Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gardening by the Light of the Moon

Spring continues to be capricious here in Northern Colorado. This morning the sun floods the Garden Spot with its warm glow, making the dew on the lawn sparkle. We hope the wind will stay away, for we have had wind since Sunday. Not gentle breezes, but a fierce wind full of furry gusting upwards of 40-50 miles an hour, or however they calculate wind speed. I don't much care for wind.

In the garden, buds are forming on lilacs, cherry trees, peach trees, and the apple trees. The crab apples will soon burst forth in color. We are playing the waiting game, waiting for warmer days and lots of unadulterated sunshine. At the same time, weeds are taking over. Frost, wind, hail, snow do not seem to daunt them at all.

We hold off planting the garden until after Mother's Day when threats of frost have passed.

My in-laws, farmers for generations back, had a more methodical approach to spring planting. They weren't just good farmers, they were successful farmers because they knew the land, the climate, and the crops they grew. My dad gardened and irrigated his pasture, but he was not a farmer, so when I met my new family I learned quickly that farming for them was both science and folklore.

Essentially they gardened by the light of the moon. Not at night, though all summer long they were up at midnight to change the irrigation water on corn, sugar beets, and pinto beans.

     I don't suppose I had heard of the Farmer's Almanac until I met my future mother in law and her mother.  I suppose I even thought their practice of consulting that little paper backed book was rather silly. They did everything by the moon: cut their hair, planned surgeries, weaned their jersey dairy calves, and planted both their garden and cash crops.

As hubby's parents were planning their spring planting schedule, they would consult the Farmers Almanac. They lived by it religiously. Page 85 of this year's almanac explains how and why to use the the moon's phases as a planting guide: the moon's magnetic pull influences everything that contains water--the ocean tides, plants, animals, and even humans. In addition, plants respond to light and grow better with more exposure to light, even moon light. Simply put, above-ground plants should be planted in the light of the moon or during the new moon because plants are "vulnerable in the first few days after germination." Giving them extra light when they are the most tender seems, as the article says, wise. So our tomatoes can be transplanted between May 20 and June 10. Sounds reasonable and about the time we generally plant tomatoes anyway.

The article continues: plant underground plants as the moon is waning, but not during the last quarter. The article continues in more detail about the phases of the moon and the reasoning behind this gardening plan. The almanac also gives guidelines for planting by the Zodiac. Page 86 has the chart for "Gardening and Other Activities by the Zodiac. For example: planting and transplanting above ground plants, planting and transplanting crops and perennials, making seed beds, hunting, weaning children and animals, dental work, quit habits, beginning diet. Each month is charted with the dates of the month best suited for each activity. So we should plant our seedlings that are thriving in the living room May 3-5, 17-18, 22-23, or 26, 27, 31. I must also check the chart that gives the last date of frost in my region: page 164: Colorado: Denver: May 2 and Oct. 14. So we can plant this week-end, which we probably won't do because we have a pond project to finish.
 The moon and Venus: My feeble attempt at photographing the eclipse at 2 AM.

My in-laws- swore by the light of the moon farming. Violet (my mother in law) checked her almanac religiously to schedule her hair cuts and perms because depending on the phase of the moon, hair grows back faster or slower when cut, and she wanted her hair cut and perm to last longer. When friends had surgeries planned, they would consult her on the best date to do the procedure because during one certain phase of the moon there would be less pain and the body would heal faster.

 This article does have a disclaimer for medical procedures, warning the reader that "Modern technology overrides these theories when it to comes to your health and well-being." Be sure to consult your physician when scheduling important surgical procedures. (I seriously doubt that grandma's copy had such a disclaimer).

She weaned her baby jersey calves by the moon's phases, too. At 18 months old, Heather was still on her bottle when grandma decided to wean the one jersey bull calf she was bottle feeding. I was encouraged to wean Heather from her bottle, too. The reasoning: weaning would be less traumatic if done by the light of the moon. The babies wouldn't miss their bottle and weaning would proceed smoothly. Well, grandma must have gotten her phases wrong because the little bull bawled and baby Heather cried all night. Little Heather got her bottle back because daddy couldn't bear to her cry.

 The Almanac for Farmers and City Folk is full of useful, fun, interesting articles, brain teasers, poetry, and recipes. Do we garden by the moonor the Zodiac here at the Garden Spot. No.

Using a little book as guide for gardening seems a bit archaic in this age of technology when most everyone sports a tablet and/or a smart phone. So I went to the App store on the iPad to see what gardening apps are available. Literally there a hundreds. Here are some interesting App titles:

  • Plants vs. Zombies: $.99
  • Gardening: The Ultimate Guide: free
  • Moon Gardening: $1.99
  • Vegetable Planting Garden: free
  • Amateur Gardening Magazine: free
  • Landscaper's Companion for iPad: $7.99
You will find a plethora of garden apps, some free (my preference) and most reasonably priced. 
Unfortunately  it seems to me that the only way to review an app would be to download it to try it out, which I have not yet done. I do not take my iPad shopping or to the garden with me. And while I do have an iPhone, I am very clumsy at using the key pad to do much more that to text one or two syllable responses to my daughters. Some beginning gardeners may find Gardening by App helpful, but this old girl much prefers her standard garden books, the catalogues that come in the mail, talking to the nurserymen (women) and other gardeners. After years of grading in zone 5, I pretty much know what will fail and what will thrive. I also have my horticulturist daughter who is a phone call away. I paid for her education, so I lay claim to her brain. I also pay attention to the ratings of the apps, but some have not been rated and some only have a couple of reviews. 

So how does your garden grow? By what rules to you plant? I suppose I am a "fly by the seat of my pants" gardener, too. And I find it simple enough to google any gardening question I have these days. That's about all the technology I can handle.

And now for the fun stuff: 

I arranged little vases of spring flowers on the Easter dinner table. I love this little daffodil that is a very pale, buttery yellow.

A Fairy Fun Tea at Jen's house. 
The girls each invited two friends from school for a fairy tea party. 

She decorated.

She offered a healthy fare of good vegetables and fresh fruits.

She had pretty flowers.

She made tulle tutus for each little girl and each had a set of fairy wings

I brought flowers from the Garden Spot. 

Each little fairy guest received a fairy in a jar.

My favorite photo: little fairies running through the pasture.

And now it is time for a bit of breakfast, house cleaning, laundry, and whatever else needs to be done. 

Whether you garden by science, folklore, family tradition, or by the light of the moon, I hope you have a wonderful time doing it today.

Thanks for taking the time to visit. I always enjoy your  comments.


  1. Fairies running through the field....Oh my! It doesn't get any sweeter than that! I like the fairy in a jar, too! So cute! Hugs!

  2. I agree that last photo is a delight, what a beautiful party.....they didn't do those sort of parties when I was a child!

  3. Oh a fairy tea, my favourite kind to host! I love the last photo too.
    I garden by science and some folklore but I know many farmers here also sow and reap by the phases of the moon. Apparently it is a fail safe way to grow crops.
    One thing I have always done though is to fertilize, divide or move perennials right before rain - but then that makes sense anyway, doesn't it!

  4. Great post Ann - that last picture is wonderful - such a panorama. No I don't plant by the moon's phases - far too complicated for me. I seem to do alright using my own method. I bet the children were delighted with their tea party.

  5. I enjoyed reading this for my parents used to have an almanac too, I do not believe it all but it is such fun reading. Such nice pictures of the fairy tea party and the last one is the best, the scenery of the mountains and all those little fairies running in front, so sweet.

  6. What a wonderful party Ann. Fairies, tea and flowers, Perfect!

  7. Oh Ann, I LOVE that last shot! What a cute party!

  8. I've read about planting by the light of the moon...sounds interesting, until you stub your toe, lol.


  9. If I lived my life by the light of the moon, I'd never get anything done. :o) I have to get things done when ever I can, regardless of what the moon is doing. The fairy party sounds adorable. :o)

  10. What a wonderful party! You're right, fairies running though the pasture is a precious picture indeed.