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What Goes Down...

Article By: Leslie Hall
Submitted By Rita Jacinto

I saw the first trillium last week right in the middle of a rare snowy cold spell here on the north coast of California. I always look for the first trillium because only then do I believe spring is really here. Last month's vernal or spring equinox marks another revolution in the spiral of time and we find ourselves again in the place where everything is being born anew and potential reigns supreme. It is time for one of my all time favorite gardening activities. Seed starting!

There are a million reasons for starting your own seeds, it's cheaper than buying plants, it gives you a sense of self sufficiently, there are infinitely more varieties of plants available not to mention the really exotic or unusual plants that garden centers just don't offer. All those practical reason are good and fine, but for me participating in the miracle of seed germination is good enough reason. Consider the seed.

Some of these things are nothing but mere specks of dust yet they contain everything needed to create a new life. They start their life the previous summer. As the summer's flowers are pollinated the immature seeds contained in the flowers ovaries begin to ripen or mature. By autumn they are fully mature and ready to go it on their own. Only they know that if they germinate as soon as they are mature they will die with the onset of winter. So they have figured out how to delay germination by inducing dormancy.

Inside most seeds is a chemical that actually inhibits germination until the time is right, other seeds have developed an extra thick seed coat with a waxy coating rendering it water proof, no water no life. Once the optimal conditions for germination are present, the right temperature, adequate water and air, the chemical inhibitor/waterproof seed coat begins to break down allowing the seed to hydrate and so germination begins.

As the seed takes in water the dormant cells become hydrated which readies them for metabolic activity. Next the embryo inside the seed sends a chemical message to a group of highly specialized cells that lie under the seed coat. The only jobs these cells have is to receive the signal from the embryo and begin the process of making the food stored in the seed soluble and thus available to fuel the cells metabolic activity. This is how the tiny roots and shoots first begin to grow. Even this highly simplified version of the process makes you wonder at the inherent intelligence of the seed.

As you can see seeds are amazingly complex and subtle beings. They respond to a host of barely perceptible signals. I have been practicing the art of gardening according to planetary influence for most of my gardening life. This is an ancient art that has been practiced for thousands of years, probably since the advent of agriculture. Now I know some of you're a skeptical and some of your are down right derisive of the idea and I don't aim to make any converts but there are those who do believe or are interested enough to find out more and so here goes.

The idea behind planetary planting or planting by the moon phase is that everything in the universe gives off an electromagnetic charge or energy. The quality of the energy is different for each different entity be it animal, mineral or celestial. Some energies get along just fine neither benefiting nor detracting from each other, some enhance one another and some are detrimental to one another. Years and years and thousands of years of careful observation have revealed certain patterns or cycles that are as predictable as night and day.

What I like about this method is that it puts me in touch with the cycles of nature. When work and life are running you ragged it's nice to have something that slows you down and takes you out of your self for a while. I become more observant of things around me and can more fully appreciate the wonder of life. So whether or not I get bigger better plants is almost beside the point.

Some folks only consider the moon phase when planting and other more hardcore practitioners consider which zodiac house the moon is passing through in addition to the phase of the moon. A general and simple, albeit less accurate rule to coordinate your planting with the phase of the moon is to sow or transplant annuals that fruit or flower above ground during the waxing or increasing moon. Plants that fruit under ground should be planted during the waning or decreasing moon.

If you wanted to really get into it you would break down your activities according to which quarter the moon is in. During the first quarter it is beneficial to plant leafy greens and members of the cole family. The second quarter is beneficial to all those plants that bear fruit, beans, peas, melons, peppers, tomatoes, squash etc. During the third quarter plant biennials, perennials, bulb and root plants. This is a good time to plant trees, shrubs, berries, strawberries and grapes too. Now the fourth quarter is best left for those maintanace type jobs, cultivating, pulling weeds and eradicating pests, or as I am often wont to do, sit in the garden with a cold one.

Want more? The next stage is to note which house of the zodiac the moon is passing through and match your gardening activity with that. Here is a quick reference:

Moon in Aries: this is a dry, fiery masculine time and is considered a barren sign making it the perfect time to destroy weeds and pests. It's a good time to cultivate plants.

Moon in Taurus: the moist earthy feminine bull is mother nurturer to us all. Plant away especially leafy greens and root crops.

Moon in Gemini: ah the twins alas, they are barren, dry and airy. Take a break or pull some more weeds.

Moon in Cancer: the wet moist, watery feminine crab is a most auspicious time for planting and irrigating.

Moon in Leo: Alas, my natal sun sign is the most barren, it is also fiery, dry and masculine. Great for killing weeds once and for all.

Moon in Virgo: Although she is moist, earthy and feminine our dear Virgo is barren. This is a great time to cultivate as the earth holds onto water now.

Moon in Libra: this is a metza metza sign, semifruitful and moist but just for balance she is also airy and masculine. If you want good pulp growth or healthy roots now is the time. Flowers also do well when planted now.

Moon in Scorpio: What is it with these watery crustaceans? She is very fruitful, watery, moist and feminine just like Cancer. Vines do especially well when planted under Scorpio.

Moon in Sagittarius: Barren, dry, fiery and masculine, pull weeds and cultivate, onions may do well planted now.

Moon in Capricorn: Although dry she is earthy, feminine and productive. Plant potatoes and other tubers.

Moon in Aquarius: barren, dry, airy and masculine, cultivate and destroy weeds.

Moon in Pisces: The lovely fish is wet and watery, she is fruitful and feminine like her counter parts Cancer and Scorpio and is especially good for root growth.

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