What is a Myth?
My dictionary defines a myth as “an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing.” To me, myths are those scary things that no one can explain, no matter how they try. As an experimental gardener, one myth or legend that has always intrigued me is planting by the moon phases.
When I heard about this technique, I became determined to learn all I could about how it is done. I read a book or two, or three, and thought, “OK, I’m going to make my green thumb even greener.” I decided that I would make or break this myth with a test in my garden.
First, I prepare the soil. I am all about green living – compost is my blood type. Every drop of water is a benediction. Nothing goes to waste (some things go to my waist), but you know what I mean. I use fresh compost from home, and I spade by hand so that I do not bring old weed seeds up to the surface.
I eyeball my planting rows ahead of time in preparation for the nighttime activity I am about to experience. My flashlight is tied to my garden hat, with new batteries freshly inserted. I have my garden tools set up in the space I am going to plant, and the smaller tools are secured in my garden apron. I have my lunar guide tacked to the garden fence, zodiac signs and all.
At some point in the future, I may try all three moon planting ideas, but on this night I am working only with the synodic waxing and waning cycle. My chart shows tonight to be an ideal night for planting root crops. I realize that a person does not really have to plant in the dark, but I am determined to get as close to the wane as possible.
My seed of choice is beets. I have already planted some beets ahead of time, so that I will have some to compare to those that I am going to plant in the light of the waning moon. I am surrounded with crickets, bats, and all of the other things that move around at night. They appear to have a slightly distant curiosity about this light bobbing around in their territory, disturbing their own nighttime work. Eventually, my moonlit work is done.
We will see if this myth works. I am pumped.
As the days go by, I keep diligent notes. I record when the first beet breaks its cute little leaves above the ground. How were the plants affected by bugs and other chewing creatures like slugs? How well did the plants respond to the elements – sun, rain, soaker watering – well, you get the picture, I record everything.
I spent a whole lot of time taking care of and recording the story about my little moon babies.
Alongside the moon rows, I had planted several rows of beets when the moon chart clearly said, DO NOT PLANT ROOT CROPS AT THIS TIME. I shuddered in my shoes when I planted these seeds. I often awoke from a deep sleep, grabbing a flashlight and rushing to the garden fence to see if some creature had stolen my “No No” crop.
My moon planting life began in April. By June the results were in and verily I say unto you, both my No No crops and my moon babies did very well. The beets arrived a couple of weeks apart as they were planted a couple of weeks apart. My No No beets not only survived, they produced. All of the beets in my garden, regardless of planting time, tasted sweet and bled red. The greens were all beautiful and tasty.
For me, this myth ended happily.
All my beets grew well, and now I can sleep through the night worry-free. I do know some people who swear by moon phase planting. To them, I say, “Whatever works to get a good harvest is the way to go.”
For me, gardening is fun and experimental. I am always learning from the good earth, from plants, from other green-hearted, compost-blood-type individuals. I realize that Mother Nature has most of the control, and I have learned to live with her moods and love her for the continual challenges she presents to me.
Many myths and legends of gardening came about in times when people relied upon different methods than the ones we use today. But not everything has changed. In my area, to this day radishes usually come in during May, strawberries arrive in June, raspberries in July, corn and tomatoes in August and September. I have come to appreciate the older gardeners that live in my locale. They seem to have the best knowledge about what really works in my area – even if a few myths are included from time to time.
These old green thumbs delight in the smell of rich composted earth, and they relish all of the seasons. They love to be the discoverer of a new myth, or the breaker of an old myth. They go to bed each night with a head full of garden knowledge and some of the good earth beneath their nails.
When I shared my moon planting story with some of these old timers, they gave me a smile, a shake of the head, and said, “Yep, tried that.”
One of them said, “Hey, did ya try spittin’ some tobacco at the beginning of each row?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t chew tobacco.”
“Well, lass, it works for me.” He said, as he handed me a round tin of Copenhagen chewing tobacco.
But that’s another myth, for another day.