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Astrological Gardening, Part One


My garden is, without a single doubt, my favorite place on earth. It is not a showplace, though it is quite beautiful. It is my refuge, my laboratory, my altar. It is a teacher, a friend, a child. Sometimes I am working in my garden; it keeps me strong and flexible. Delighted. Sometimes I am learning in my garden, about the earth, and plants, and cycles. I like to eat my lunch here, take my tea, and talk to friends.


There is a long and rich tradition of gardening with the cycles of the moon. In astrology, the moon is associated with the cycles of growth. In simple symbolic terms the new moon is the seed, beneath the soil, dark and unseen. The first quarter is the sprout, tiny tender breaking through the soil. The full moon is the bloom, the fullness and culmination. And at the last quarter, the plant dies back and the seed of the next cycle is revealed. Of course, plants take longer than one month to complete the cycle, but this framework is the basis for the aphorisms around gardening with astrology.


And so, the traditional advice is that we plant our seeds between the new and full moons, as the moon is growing; and we harvest, prune and cut back in the days after the full moon, as its light is fading. There are, as with most astrological conventions, many other layers. Some signs are dry and so we are told that seeds planted under these rays will not absorb enough water to grow robustly. Every sign has different and useful qualities; for beautiful flowers, we are told to plant when the moon is in a Venus-ruled sign, for a strong root system, we plant during a Scorpio moon. The aphorisms are almost endless, all of which flow from astrological symbolism.



I have been gardening by the moon for a few years, and to be honest, my results have been mixed. I don't restrict myself to gardening within the framework, but I do experiment and record my results. So if I notice, for example, that the moon is in the right phase and sign, I will most definitely set some seeds. But if I feel like planting a new plot, and the moon sign or phase isn't "right," I simply note it in my journal and go about my business. There are so many factors that affect plant growth - the quality of the the soil, the quality of the seeds, the climate and its fluctuations, the diligence of the gardener - it has been difficult for me to single-out exactly why some plants grow well and others don't. But for me, paradoxically maybe, the 'success' of my plants is secondary. What I enjoy about planting with the moon is the structure it provides and, of course, the endless musing on the astrological symbolism. It's like inviting the moon, the planets and stars into my garden as co-conspirators.


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