The Lunar Calendar & How It Influences Our Biodynamic Practices
Much of what we do in biodynamics across our vineyard, garden, and farm is guided by the lunar calendar. Particular points in the moon’s cycle, where the moon sits in the sky, and its position in relation to constellations – they all influence the processes on earth. Biodynamic practices recognise these patterns and use them to more effectively support the health and sustainability of our land.
Predating conventional farming, this aspect of biodynamics uses the cosmos relationships to determine which days we harvest, when we apply preparations, and how we navigate changes to both climate and agriculture. As the father of biodynamics, Rudolf Steiner, says:
Everything which happens here on earth is but a reflection of what is taking
place in the cosmos…to the plant world this applies in the highest degree.
The earth breathes in…
Biodynamic trailblazer, Rudolf Steiner, observed the patterns of the cosmos to gain a deeper understanding of how to work in mutual benefit with the land. With most plants growing in spring, peaking in summer, then shedding and retracting in autumn and winter, Steiner saw these seasonal changes reflected in the earth; in cooler months, the earth breathes in, drawing energy into the roots and soil, while in warmer months, the earth breathes out, expanding above ground.
These patterns are also mimicked at certain times of day and stages of the moon’s cycle. During a descending moon and between 3pm and 3am, the earth is breathing in, while during the ascending moon and from 3am to 3pm, the earth is seen to breathe out.
Understanding the lunar calendar
Key events in the lunar cycle affect the humidity, soil, and receptivity of the earth, so our biodynamic practices follow these natural rhythms. These include…
Ascending & Descending Moon
Each month, the moon’s path across the sky appears either higher or lower, moving in an arc from east to west. The moon takes 27.5 days to complete this cycle, with two weeks of both ascending and descending movements.
During an ascending period as the earth breathes out, it’s a time of heightened growth activity above the soil, with saps and growth forces flowing upward to fill the plant with vitality. This period is when we spray atmospheric preps that strengthen fruit and leaves, like Prep 501 (horn silica), along with Prep 508 for its antifungal properties, often in tandem with 501. It’s also a favourable time to harvest fruit crops.
The descending moon period, conversely, is related to activity below the soil, when the earth breathes in and draws forces to the roots. This is the time for cultivation, composting, and planting, and on Tinja is when we apply our Prep 500 (cow horn manure) and soil activators, spread compost, transplant seedlings or vines, and prune.
Waxing & Waning
Not to be confused with ascending and descending moons, this cycle refers to the 29.5 day lunar cycle. New Moon to Full Moon is a waxing moon, while the shift from Full Moon to New Moon is the waning period. Around New Moon, the earth tends to tighten up and draw in, while the flow of sap in plants is less prevalent, so it’s advised not to sow seeds.
In the 48 hours to Full Moon, there is a distinct increase in the moisture content of the earth, which enhances plant growth, but also creates favourable conditions for growth of fungus. During this time, we spray our Prep 508 and apply Prep 505 to protect our vines and gardens from fungal diseases.
Moon and Saturn in opposition
Once every moon cycle, both moon and Saturn forces penetrate the earth at the same time from opposite directions. Saturn forces are connected with the building up of substance in the plant, while the moon is connected with forces of propagation and growth.
Saturn’s forces bring warmth and structure, while the moon brings moisture and fertility, establishing a perfectly balanced period in the earth. For optimum plant growth, it’s a good time to sow seeds. But with the rise in water and humidity, it’s also vital to spray Prep 500, following up with Prep 501 the next morning to help plants resist fungus such as mildew and botrytis on grapes.
In the lead up to the last Moon opposite Saturn event, our Biodynamic Coordinator Keshnee applied a blend of Prep 501 + 508 to help the ripening of the grapes and act as a barrier to potential fungal disease. Watch the video (following).
These days occur at the point where the moon’s path crosses the path of the sun, every 14 days or so. The sun negates the benefits of the moon’s influence during this period, and so we avoid cultivating the soil, sowing any seeds, transplanting or pruning, and any other agricultural or horticultural work on the Node Day.
The Zodiac & Favourable Crop Days
The zodiac is the belt of fixed stars which form 12 groupings we call constellations, and every 28 days, the moon passes in front of each of them. This movement creates particular effects on planting and harvesting, and each region in the zodiac creates certain favourable conditions for specific plants. Using the four Aristotelian elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire, biodynamics have identified the key days relating to root, flower, fruit, and leaf crops.
During the current 2022 vintage, for example, we plan to harvest on fruit or flower days, preferably during an Ascending Moon, to maximise the conditions of our grapes.
Earth days (root days) are when the moon is in Virgo, Capricorn, or Taurus. These are preferred days for root development e.g. harvesting & planting root crops or spraying Prep 500 to activate and nourish soil.
Light/Air days (flower days) are when the moon is in Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. These are preferred days for flower development e.g. favourable conditions for flower development, but not for harvesting due to high water levels.
Water days (leaf days) are when the moon is in Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. These are preferred days for leaf development e.g. spread compost.
Warmth/Fire days (fruit days) are when the moon is in Sagittarius, Aries and Leo. These are preferred days for fruit/seed development e.g. harvesting grapes or pruning fruit trees.
Come see it in action
You will often find David, Kesh & many of our team working on different biodynamic preparations & practises across Lowe Family Wine Co all year round, and they are always eager to answer questions or share their knowledge. So next time you’re in Mudgee, be sure to pop out to Tinja to see it in action for yourself – there’s lots of great ways you can take these biodynamic principles into your own garden at home.
Words & video by Hannah Edensor. Images by Tim White