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Planting by the moon

All of a sudden there’s a lot going on. I was away for Easter when many of my allotment neighbours were busy working on their plots, so I still have some digging and compost spreading to do.

Before I went away I planted onion and shallot sets, broad beans and carrots. With the exception of the carrots, all of them are now peeping above the soil. I’ll try sowing more carrots in a week or so. It would be good to have more success with them this year than last. As someone reminded me recently, some years we just have to keep on sowing until eventually some germinate.

Thanks to the hard work of the previous owners, the soil on my plot is very easy to dig. I managed to dig two potato trenches and plant the chitted seed potatoes in half an hour. Just shows how important it is to look after the soil.

I remembered to space them along the bottom of the trenches with the sprouting end up and to make a pile of soil between the two trenches as I dug. I’ll use that soil to cover them up as they grow (earthing up).

‘Earthing up’ is one of those terms that is self-explanatory, but not until you know what it means! It’s just a case of covering the potatoes with an extra pile of earth as they grow. It protects the potatoes from late frosts and stops the tubers pushing up into the light and then turning green and toxic.

I think cooking and gardening are quite similar in some respects. I remember one of my sons being perplexed by a recipe that said ‘fold in the flour’. Obvious once you know, but not before.

I’ve just read a tweet posted by someone who uses her grandfather’s gardening tips. She plants her potatoes very deep and close together and then adds grass cuttings to the trench. She doesn’t earth up her potatoes at all. I guess it’s just a case of experimenting. Trying different techniques to find the way that works best for you and for your soil and conditions.

When I can, I plant using Nick Kollerstrom’s book, Gardening and Planting by the Moon. The idea of gardening in tune with the phases of the moon isn’t a new one. It makes sense (to some of us!) to plant after the new moon when the water table is high but Nick Kollerstrom’s book takes things a step further.

He suggests that there are days of the month that are better for dealing with some crops than others. Carrots, parsnips and beetroot for example, should be planted or harvested on a ‘root’ day. Spinach, kale and lettuce should be dealt with on a ‘leaf’ day.

Whether you think that’s a completely mad idea or not, it can be quite a restful way to garden. It’s all too easy for anyone with a busy life to feel overwhelmed at this time of year. I used to leave all my seed sowing to the last minute and then do it in a mad rush. At times it became more of a panic than a pleasure. Now, I look at the planting by the moon calendar and just deal with whatever needs to be done on a particular day.

I don’t have any more time than I did, but it feels as if I do. If I know that it is a ‘flower’ day rather than a ‘fruit’ day, I concentrate on sowing or planting out anything that is flower related – anything from marigolds to broccoli and I (temporarily) forget the rest. Obviously, if I’m away or have deadlines I have to do things when I can, but on balance, I would say that it is a more measured way of gardening.

Tips from the Allotments:

  • Keep digging the soil ready for new crops
  • Sow carrots, leeks, beetroot and parsnips
  • Stand on a board on freshly dug soil
  • Mulch strawberries, raspberries and currants
  • Dig up the last of the leeks this month


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