A GARDENER’S DIARY: Gardening by the light of the moon

Jocelyne Sewell shares her tips for gardening according to the phases of the moon.

Not long ago I was asked  if I ever gardened by the moon. I said that I had tried but it was too dark and I could not see anything so I gave up. For centuries, farmers have planted by the moon’s daily zodiac signs and by its phases, and they did not plant in the middle of the night. I found an old almanac of 1992 which had an article about how to plant by the moon signs and moon phases. I did a bit more research on the Internet and found a site with Vernon planting dates if anyone ever wants to try this method: www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/BC/Vernon

Above-ground crops are planted during the light of the moon (new to full); below-ground crops are planted during the dark of the moon (from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again). Planting is done in the daytime; planting at night is optional.

The time at which a seed is sown is the beginning of its life cycle. Final plant yield, as every gardener knows, is crucially affected by the conditions encountered by the seed.

The effect of the phases of the moon on seed germination and growth was first studied by L. Kolisko in 1930. Using wheat, Kolisko found that seeds germinated faster and more prolifically when sown at the full moon. Experimentation indicates that seeds sown just before or around the full moon have a higher rate and speed of germination than those sown at the new moon because seeds are able to absorb more water at the full moon. The new moon gave him the most unsuccessful results. Later experiments on cress confirmed Kolisko’s findings. Recent studies at Northwestern University, conducted by Professor F. Brown, have shown that, even under equal temperatures, seedlings absorb more water at the full moon than at the new moon. The findings lend credibility to adages that recommend harvesting at full moon. It seems plants have less water content at the new moon phase. Professor Brown went so far as to test plants in a darkened laboratory where they would have no direct access to effects of sun or moon. The plants still responded to the moon phases.

I still have time this month to try at least one of the crops and I will make it as an experiment in my garden. I find it a fascinating subject but I will have to learn a lot more to make it work.

On another subject, I just harvested my Jerusalem artichokes. They are not artichokes and they do not come from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a corruption of the Italian girasole, meaning “turning to the sun,” and this large, potato-shaped tuber is really a prolific member of the sunflower family. It is 100 per cent starchless. It stores its carbohydrates in the form of inulin rather than starch, and its sugar as levulose the way most healthful fruits and honey do. It has practically no caloric value.  Because of these facts, it is a good substitute for other carbohydrates on the diabetic’s menu, and in the diet of all who should restrict their starch and caloric intake.

Some grow to heights of a modest 12 feet or so. Since freezing doesn’t injure the tubers, you can leave them in the ground for winter. They have a taste of water chestnuts when eaten raw. You can use them the same way you do potatoes. I did mine roasted with a bit of olive oil, sliced onions, and some fresh parsley from the garden and a sprig from my rosemary plant. Delicious.

For more information, call 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is a gardening expert and supporter of organic gardening who writes every other Wednesday for The Morning Star.