Ancient practices outlined in new calendar

People have done it for centuries, but nowadays talking about it might raise a few eyebrows. Rockford landscape expert John Venman is not only willing to talk about it, he’s again created a calendar that spells out when and why of planting and landscaping by the phases of the moon.

John Venman speaks to Rockford and Greenville garden clubs about his belief in the ancient practice of planting and landscaping by the phases of the moon.

Venman, of Venman’s Landscape and Soil Alive, 510 Wolverine Street, in the Rockford industrial area, spoke before Rockford and Greenville gardening clubs last month, explaining his belief in the ancient practice. He quoted Dr. Robert Milikan, Nobel Prize winner in physics in 1923, who said, “I do know that if man is not affected in some way by the plants, the sun and moon, he is the only thing on Earth that is not.”

Today’s people, especially in the United States, are more removed from nature and the source of the foods we eat every day than perhaps ever before. Many who still garden and make their livelihoods by growing plants and animals may be less surprised at Venman’s insistence that there is a real affect from the moon on how and when things grow, should be harvested, and even when plants and people may die.

“My dad started this business in 1951 back when the hourly rate was 25 cents,” said Venman. He said his father always believed in gardening by the moon, and John’s own experience backs up the belief. As the person who maintains many cemeteries in the area, including that of the City of Rockford and surrounding townships, he has also noticed how the earth is different in a full moon and the increased likelihood of having to dig graves during that time of the lunar cycle.

Venman has a traditional background in landscape education with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. He said he developed an interest in non-chemical alternatives to landscaping when he began to suspect that chemicals are in some ways having an adverse affect on the planet and the people and animals living here. He said accounts of children dying after the family treated their lawns for pests reinforced his interest in non-chemical weed and pest control. The current popularity of finding locally grown food—notice the popularity of farm markets—may prove this is an idea whose time is again waxing.

Venman said a moon growing more full—waxing—is a time when energy is getting stronger. It is a time of growth, a time to plant, fertilize and cultivate soil. You can see a moon is waxing by remembering it will be “black on left and light on right.”

A waning moon is one moving from full to new—in a phase of declining. He reminded listeners of the phrase, “in the dark of the moon,” referring to the waning moon. Venman said he notices that dirt has more of a tendency to be dense, clumps more and is harder to work in a waning moon. It is not a good time to plant, but a good time to weed. He said weeding in a waning moon noticeably keeps the weeds from returning as quickly.

Venman noted that our culture still carries references to the moon’s effect on our lives. Law enforcement and medical people will tell you their jobs are busier during a full moon and people often say, “It must be a full moon,” when things are chaotic. He said male skeptics can test the theory by paying attention to their facial hair and see if growth isn’t more vigorous during a waxing moon and less so during a waning one. Women can pay attention to their hair and see if a hair cut also grows out more quickly during a waxing moon. A new moon has also been a traditional time to start a new endeavor in your life, be it a relationship, a new career or planting a garden.

Venman put together his calendar to help others use the ancient wisdom of gardening with the moon without doing the research he has about when gardeners should fertilize, harvest, weed and do other gardening chores to best effect. He sells the calendar from his store or by mail. The Gardening with the Moon calendar is just $12 from his business or $14 by mail. For more information, give John a call at (616) 866-0408.

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