Sunday, February 13, 2011


Since looking at the lunar calendar you posted, Andrea, and thinking about our discussions for possible activities that the movement of the moon might dictate, I’ve done a little more research. Yesterday I visited the City Library, and found a number of books about biodynamics, a topic I know very little of, but which seemed to tie in to our interest regarding lunar movements and their relation to planting. 

From this small amount of reading I’ve learnt that biodynamic agriculture is an organic farming method first proposed by Rudolf Steiner through a series of lectures in 1924. It is based on the idea of “a world which is in constant movement and flow, a world of beings, never static.”[1] Practitioners of the biodynamic method view their farms as a holistic living organism, where every process is interconnected. While biodynamic practices have much in common with general organic farming, it seems that they are more informed by a belief in the ‘mystical’ – with relation to practices such as alchemy and astrology.

I photocopied a chapter on The Moon, Stars and Planets, from a book called Bio-Dynamics: New Directions for Farming & Gardening in NZ.[2] In it, Gita Henderson describes the effects of moon cycles, the constellations of the zodiac and specific planetary positions on the cultivation of plants. Henderson reasons that the moon affects the germination and growth of plants because it interacts with water (e.g. most visibly in its relation to tides), and therefore it affects the sap in plants.[3] She describes many complex factors relating to whether the moon is ascending or descending, or is in perigee or apogee (relating to the elliptical path of the moon around the earth – perigee being its closest position to the earth, apogee the furthest), however her basic instruction is that plants grow best when sown under the influence of a full moon. She quotes Lilli Kolisko, a researcher in this field: “‘Plants must be sown a few days before the moon is full; if we want them to benefit from the maximum full moon effect, they must be placed into the main stream of the waxing moon forces. When choosing the day of full moon itself, the process of germination comes under waning moon forces.’”[4]

While I find myself somewhat sceptical about the veracity of these methods, I’m prepared to investigate them within the framework of this residency. Perhaps this then becomes a proposition: to observe the lunar cycle in its relationship to planting, where the growth of a plant might become the visible evidence of such observation. Of course this is a process which would extend long beyond the length of the residency, which may be interesting in relation to the idea of its duration – that may be engaged with on multiple levels: the measuring of time spent in the space day by day, the three part structure defining each week, the duration of the month, and then the duration into the future of whatever processes are set into motion now.

According to the lunar calendar you posted the other day, Saturday the 19th will be a full moon, so this week should be the best time to sow seeds.

Some considerations:
What kind of plant shall I grow?
Does it have to be in direct view of the moonlight?
Due to the narrow gap of sky between the buildings on Plimmer Steps, the gallery space gets no direct sun or moonlight – how would this affect the plant?
Could this situation be remedied by strategic placement of mirrors?
Or alternatively could the seeds be planted in a different location, for example in the rather overgrown flowerbed built into a balcony of the car park next door?
Could water from the tap in the gallery then somehow be used for the plant?
Some possible planting spots:

And some other observations:
On Thursday afternoon, we went on a little excursion up to the Massey Memorial at Point Halswell. From that elevated position we had an unrestricted view around us, and in the cloudless sky I could clearly see the moon somewhere to the north east. Here is an image:

On Friday evening I went back to Alterations in the dark - around 9pm, to observe what the space was like then. The lights from the car park, the underpass and a street lamp, lit up that end of Plimmer Steps so completely that any evidence of moonlight was lost. (Although the photos somehow make it look even lighter than it was...)

(On a side note, this reminds me of something I read recently about the isle of Sark, off the coast of England, which has been named the first ‘dark sky island’ in the world. Its population has aided the preservation of its dark sky by banning cars, street lights and floodlighting.)

[1] Gita Henderson and The Bio Dynamic Farming & Gardening Association in NZ Inc. (ed.), Biodynamic Perspectives: Farming & Gardening, Auckland, Random House, 2001, p. 9.
[2] Gita Henderson, ‘The Workings of the Moon, Stars and Planets’, in Bio-Dynamics: New Directions for Farming & Gardening in NZ, Auckland, Random House, 1989, pp. 130 -  142.
[3] ibid. p. 131.
[4] ibid. p. 132.


  1. Response to Andrea's post LUNAR PHASES on Wednesday, February 9, 2011:

  2. If you are looking for a guide regarding which day is best to plant seeds the Maori lunar calendar might be of some help:

    Matariki (Maori New Year) begins in early June, so February is the ninth lunar month, also known as Hui-tanguru. Apparently February is a good time to harvest kumara (sweet potato) but that's not much help in deciding what to plant.

    This website has some information about the types of flora and fauna that flourish during this time:

    I'm also interested in the possibility of you experimenting with cuttings taken from plants in the vicinity of Alterations - whether they be from the flowerbed, or whether weeds growing out from the pavers.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.