Remember that love song by Dean Martin with words: When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amoré… When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet, you’re in love… and so on.
I haven’t personally written any love songs of late concerning the man and woman in the moon, but I do find the study of long-established moonlore traditions and practices most fascinating. Yes — I’m reaching for signs from the moon. Then, I shall go out on another limb, where some Prairiehardy roses are. Are those enough clues to what’s ahead?
What can compare to flipping through pages of nursery and seed catalogues while waiting for the first signs of spring? I’ve been sipping tea and glancing at the loose leaves in my cup. One or two floated near the top. By the time my cup is empty, most leaves are settled near the bottom, but a few have dillydallied and wandered elsewhere. I glance again to study the leaves more closely and ask: When’s the right time to sow my tomato seeds indoors? The tea leaves instinctively told me what I already knew: Look to the moon for guidance.
… and agriculture is a day-today, lifelong learning experience and I love to study moonlore and folk idioms from the past. The No. 1 rule is “use common sense.” Sometimes in gardening and farming it’s not always possible to go by the best dates and signs for planting or harvesting and so we follow our instinct and do the next best.
There are only a handful of modern-day scientists who have conducted tests relative to moon planting. Here are some brief highlights. Among them is a French astronomer who confirmed that cucumbers increase in quality and quantity when planted close to time of full moon. He found the same applies to leeks, radishes, turnips, horseradish and lilies.
By contrast, beets, carrots and onions are much larger with better returns when sown during declining light, or old age of the moon, as it’s also called. This is historically confirmed by Egyptians who avoided planting out onion sets and onion transplants while the moon was in its youth. Only onion seeds were planted when the moon was increasing in light. For biggest onions, remember to pull away soil from their sides so that the top half of each bulb is uncovered and exposed to light.
The following will come as a revelation to most Grainews readers. There’s a best time to clip and harvest herbs, greens, lettuce and even prune tomatoes and other plants. Do it after sunset while it’s getting dark and even in full darkness. It’s best done as the moon is increasing in light between new moon and full moon. Folklore enthusiasts proclaim gardeners will then have fewer slugs, cutworms, whiteflies, other insect pests, mice, moles, voles, rabbits, gophers and animals visiting in the garden and growth is quicker.
DON’T BE IN A RUSH
… to sow your tomatoes. Six to 10 weeks before you expect to set your first transplants out into the open garden is plenty soon enough. Here are the very best days in March and April for seeding tomatoes and annuals indoors: March 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 29, 30; April 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
A basic statement or less accurate rule says: plant crops that produce above the ground during the waxing moon (increasing in light) and plant those crops that produce below the ground during the waning moon (decreasing in light). From this was born the old traditional rule: Plant your potatoes during the dark of the moon.
Expanding on that further: Plant annuals of the leafy kind that produce their yield above ground during the first quarter of a new moon. Examples include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cereals, grains, cress, lettuce, parsley and other herbs and all greens such as spinach. Annuals that produce seeds on the inside should be sown during the second quarter. This includes vining-type plants such as beans, peas, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes. Such division between first and second quarter is however, not a hard and fast rule. If you can’t seed during the first quarter of the new moon; do it in the second quarter and vice versa. Earlier I mentioned the scientist who proclaimed good results from seeding cucumbers close to full moon. Yet — some traditional moon sign growers hold firm and fast to their belief that cucumbers do best when planted in the first quarter; rather than the second quarter of the moon. So… take your pick — maybe try both and compare.
Let me add my own brief footnote here. Direct outdoor-seeded cucumbers whether in first or second quarter get off to a good start by placing a small handful of unsprayed grass clippings mixed into the soil among the seeds. The clippings provide a warm bed and nature gets the cuke seedlings off to a good start.
I’ve met people who reject the notion of gardening according to the moon’s phases and I respect their opinion. The usual nonbeliever isn’t a scientist and often lives in an urban setting with a very busy and rushed lifestyle, without experiencing much contact with nature. I don’t know all the secrets to moonlore success, but the road to failure is when you try and please or convince everyone. Opinions will always vary and folks won’t necessarily agree.
ROSES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN
… close to my heart. More than 40,000 are named on an international rose register. Not much wonder choosing the right ones for your region and the Prairies in particular may seem an awesome task. But is it really?
Take your pick; Morden Blush, Morden Fireglow, Winnipeg Parks, John Davis and Henry Kelsey. All five are on the list of top 10 selling roses at a southern Ontario nursery in 2009. Morden Blush is highly floriferous with pink flowers, often coming in sprays of up to five roses. Morden Fireglow pours out its heart with bright, scarlet-red roses and foliage that’s resistant to powdery mildew and rust. You’re going to love the compact and neat bush habit of Winnipeg Parks. Just under a metre tall and metre wide, it makes a great specimen rose among perennials, in mass plantings, or when potted and placed on a sunny balcony. Medium-red double blooms have moderate fragrance and often appear in clusters. Winnipeg Parks has complex parentage which may partially account for it repeating blooms so well. All three are from the Parkland series and developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Morden.
Henry Kelsey and John Davis are from the Canadian Explorer series and were introduced back in 1981 and 1986 respectively. Both are easily trained as climbers. Henry Kelsey bursts into semi-double deep-red roses in clusters up to a dozen and a half. John Davis is free flowering with abundant double pink flowers that are clustered and fragrant. Canes are strong and like to trail on the ground or can climb along a trellis or arbour. These five roses are all super cold hardy and do extremely well on the Prairies and similar climates. Ask for them at your nursery and garden centre this spring.
DRAW TIME IS NIGH
Try and win one of my soon-to-take-place draw prizes in March. To be drawn for are: $25 gift certificates that can be applied toward any item listed in T & T Seeds, McFayden and Early’s catalogues. Also, seed potatoes from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes and Bluebell grapes from Corn Hill Nursery. Winners’ names will appear in a future column. Celebrate the coming of spring by sending an entry with your name and mailing address to:
SINGING GARDENER Draws, c/o Grainews,
1666 Dublin Ave.,
Winnipeg, Man., R3H 0H1
This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world. Good friends are like gardeners… you don’t always see them, but you know they are always there. Be blessed. My email address is [email protected]