by Charlene Burgi
My niece recently moved. She regretted that she was unable to pack one thing—the summer vegetable garden that she planted this past spring. It was that time of year to reap the fruits of her labor, and she lamented that it would be another year before seeing ripened crops again.
As I looked around her new yard, I noticed a fenced area with barren raised planting beds that received adequate sunlight for vegetables. And that is when it struck me: It is also that time of year to start our winter gardens.
I assured my niece that she could start to grow lettuce, spinach, beets, mache, carrots, peas, onions, garlic, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Swiss chard and cauliflower. Radishes can bear fruit in a short period of time, as can lettuce, mache and spinach. She could enjoy a homegrown salad within six weeks!
I checked the calendar to see what phase the moon was in since I tend to plant by the moon. She needs to get her leafy crops planted this week during the first quarter of the waxing moon (new to full moon). This is the time for crops that produce their seeds on the outside of the plant, including all the above-mentioned leafy vegetables.
The second quarter of the moon should be scheduled for peas going into the well-prepared soil, since peas are the only vegetables listed above that produce seeds within the fruit of the plant.
After the full moon, the gravitational pull is at a peak but the energy is drawing down. The water table is high, yet the moonlight hours are becoming weaker. Root crops are favored during the third quarter of the moon, including beets, carrots, radishes, onions and garlic.
Planting by the moon—an old wives’ tale, you say? Planting by the moon draws on the same gravitational pull that affects our tides. The new moon pulls the water up from the ground causing the seeds to swell faster. And for whatever reason you choose to believe, my root plants have gorgeous foliage and little edible root crop if I ignore the moon and plant during a waxing phase. Experiment yourself and let me know your findings!
Viewing the calendar also reminded me that the summer growing season in Lassen is very short. It is nearing the end of August, and my mind raced thinking of what I need to do to prepare the winter garden. The cold frames aren’t even built yet and the ranchers are predicting a hard winter. Learning to grow vegetables in a greenhouse will be a new experience. I wonder if the moon will have the same effect. The seeds planted into the ground of the greenhouse will have the same gravitational pull, but what about the plants growing in containers? Will the passive solar system keep the temperature above freezing? This will be a good year to test the fortitude of this gardener.
Are you thinking of starting a winter garden? If so, it is that time of year to start planning.