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The Seer's Path
Time to Plant!
The time has come when we begin to be active outside of our homes again. To bask in the warmth of the sun and dig our toes into the wonderful dirt of our Mother Earth is wonderful to do. Somehow I always feel more connected to the Earth when my feet are absolutely filthy. There is just something about the feel of the warm earth between my toes that is comforting. My seedlings are doing well as they also await the feel of the dirt between their toes. Here in the great frozen north I have to begin many of my plants inside under artificial lights. I generally plant my garden according to the cycles of the moon. Here and in other cold climates planting is not done until the danger of frost is over and that is usually after the first New Moon in May, though there have been a couple of years when that has not been true and we have had frost in June. Though that doesn’t happen often I am happy to say. Our ancestors always planted and harvested by the Moon and the current trend has been to go back to following the moon’s cycles.
The simple approach to planting by the moon is to plant roots and bulbs when the moon is waning and to plant leafy, flowering and fruiting plants when the moon is waxing. If you wish to get a little more intricate with your planting schedule you can plant seeds or transplants which carry their seeds on the outside when the moon is between the new moon and the first quarter, for example, strawberries and corn. Seeds and transplants that carry their seeds on the inside can be planted the first quarter and the full moon. Bulbs and root crops should be planted between the full moon and the last quarter. Nothing should be planted between the last quarter and the New Moon. This is a good time to do any weeding that needs to be done.
But since the First New Moon in May is still a few weeks away now is a good time to prepare the garden beds for planting. It is best to wait until the ground is no longer wet. If you live in an area where there has been snow melt, you can damage any plants waiting under the ground and damage to your soil structure can also occur. If the conditions are right I usually begin by cleaning out any old debris that was left from the year before. All of this refuse can be put into a compost pile for use in the garden in the future. A compost pile is a very simple thing to do if you have the space. It can be simply a pile that all of your kitchen scraps and yard waste go into or you can get one of those fancy compost bins. Either way compost is a great soil amendment and a wonderful fertilizer. Be sure that no meat scraps or pet waste is put into your compost; you can however, throw in a few left over fishing worms and a little old stale beer. The worms help break down the refuse and the beer adds nutrients and helps the pile to heat up thus breaking down a little faster. I have read several very intense articles on the art of composting recommending that you add this or that chemical be thrown in and turn it regularly, it all gets very complicated. It is really very simple. You should fluff it around every now and then to aerate the pile and water it lightly every now and then. You do need your compost to generate heat as it will kill off any weed seeds that may have gotten into the mix. Once you compost has broken down into garden gold, feel free to spread it on your garden beds or planters, you can even use it on house plants. I sometimes make a compost tea and water my house plants with it. Very simply put a little compost into a gallon jug, fill with water wait 24 hours and water. Your house plants will thank you for it.
There are many things you can use to boost your soil without using chemical fertilizers. Sources for nitrogen are blood meal, coffee grounds, cotton seed meal, fish meal and soy bean meal. Nitrogen is needed for strong, vigorous growth, good leaf color and photosynthesis. Phosphorus is needed for good root development and the ripening of seeds and fruits. Sources of phosphorous are colloidal phosphate and rock phosphate. Any good garden center should carry the nutrients mentioned above. Another nutrient that is needed is potassium. Potassium helps in the uptake by the plant of other nutrients, photosynthesis and fruit formation. Kelp, wood ash and greensand are all good sources of potassium. Your plants will usually tell you what they are lacking by the color of their leaves. Lack of Nitrogen produces small yellowish leaves, lack of phosphorus and shoots are thin and the growth is stunted, with a lack of potassium the fruit has a poor color and flavor, the leaf tips turn brown and looked scorched. I would not recommend using chemical fertilizers; they may fix the problem in the short term but have no lasting value. Besides a natural approach to gardening is always the best value for you and the Earth.
Watering, here is another slightly tricky area, es- pecially since there have been so many droughts across the country. I myself use soaker hoses or drip irrigation where ever I can, when you water with a hose or sprinkler much of the water runs off or evapo- rates into the air and is wasted. We need to conserve water when ever and where ever possible. Mulching is another good way to keep the water in the ground where you need it to be. Applying as thick layer of mulch will not only keep your garden moist but will also help deter weeds. You will need to apply at least 4-6 inches of mulch to be effective. There are many forms of mulch available; you can even use newspapers applied in a layer of 3-4 sheets. Not very attrac- tive I must admit but very effective and the newspa per will break down over the season and can be turned into the soil at the end of the season. I usually lay newspaper down and cover this with a fine ground mulch to hide the daily news. You can also use sawdust, but I would recommend bumping up your soil with a little extra nitrogen as sawdust leaches nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down. Though once it has broken down it is a wonderful additive to you soil.
There are many ways to garden even if you are a city dweller, chat with your neighbors and see if any would like to go in on a cooperative garden. Very successful vegetable gardens have been grown on roof tops of apartment buildings. Be sure to talk with the management to see if it is allowed. You can also talk to city or town officials to see if there is an empty lot which, with a little work, could be turned into a neighborhood garden. This is a great way to meet your neighbors and create a sense of community that so many of our cities have lost. It is also a way to bring a little beauty to an otherwise ugly garbage filled waste land, create a little oxygen and add a little green to your world. There are many resources on line with information and your local cooperative extension always has ideas and useful information.
Whereever you decide to garden either in your backyard, on a roof top or in a planter on you patio or terrace, nothing tastes better than a fresh home grown tomato into which you have put a little sweat equity. You may find you self getting a little closer to your children as well. I know little kids are always in awe of things they grow themselves. Gardening is also a great way to lighten the grocery bill as well, in today’s world food has become increasingly more expensive and more processed. I would also suggest that you support your local farmer by visiting farm stands in your area. Not only does it help the farmer, but it has been proven to be healthier for you to eat locally grown foods. While it is true you may not have as much of a choice as the grocery stores your body and your wallet will thank you.
I have a little tale for you regarding gardening. When my great-grandfather Sullivan emigrated from Ireland as a young man he lived in a very large city, not being a wealthy man he maintained a large garden outside of the city to help. During the depression and WWII he would frequently leave baskets of vegeta- bles on his neighbor’s doorsteps at night. The place he where lived was full of immigrant families that had little or nothing, especially during those stressing times. He told me when I was a little girl that it was the responsibility of those that had to take care of those that had not. No one should go hungry. He felt that his neighbors were his family just as much as I was. It was from him, my grandmother and my mother that I learned my appreciation of the land, and the acceptance of my fellow man. I truly believe that friendships start with the planting of one small seed. Offering a helping hand to someone in need will spread and hopefully we can all make this a better world for our children and grandchildren. So go out and plant a seed, effect a change, no one is really a stranger.
Happy Gardening to all.
Now go out and get dirty!
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