Planting by the Stars - Planting Times
We all already plant by the 'stars' when we wait for the Sun to be in a
certain part of the zodiac before we plant; it is too cold before, and
too late after. Some
planting research reflects the Earth's rotation and
there's some closer focus on the Sun's cycles and the
planets' influences, but our super 'star' is the
Moon; the Moon has many rhythms which have been considered in relation
The most obvious is the 29.5 day 'synodic' cycle.
This is marked by the rhythmical waxing and waning of the visible aspect
punctuated by the full moon when the Sun and Moon are either side of
the Earth (opposition), and new Moon when the Sun and Moon are to the
same side of the Earth (conjunction, occultation, or occlusion). The
Moon takes 27 days to orbit the Earth but since the sun has moved on
by 27 degrees in this time the synodic cycle is 2 days longer.
Most calendar years have 12 full moons. Indeed, this defines the
Muslim year. The Jewish year, without 'intercalation' would also move
11 days a year through the seasons. 'Synodos' is Greek for 'meeting'.
It also means 'copulation' suggesting links to fertility (and
makes me cheerful when I hear of the General Synod of the Church of England).
This synodic rhythm dominates traditional lore and much modern research
concerning biological processes. (more
on the synodic cycle.....)
27.5 days the moon completes a 'nodal' cycle. The Sun, Moon, and
planets have a similar background of stars in their cycles but the
Moon's trajectory is 5 degrees from that of the Sun. This means that
there are two points at which these two apparent orbits seem to cross.
These are known as the ascending, or North node (or the Dragon's head)
and the descending or South node (Dragon's tail). These crossing points
also complete a lap of the zodiac in 18.6 years.
Considering the nodal and
synodic cycles together brings a familiar and portentous 'coincidence'.
If these crossing points coincide with the full or new moon we Earth
dwellers witness lunar or solar eclipses. (Also less noticeable planetary
eclipses or occultations.) It is for this reason that the path upon
which our closest heavenly bodies cross the Zodiac is known as the 'ecliptic'. (More
on the nodal cycle....)
Apogee-perigee (Apsidal cycle)
Because its orbit around the Earth
is elliptical, the Moon is alternately closer to and further
away from the Earth in its journey. This cycle takes around 27.2
days, and has a closest point known as the 'perigee' and a most distant
point called 'apogee'. As seen from the Earth and due the Moon's stage
in this cycle, the moon is in front of different constellations for shorter
and longer periods, with a variance of 30%. At perigee the moon appears
to be larger and move faster against the zodiac, and exerts a a greater
pull on the tides.
The equivalent phenomena in the Earth's elliptical orbit of the Sun
is known as 'perihelion' (in January) and 'ahelion' or 'aphelion' in
on the apsidal cycle.....)
Solunar or ascending and descending cycle
Because the Earth's equator is at a 23 degree
angle to the Ecliptic all the bodies of the solar system appear to rise
and fall relative to our horizon. We are familiar with this, particularly
away from the equator, because it is synonymous with our seasons and
the extra time the sun spends in the sky in summer. During this cycle
the moon is sometimes higher in the sky and other times lower. This
cycle of ascending (currently through the constellations of Sagittarius,
Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus) and descending (Gemini,
Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio) mimics the sun's own low winter
position and higher summer passage from horizon to horizon.
on the ascending and descending cycle....)
A 'sidereal' cycle of the Moon takes 27.3 days
and is the time it takes for the same stars to be behind the Moon as
seen from the Earth. This time is also the time it takes for the Moon
to turn on its axis (which is why we always see the man in the Moon's
face), and very close to the time it takes for the Sun to revolve on
its own axis!. (More
on the sidereal cycle....)
Maria Thun uses this sidereal cycle and has identified differentiation
in the Moon's influence as the Moon moves in front of different
empirical findings are that the
background of the Moon as viewed from the Earth will influence the activities
undertaken at that time. In many cultures and over eons this background,
the 'zodiac', has been divided into 12 sections. The constellations
of stars which comprise this zodiac are of different
sizes (for instance,
The Scales being given as little as an 18 degree arc of the zodiac
whilst the Virgin has a mighty 46 degrees). Maria Thun uses these
constellations as the divisions which flavour the Moon's influence.
Some astrologers and lunar gardeners use this same basic division
but give each constellation an equal twelfth portion of the zodiac,
and when they do so they are using the 'sidereal' zodiac.
Yet others use an equal 30 degree division but Aires , the sign, now
starts at around 25 degrees of the Fishes, the constellation, due to
the 'precession of the equinoxes'. Such a zodiac is known as the 'Tropical'
zodiac, and is used by most Western astrologers when ascribing significance
to the time and place of a person's birth.
(Whilst lack of agreement amongst astrological schools over these seemingly
arbitrary divisions of the heavens is, for many rationally adept modern
people, just one of the many nails in astrology's coffin, I consider
it to be a stimulus to work back from the results.) (More
on the zodiacs...)
So, until we can assign empirically determined roles
to each zodiac, we will work with Maria Thun's empirically determined
assertion that plants are 'listening' to the Moon playing the visible
constellations. These 12 constellations have been given a fourfold differentiation.
The Elements and the constellations
|Ram, Lion, Archer
Seed and Fruit
|Bull, Virgin, Goat
|Twins, Scales, Waterman
|Fishes, Cancer, Scorpion
As an early consideration, planting whilst the Moon
is in front of a constellation corresponding to the part of a plant one
wishes to emphasize and encourage (a carrot's root, or a cereal's seeds)
is a great assistance to that plant.
However, this excellent start in life would be compromised
(and here again, opinions are not unanimous) if the Moon were
being eclipsed at that very same time, or if it were to be at apogee
or in an ascending phase. These reinforcing or interfering cycles all
seem to require consideration before one can say confidently what time
is going to assist which crop. It is this complex interplay of rhythms
that makes the experience of one Maria Thun, or all you guys - if not
now, later - so valuable.
Other heavenly bodies - the Earth
The spin of the Earth appears to bring the Moon, Sun, stars
and planets rising over the horizon and then disappearing over the other
'edge'. Colin Bishop's research showed large peaks when sowing as the
Moon rose on the horizon ('Moonrise'). Brian Keats considers that cows
chew the cud in relation to this Lunar day (and the position of the midday
sun). A 19th century gardening column in the Astrologer always showed
this as an important point of the day. Kollerstrom considers
this to be a crucial marker in the day and uses it in his calendars.
Morning, like the ascending Moon, is good for harvesting
food to be eaten soon and taking cuttings and exhuming seedlings for
transplants, whilst the afternoon favours pruning, sowing, and 'bedding-in'
The projection of the Earth's equator on to the heavens
(the 'Celestial Equator') crosses the ecliptic in two places. Most famous
is the one found when the sun rises on the morning of the spring equinox.
Currently this 'vernal point' is against the constellation of the fishes
so, given that the 'precession of the equinox' needs about 72 Earth years
for each degree of the ecliptic, we are due for the age of Aquarius in
about 4 - 500 years. (Assuming no big changes, we can then calculate
that the precession of the equinox will complete a tour of the zodiac
in about 26000 Earth years. this is a 'platonic year', or what an Earth
year feels like without a synod when you are in your prime, or a synod
feels like with the wrong company.)
Other heavenly bodies - the Sun
The Sun must not be forgotten! It is really the prime scheduler
of our farming and gardening. Although the tilt of the Earth's axis
relative to the ecliptic brings on the seasons, it is the Sun whose influence
is moderated by this rhythm.
The sectional rings of trees are a diary of a tree's
annual experience (chronodendrology). The rings are often fat every
11 years: the sun
In some regions crop feasts and famines are
moderated by this sun spot activity with more
warm and wet days
spot maxima, marked by increases in UK potato, turnip and Swede
harvests and dairy
yields. Good years for wine and bad years
for telecommunications correlate with sun spot activity. USA average
temperatures also rise with
the sun spot activity, whereas droughts
and forest fires follow
the troughs. William Hershel, 200 years ago stated
that the price
of wheat varied with sun spot activity, and WJ Stein
agreed in 1937. However, it appears that the lunar
signal (18.6 years)
is stronger than the solar one (11 years).
Other heavenly bodies - the Planets
In books such as Nicholas Culpepper's herbal
you will see that each plant has its associated planet which dothe sore
enhance its virtueses. There is a core
of agreement amongst historical
sources about which planets govern which plants, and a lot of divergent
advice! What does it mean, that a plant is 'ruled by a planet'? It
means that that particular planet needs to be unstressed at the time
of sowing, tending, and harvesting. If the Sunflower
is a Jupiter plant (as investigated by Lili
Kolisko) then Jupiter should not be in conjunction, nor square (at 90
degrees) with other planets, nor retrograde, and ideally, should be
in front of its home constellation - The
Water Carrier. (Traditionally
there are constellations through which the planets do not travel harmoniously!)
There are many increasingly arcane thoughts about what to do to strengthen
a plant's connection with its ruling planet, including eurhythmy gestures,
adding homoeopathic doses of the corresponding metal (tin for Jupiter's
sunflowers), and much much more. 'There be dragons ......'
Kollerstrom finds Moon-Venus aspects to be ideal
particularly roses. Sun-Moon trines are basically good for everything
in that elemental grouping, especially those Sun-governed plants such
as oranges and vines.
Some biodynamic people have, from
tradition, considered that
perennial plants like to be have a happy Saturn - opposition, trine and
sextile to the Moon and or Sun would be ideal.
The Moon cycles are also in competition for
the plants' attention, so to speak,
from other aspects of the celestial arrangement. If these planets are
working together, as they are when at 120 degrees from each other, they
will complement each other's actions. However. working from the same
aspect in a conjunction or eclipse, they interfere and the plants do
not respond well.
At times when a planet is not in an important aspect or bothering
its home or contrary constellations it is said to be neutral. Thun has
used this neutral idea as a resting year between test years so that continuing
influences are mitigated.
Perennial plants and trees are
further in tune with the planets of longer
Thun shows the problems with Beech trees
and their relation to the 28 year cycle of Saturn. With such plants experimentation
is not so simple, just because of the length of time between planting
and the result. However, indications can be gleaned from the history
All these principles are covered in Maria
Thun's and Nick
Kollerstrom's publications and it is to those that we encourage
you to go for details. We have collected some tid bits but please take
on our caveat.