Category Archives: Biodynamic planting

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

For the second year running I’ve just purchased the “Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar”. The calendar, which comes in the form of a slim book, gives the optimum sowing, pruning and harvesting times for different types of plants according to biodynamic planting principles.

The idea is that as the moon orbits the earth it transmits forces which affect the four elements, Earth, Light (Air), Water and Warmth (Fire).  These in turn affect the four parts of plants – roots, flowers, leaves and fruit/seeds.  As a consequence, the health and growth of a plant can supposedly be enhanced by sowing, cultivating and harvesting according to these lunar cycles.

Now, as someone with a scientific background, my initial reaction to this is one of disbelief; it sounds like a great deal of hocus pocus.  And yet.

Maria Thun, who sadly died in 2012, spent a lifetime investigating the phenomena of different plant growth characters when sown on different days.  She undertook increasingly detailed trials at three different sites in Germany and she linked the observed phenomena to the zodiac calendar, ultimately creating the biodynamic calendar.

The biodynamic calendar books relate not only some of her experiences, but also those of others following these principles.  Notably this year they tell the story of the beneficial effect of biodynamic planting on vineyards, and share the fascinating tidbit that both Tesco and Marks and Spencer will only hold tastings for wine critics on days when, according to this calendar, the wines will be at their best.

I grow many plants from seed every year and in the past have sometimes felt almost paralysed into inactivity by how many seeds need planting, or planting on or planting out. Last year, I found following the planting calendar really helped me focus on getting things done.  It gave an urgency to individual planting tasks and as a consequence I intend to follow it again this year.

I still find ‘planting by the moon’ faintly ridiculous, but, if it helps get the planting done in the first place, that has to be positive.  Whatever the moon’s doing, seeds don’t grow well in the packet.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this practice.