Biodynamic gardeningFeb 24, 2022 03:55PM ● By Bryan Reed
Last month, the topic of gardening with the moon sparked some interest.
Planting seeds by the phases of the moon is a technique that growers have used for thousands of years. I once worked alongside a nursery manager whose lunar approach to planting consistently produced better germination rates, better top growth and better root systems compared to plants grown according to my production calendar.
Beyond the Mayans, both National Geographic and the Old Farmer’s Almanac have vouched for successful planting and harvests according to the lunar cycle.
We know the moon affects tides and weather patterns. The highest amounts of rainfall correlate with full and new moons. Knowing the importance of moisture for germinating seeds, it makes sense to plant when the moon pulls on ocean tides and there is more moisture in the soil. Tuning into the moon’s phases is also a practical way of acknowledging the forces of nature on our plants.
According to the lunar calendar at www.rhythmofnature.net, March 9-22 are optimal planting dates.
When starting seeds, it’s important to have viable seeds that will germinate. Refer to last month’s article for instructions on how to conduct a germination test on existing seed stock.
Your seed packet will tell you how deep to plant the seeds, but if you’re like me and most of your seeds are saved or bartered, a general rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth of two to three times their diameter. I figure this by placing a seed on a flat surface (you can also use your hand) next to the tip of a wooden chopstick. I roll the seed two to three times and mark the chopstick accordingly. Then I use the chopstick to poke a hole in the soil until it reaches the mark.
When starting indoor seeds, I use a proper germination mix. A combination of peat moss or coconut coir and perlite has a high moisture-holding capacity and the fine particles stay in good contact with the seeds to keep them moist.
I use a clear plastic humidity dome, as I want the moisture to stay at 75 percent—not dried out but also not soaking wet. Plastic wrap is too restrictive for air flow and can promote mold growth. Lastly, I use a heat mat with a thermostat to keep the seed trays warm. I used to place my seed starts on top of the hot water heater (one at a time) or I would use a sunny south-facing window.
Each plant family has a desired seed germination temperature, but most veggies germinate between 65 and 80 degrees F.
Methods for moisture
For outdoor planting, be sure to check the soil temperature before plunking down seeds. Small seeds don’t get planted deep, so they are more prone to drying out. Carrots, lettuces and arugula are good examples.
One option is to water them two to three times per day. Another is to cut some corrugated cardboard and cover the area that contains the small seeds. Water the soil where the seeds are, then soak both sides of the cardboard and place it over the seeded area, anchored with rocks or bricks.
The moist cardboard keeps the ambient air from drying out the soil and also acts like a giant sponge to keep the seeds moist. Watering can be done once per day by soaking the cardboard in place. Assuming your seeds germinate in seven to 10 days, lift the cardboard on Day 7 and look for sprouts. If none are found, check again on Day 8. When 50 to 75 percent of the seeds have come up, remove the cardboard to let them see sunlight.
The cardboard technique works beautifully in our arid climate and can cool the soil in July and August for better germination of fall crops. Our summer heat can diminish sprouting rates if the soil is too hot.
To learn more about biodynamic principles and practices, check out www.biodynamics.com
For an entertaining seed starting demonstration watch Bryan Reed's video “Rock On Seeding and Transplanting.”