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Spring Has Sprung
You must have noticed by now just how much more light there is. The days are getting longer and longer which means there is plenty of time after you come home from work or school or watever to work in the garden. And the weather has been glorious too so there really is no excuse. This truly is a magical time of year, when increasing daylight and warmth from the sun makes everything on earth want to jump for joy.
March 20th is the Vernal Equinox, the date recognized and celebrated all across the Northern Hemisphere as the beginning of the planting year, the day light and night darkness are of equal length and the daylight will continue to increase until the summer solstice. The sun returns and everything is re born and renewed. Its a time for fresh starts in all phases of life, at home, in relationships, at work and most especially in the garden.
Every year around this time my mother would choose a nice warm and sunny day and announce Its time for spring-cleaning! If we kids were smart and quick enough we, of course, booked it out of the house as soon as possible and made sure to stay away as long as possible. If we didnt we were roped in to helping out. Usually our job was to carry the window screens up out of the basement and lay them out on the lawn for a good brisk cleaning with a pail of water and a scrub brush, even though they were cleaned before they were put away in the fall! Meanwhile mom scrubbed and disinfected the house from top to bottom, changed the curtains and other wise got the house ready for the new season.
Much as I hated those spring cleaning chores I now find myself having the same urges on these fine sunny days. It is the urge to open things up and get rid of the staleness of the long winter. Im not quite the clean freak she was so I settle on opening the windows to air the house out and maybe vacuuming real good. I also like things to smell fresh and clean and spring like so I use some of the herb prunings from the garden in my cleaning projects.
I have lots or rosemary, oregano and lavender prunings that I throw in a pot to simmer on the wood stove. Yes, now is a good time to lightly prune your woody herbs. All I use is a sharp pair of scissors to snip away a couple of inches. There is usually plenty of clippings for making little sachets, fancy name for "bag of herbs". Just throw whatever you have available in a little scrap of cotton cloth and tie it off with a ribbon. It doesnt need to be fancy, I have been known to use those darn twist ties that they use to tie lettuce with. Then I toss them in my clothes drawer.
Spring is variously called the Vernal Equinox, Eostre, Alban Eilir, The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Festival of Trees and Naw-Ruz. Everywhere all peoples of all ages celebrate the renewal of life and what better way than to sow seeds. If you havent already it is time to plant cool weather crops, peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and so on and so forth. It is also time for indoor seed starting.
For thousands of years people have relied on nature and the cosmos to give them clues about how and when to do things. Using astrology to determine when to plant and what to plant when is as old as agriculture. There are two parts to astrological planting. The first has to do with the phase of the moon. Plants respond to the same gravitational pull that affects the waters of the ocean causing the tides. Scientific test prove that the phase of the moon controls the amount of moisture in the soil, the most being available to plants and seeds at the new and full moons. This is when the tides are highest and we tend to get most of our rainfall. So it follows that to get optimal germination of healthy plants you should plant your seeds during these times when ample water is available.
The second part of astrological gardening is to know which sign of the zodiac the moon is passing through. You see every sign of the zodiac corresponds with an element, either earth, air, fire (heat), or water. Every plant has a corresponding sign so that if you combine your information to include not only the phase of the moon but also which sign the moon is passing through you can be assured that conditions are optimal for its healthy and disease free growth. The moon passes through a new sign ever tow days or so.
In general the best time to start most annual plants, especially veggies is when the moon is increasing and passing through a sign that corresponds to water, cancer is the ultimate water sign for planting. Root crops can be planted when the moon is decreasing and passing through a sign that corresponds to earth, Taurus being optimal. Flowers do best if planted when the moon is increasing and passing through an air sign and Libra is a good one for flowers.
Now if this all sounds interesting but just too damn confusing, dont despair. Astrological gardening has become so popular, because it works that there are a number of calendars, books and web sites packed with information. Many of the calendars tell you flat out what to do when and there is always of reliable the Farmers Almanac. I use several different calendars, I have a fetish for them, one is the Stella Natura calendar published by the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Inc. they can be reached at 1-888-516-7797. The Stella Natura calendar assumes you already know something about astrology or are very motivated to learn so it might not be the best one to start with. The other one I have is called Jim Maynards Celestial Influences 2003 and is great beginner calendar because it tells you flat out which dates are best for which activity. I got mine at Moonrise Herbs; if you cant find one there you can write to Quicksilver Productions, Box 340 Ashland, Oregon, 97520.
Good Luck, and may the force be with you!