How Italian Gardeners Use The Moon
Since time began human beings have been fascinated and bewildered by the presence of the ever changing ephemeral moon that has been a constant presence and sensual mystery in the night sky. From when humans began cultivating their own crops they noted the subtle yet important effect that the moon had upon the germination, growth and crop production of those vital crops.
The Moon is the Earth's only natural satellite and it's close orbit around our planet has had an intimate relationship with human's survival on this planet throughout history. Few countries can claim a more intimate respect for the moon's cycles and effects than Italy. Being a sea-faring nation, with it's roots firmly placed in the Mediterranean, Italy has had to utilize the moon in almost every stage of it's development. The high seas were conquered using the moon and stars as a chartable guide for calculating direction, weather conditions and tides etc...
A nation that has always had a very close link with crop production, wine making and fishing has always had to optimize those pursuits by utilizing every means at it's disposal. The early Greeks had a very close relationships with the stars and the Moon, being so close to the Earth, it was soon noted as having a strong influence on almost every aspect of human existence. From the emergence of a seedling, the movements of the sea to human behavior and reproduction almost all natural occurrences are controlled, influenced and almost dictated by the moon's cycle. The word menstruation is derived from the Latin word mensis (month), which also relates to the ancient Greek word mene (moon) and therefore also the origins of the English words month and moon.
Even to this day wine producers in Italy do not risk harvesting and placing their precious product in barrels on any but a waning moon, as they know that the wine would only curdle and be ruined if they ignored this rule.
New evidence suggests that even rainfall is dictated by lunar cycles and patterns of rainfall are affected by the moon's presence, causing warm, humid periods, which clearly have an impact on crop production and quality of life: http://www.springerlink.com/content/y863434183201m87/
Studies are now also taking place regarding a link between the moon's cycles and volcanic eruptions: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Outreach/AboutVolcanoes/do_tides_affect_volcanoes.html
In your Italian garden the moon can make a huge impact on the quality of shrub, tree and vegetable cultivation. Plants producing their seeds externally (like lettuce, cabbage, spinach etc) planted at the time of a new moon generally do far better than those planted on a waning moon, as growth above ground appears to be stimulated by the presence of the New Moon.
However it is generally considered better to plant root crops that produce their seeds internally (tomatoes, peppers, beans etc) during the second quarter (when the left side of the moon is illuminated). Whereas plants that produce underground (root crops like carrots, beetroot etc) generally do better if planted during a waning moon.
Every 28 days or so the moon completes it's orbit around our planet and, from the Greeks, Romans to the modern day Italian, it's effects have been noted for centuries. Isn't it about time we responded to this fact too?
By Jonathan Radford