by BETH ALTENA
Gardeners looking for ways to grow better vegetables and flowers with less work can turn to the night skies for help—or a locally produced publication. On the Internet, there are 11 million, 800 thousand references to gardening with the moon, and local landscape expert John Venman of Venman’s Landscape and Soil Alive, 510 Wolverine (in Rockford’s industrial area) has produced a calendar to guide the common gardener through the process.
Venman said he has long been a believer in natural gardening and landscaping solutions rather than chemical ones and gradually became more interested in references to gardening by the moon. He had a customer who was puzzled by a phenomenon he noted. He had rototilled his garden and gone on vacation for 10 days. Upon return, the weeds were everywhere. When he rototilled again and left for a similar amount of time, he noted the weeds were significantly less. Venman said he asked the guy about when the two occasions had happened and looked up the phases of the moon for those times. Sure enough, in the first case the man had done the work in a phase of the moon unfavorable to killing weeds and the second time he’d done it in a favorable phase. Venman began paying attention and found more examples of moon phases affecting growth cycles.
Venman has a traditional background in landscape education with a bachelor’s degree in landscape design 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 enjoys the part of his business that helps people improve their own gardening skills, and believes the current trend toward home or locally grown food—notice the popularity of farm markets—may prove his green practices are part of a philosophy which 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.
Although some people may remember their grandparents gardening by the moon, they may be skeptical. Current articles in publications such as The Farmer’s Almanac and National Geographic show that the practice is still a matter of consideration. Proponents note that it is proven that water tables do rise and fall with the pull of the moon, even in fresh water. It is beyond question that the tides are pulled by the moon’s 28-day cycle. Believers of gardening by the moon say the rising or lessening fluid levels of the plants, be it from the moon’s effect or the water table below the garden, results in the technique’s effectiveness.
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 haircut 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 having to do the research he has about when gardeners should fertilize, harvest, weed and do other gardening chores to best effect.
“Even if they don’t plant and harvest by the calendar, they can weed according to it and see if they don’t see a difference,” Venman said.
He includes many guidelines in the publication, but doesn’t expect people will take advantage of all. He said the techniques of doing certain garden chores at certain times are far from “a magic wand” but just another opportunity to be as effective as possible without using chemicals. “It’s been a fun hobby,” he said of his research.
Venman sells the calendar from his store or by mail. The “Gardening with the Moon” calendar is just $10 from his business or $12 by mail. For more information, give John a call at (616) 866-0408.