Saturday, April 28, 2007

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish poet and writer 1850 – 1894).

I have been sowing seeds. Stuart worked himself into a sweat and some degree of temper creating a fantastic raised bed vegetable patch for us following the example of Emilia Hazelip (To learn more about Emilia’s method, click on the links for an article or video [in French only] ). It’s currently mulched with straw and once we have our sheep we may use wool as a mulch which is something I’m keen to know more about.

In France planting by the moon seems to be common practice. Maybe this because we are living in the countryside and France has a very traditional cultural life that naturally preserves its ancient practices. Or maybe it’s because our immediate neighbours are two old ladies who have been raising vegetables for (apparently) hundreds of years! Whatever the reason I have decided to try and follow this way of doing things for, as much as anything, it’s giving me a structured timetable of action and means that I’m not being overwhelmed by feeling I have to do everything at once.

The theory behind the practice is that increasing moonlight is best for annuals that bear their fruit above ground, and decreasing moonlight is best of those that are root crops. The full moon and the new moon are considered "barren" signs when no planting should be done at all. Some books will tell you not to plant on a Sunday either but I’m not sure about that and feel this particular ‘rule’ may have been added later by the local priest!

The phases of the moon are divided into quarters, each with its own specific planting schedule. The first quarter or the time from the new moon to about half- full is for leafy plants that produce their seed outside the fruit such as asparagus, cabbage, celery, endive, and spinach. During the second quarter, or the time from the half-full to the full moon, plant annuals that have above-ground yields which are vining and produce seed inside the fruit such as beans, peas, peppers, pumpkin aubergine, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The third quarter, from the full moon to half-full, is the time to plant biennials, perennials, bulb and root crops, any crops which are planted in one season to winter over and produce yields the following year, trees, and shrubs. Some third quarter plants include onions, potatoes, rhubarb, grapes and berries. And the fourth quarter, from half-full to new moon, is the time to cultivate, pull weeds, destroy pests, and turn the earth.

I’ve been planting my seeds in old toilet rolls and paper pots made from newspapers, which I’m then planting straight into the earth. I’m both using up a waste product and leaving the roots of my young seedlings undisturbed. It takes about 50 old toilet rolls to fill a seed tray so I shall be asking all my friends to save them for me ready for next spring! The photo shows Camille, the 5 year old daughter of our neighbours Celine and Michel, helping me.

Lots of plants have popped up already including two varieties of sweet corn, sunflowers and nasturtiums to plant with them, beans, peas, pumpkin, tomatoes, carrots, leeks and broccoli to name a few. I have been given some great seeds from friends and neighbours including some beans with wonderful names: “Cherokee Trail of Tears” and “Ruth Bible” – the latter a climbing cornfield bean from Kentucky 1832! In fact, because I have been given so many I have a few of these left and I am happy to send four of these magic beans to the first two people to comment on the blog.