Planting by the moon is no passing phaseBy Carole Howell
My aunt and uncle always kept a dog-eared copy of Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac by the phone book. They often mentioned the moon’s signs in relation to whatever they were planting or harvesting, and turned to the almanac for weather forecasts as much as they relied on the weatherman.
The first Blum’s, 500 copies, was printed on a second-hand press in 1828, and became popular as tobacco farmers brought their golden burley to market each October. In 1926, the Goslen family of Winston-Salem purchased the rights to the familiar red almanac, printing and distributing a quarter of a million copies each year.
The study of the moon and stars to set an earthly course is not new. For thousands of years, people of many cultures and religions have studied the heavens to mark time and to plan and predict long before calendars and computer models.
In this techno-tuned age, a new generation of commercial farmers and backyard green thumbs are tuning in to the moon’s cycles.
“We’ve seen a vast increase in interest in the old-time methods of reading the moon and stars,” said Spruce Pine’s Jack Pyle who, with Taylor Reese, has written two books on the subject: “Raising With the Moon,” and “You and the Man in the Moon.”
Veteran farmer Rob Bowers applies the science of the moon’s phases with the biodynamic calendar of German scientist Maria Thun to time farming tasks at Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove, north of Hillsborough. Whitted Bowers organic produce can be found at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and several Triangle restaurants as well as you-pick strawberries and blueberries in season.
“It’s a combination of folk wisdom with an overlap in science,” said Bowers. “I mean, doesn’t everyone know you should never plant in Pisces?”
Michael Perry and Cathy Jones, owners of the 33-acre Perry-Winkle Farm in Chatham County, also consult the almanac to manage production of meat and eggs, cut flowers, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables. “It’s basically a management tool for us,” said Jones. “There’s always something to do, so I check my farming calendar to prioritize. For example, if the moon is more favorable for harvesting sweet potatoes that day, we’ll do that instead of something else.
Keeping an open mind
I’ve never given a lot of thought to timing my farming tasks by astronomical positioning, but I’ll keep an open mind, and the current copy of Blum’s nearby, when it comes to this spring’s garden.
What I know for certain is that anyone who plants a seed or sets a shrub is an optimist who expects a fruitful result. I like to believe that thoughtful attention to natural rhythms will pay off in a generous harvest and brighter blooms. We shall see what summer brings.