Lunar wisdom for your garden is not something that is often discussed but in my house, it has never stopped. It is far from the idea of dancing around in the moon light, although you could do that if you wish, and based on traditional horticultural practices by farmers and gardeners for centuries. It is the tradition that enchants me most. It reminds me of my Ukrainian grandparents. Traditional horticulture practices the technique of planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops based on moon phases and have be part of European, First Nations and other cultures to ensure the success of our precious food sources.
While I weed around my newly sprouted garlic shoots this May, I am reminded of what my grandfather, Hnat Korotash, always shared with us as each new planting season emerged in the Northwest Territories. He always claimed he achieved larger and tastier harvests when gardening by the moon.
To explain the science behind it with the water content and gravitational pull from the moon could become a whole column but what the basics are is to plant annuals that produce their fruit or vegetables above ground during the waxing moon (from new moon to full moon). During the waning moon (from full moon back to new moon), plant bulbs, root crops, along with biennials and perennials.
The term, Flower Moon, originates in First Nation’s Blackfoot culture and traditionally associated full moon names in their agricultural astrology practices. The full moon that occurs in May is called the Flower Moon because it rises at the time when flowers begin to blossom. Together, they are a welcome symbol of renewal, something I could use after our long winter.
Many cultures have traditional names for each moon and the food associated with it. One full moon that falls around the time of year that our primary food sources are harvested is the Harvest Moon. This moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox but was also called the Corn Moon or Barley Moon. The Dutch calendar calls it Herstmaand, and the German calendar recorded it as Herbistmanoth, all variations of the ancient importance of the harvest. I choose names of the moon that resonate with me and my experiences which are influenced in the climates I live.
But what I mostly enjoy is reading and researching the traditional moon names and how the newly uncovered information grounds me in a deeper sense of seasonality and the foods my grandparents and great-grandparents prepared and harvested. It uncovers new food choices or why certain food s are better for our body in each new season. It also reminds me of the care and time it takes to produce the simplest of items. Eating seasonally reminds me of something I may take for granted like potatoes or perogies. This time of year I find myself enjoying or perhaps romanticizing the opportunity of how gardening returns me to my roots and cultures that not only teach me about my food sources but about cooking, health, and connection to one another.
Today my garden may not be bountiful solely on me planting with the moon phases but it does keep me enriched in my family’s history, the care they took, how so very important it is to preserve our food systems, our cultural traditions and the cycles of nature.
Sharlyn Carter lives in Red Deer writing about gardening, local food, culture, lifestyle, and eating seasonally in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook as Market Gypsy.