Sandy’s Garden ... Astrological Horticulture

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Humankind has looked to the Moon for assistance with crops for aeons.

In all probability ever since man became a farmer rather than a hunter/gatherer, a process which began something of the order of 12 000 years ago. The first Stone Age men to wonder whether growing your food … rather than scavenging for it … was a more reliable way of eating regularly found a recipe for success. Their more controlled access to food led to them becoming more successful than those of their contemporaries who clung on to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle and who, during regular periods of food shortage, practised infanticide to limit the nourishment needs of their breast-feeding womenfolk. Consequently the farmers raised larger families and prospered while the hunter/gatherers declined, a process hastened by the hunter/gatherers’ gradual realisation that their interests were better served by joining the farming communities rather than resisting their spread.

For millennia farmers believed that planting times should correspond to certain phases of the Moon, the gradual realisation that the seas’ tides corresponded with the phases of the Moon leading to the entirely reasonable supposition that the vital fluids within plants were similarly affected. The days following a New Moon, a period when the Moon is waxing, was thought to be a good period for planting above-ground crops and for transplanting all manner of plants, while the Moon’s waning period was seen as the best time for planting root crops and generally reducing plants by harvesting, pruning, mowing, weeding and so on. And this belief in the Moon’s effect on crops led to mankind developing a theory that the signs of the zodiac also had a very significant influence on plants.

The twelve signs of the zodiac are associated with the four basic elements - earth, air, fire and water. Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are earth signs; Libra, Gemini and Aquarius are air signs; Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are fire signs; and Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio are water signs. During its 28-day circumnavigation of the Earth, the Moon passes through all twelve stages in the zodiac, spending roughly two-and-a-half days in each sign. We, on Earth, are about to enter the influence of Leo, which covers the period between July 23 and August 22. Leo, being a fire sign, is said to bring favourable qualitied into human relationships, qualities like warmth, generosity and faithfulness. But in agricultural and horticultural terms, Leo … being a fire sign and consequently very dry … is thought to be barren and, therefore, a poor time for planting. (This, by the way, used to be advanced as the best possible reason for not planting crops on a Sunday – the day dedicated to the Sun; they simply would not flourish - although there was a rather contrary view that this very dryness could be put to good use by planting crops grown solely for their seed on a Sunday.)

Be that as it may, I have no need to take advantage of Leo’s dryness to harvest root crops and fruit for storage since I grow neither in my garden. However, my interest is aroused by the promise that the fourth quarter of the Moon while planet Earth is under the influence of the Lion is an excellent time to destroy garden pests and weeds. And the best possible dates for this activity are Wednesday 12th, Thursday 13th and Friday 14th of this month of August 2015. Perhaps I may be tempted to put this promise of astrological horticulture to the test by making a special effort to tackle pests and weeds on any of these three special days. Oh, and one more thing. The herb rosemary is said to be sacred to the Sun and said to be at its very best during the middle of August. Our ancestors believed that a twig of blossoming rosemary given to a sweetheart preserved love. I may just put this belief to the test as well!