn sowings of garlic and broad beans, October 24th and November 23rd.

Some ideas for sowing two days before full moon:

28th February – very early Red Alert and Maskotka tomatoes (fruit day in Thun calendar)

29th March – Main bush tomatoes e.g. Maskotka, Super Marmande (fruit day in Thun calendar)

28th April – competition carrots and potatoes in polypots, summer beetroot, late spring radishes, August carrots in soil, late maincrop potatoes (root day in Thun calendar)

26th June – early endive, late kale (leaf day in Thun calendar) – picture below has kale still harvesting in January

24th August – autumn radish (root day in Thun calendar) – picture below has Sicilian radish still harvesting in January

21st November – Aquadulce Claudia broad beans for 2019 (2018 plants behind green manure below)

Obviously, this in no way covers all the sowing required, but it offers some examples of favourable sowing dates for some crops in 2018.

December I: planning 2018

Now that the season is pretty much over, my thoughts turn to planning 2018.

In my case that will involve minor tweaks to the composting and biodynamic spraying and a new plan for sowing. I am going to try a few experiments using precision square foot planting, sowing 50cm*50cm squares with crops for harvest at particular dates, to generate continuous small harvests rather than a few gluts.

I will only do this on one of my four main beds, leaving space for potatoes, squash, onions, PACA lettuce etc.

The crops I would like small regular harvests from during summer include: salad carrots, spring onions, dwarf beans, beetroot, young leeks, turnip, fennel, chard, mange touts, celery, spinach, radish and early potatoes.

Little and often harvests in autumn will include: fennel, endive, radish, turnip, chicory leaves, pak choi, rocket, cavalo nero, chard and carrot.

New crops for 2018 will include Borlotti beans, brussels sprouts and chicory hearts.

To help in the planning I have ordered two calendars:

1) The 2018 Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar (ISBN 9781782504313)

2) Nick Kollerstrom’s 2018 sowing and planting lunar calendar (ISBN 9780572046941)

November III: seeds for 2018….

The end of November is seed ordering time.

This year I have used five suppliers for everything (just new potato seed tubers to order still), trying to support small British suppliers who have, in my experience provided good service in the past three years or who are worthy of a small test purchase in 2018:

1) Real Seeds Ltd http://www.realseeds.co.uk – a husband-and-wife team in SW Wales.

2) Chase Organics – the Organic Gardening Catalogue http://www.chaseorganics.co.uk – a well established Surrey operation.

3) Medwyns of Anglesey http://www.medwynsofanglesey.co.uk – specialist seeds for exhibition growers, from an 11 times gold medallist at Chelsea Flower Show.

4) Seeds of Italy http://italianseeds.co.uk – a family firm based in Harrow, NW London.

5) SH Organic Seeds http://sh-organic-seeds.co.uk – a new cooperative supplying biodynamic open-pollinated seeds from a Lincolnshire base.

I usually use JBA for seed potatoes, a reliable Scottish supplier, however I may pay a potato fair a visit this year too.

 

I have made my own biodynamic seeds of the following:

1) Aquadulce Claudia broad beans

2) Cobra Climbing Beans

3) Cupidon Dwarf Beans

4) Alderman Peas

5) Kelsae Onion

6) Multiple Tomato strains.

2018, I will attempt to make seeds of radish, grenoble red lettuce and pablo beetroot.

March 2017 II: sowing by the phases of the moon

Sowing seeds according to lunar cycles is an ancient tradition many centuries old.

What is it about, what choices do you have and how important is it in reality?

The most obvious cycle is that of the moon waxing from new moon to full moon, then waning again to start the next cycle about 4 weeks (29.5 days) later.

Those who have examined this suggest that a very good date to germinate seeds is TWO DAYS before FULL MOON (see www.timeanddate.com  for dates for 2017). Charles Dowding’s website (www.charlesdowding.co.uk ) can be searched to find evidence supporting this in trials with various vegetables. The feature image shows spinach plants sown 2 days before the February 2017 full moon.

If you wish to do this in 2017, that suggests sowing on the following dates:

March 10th; April 9th; May 8th; June 7th; July 7th; and August 5th.

However, if life realities prevent using such dates, sowing during the 14 or 15 days of the waxing moon is regarded as OK.

The second aspect of lunar cycles are called ascending and descending moons. Broadly, when the moon is found in the astronomical signs of capricorn to gemini, it is ascending, from cancer to sagittarius, it is descending.

Many suggest transplanting young seedlings during a descending moon. Others suggest sowing during a descending moon. The data sources showing trials to justify this are not that accessible through simple internet searches, it has to be said.

The third aspect of the moon is its distance from the earth during its elliptical orbit. When the moon is closest to earth it is at perigee, furthest away it is at apogee. Apart from sowing potatoes at apogee, many recommend avoiding the apogee and perigee dates for sowing.

The final aspect of the moon of interest to gardeners is the time of moonrise. Experiments in the 1970s suggested that the optimal time to sow seeds is within 1 hour of moonrise. Of course, only the most dedicated will adhere to that, but it is a fascinating observation nonetheless.

So a perfect sowing date would be 2 days before full moon, when the moon is descending, not during apogee or perigee, with the seeds sown at the hour of moonrise.

Clearly, crops will grow without rigid adherence to such timetables, but understanding how plants respond to the moon and the planets certainly cannot harm gardeners.

To learn more about the moon in gardening, two books are worth reading:

‘The Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar’, published annually. ISBN 978-178250-331-6

‘Gardening & Planting by the Moon’, Nick Kollerstrom, published annually. ISBN 978-0-572-04629-3