No matter how long you have been gardening, some things will always take you by surprise. There are also plenty of things you think you know and old wives’ tales that you take for granted as gospel. This article explores some of the things about gardening you never thought to ask or never dared to question.
Should I Plant in Spring or Autumn?
Which?, the no-stone-unturned consumer reviews and comparisons site, conducted an experiment to see whether a selection of popular perennials did better if planted in spring or autumn. The experiment was conducted in both Dorset and Scotland. The results produced more or less what you would expect. Six out of ten did better when planted in autumn in the warmer climes of Dorset and when planted in spring in the much chillier Scottish site. However, a few did well in either autumn or spring, regardless of site, which bucks the trend. And penstemons were gloriously easygoing, not minding when or where they were planted. We knew that, though.
Why Do We Plant Seed Potatoes on Good Friday?
Many gardeners never question this tradition. Indeed, it does make sense to make sure that spring has really sprung before you get your spuds in the ground. But in some years, Good Friday has been under a blanket of snow, and when it falls in March it really makes sense to wait till the risk of heavy frosts is past. Still, despite often freezing temperatures, allotmenteers up and down the land will, to a man, trudge to the trenches clutching their treasured egg boxes.
In actual fact, this tradition probably dates back to a time when peasants only got Good Friday off work during spring, so they had no other day on which to plant their spuds. Others attribute the custom to the common wariness about potatoes when they first arrived on these shores at the end of the sixteenth century. The potato is, after all, related to nightshades, and people feared it because it was not mentioned in the Bible. Catholics thought it would be all right to eat if they sprinkled seed potatoes with holy water and planted them on Good Friday, although Protestants in Ireland refused to eat them till much later. If Good Friday falls early, plant a frost-hardy variety like the delicious Epicure, bred in chilly Ayrshire.
Does Moon Planting Work?
Every so often we come across someone who swears by biodynamic practices, including lunar planting. It may seem that their crops are flourishing and their land is in bountiful good heart. But in 2003, Which? carried out a thorough investigation into whether lunar planting is more successful than conventional methods and found it to be resoundingly not. Moreover, lunar planting’s main theorist, Nicholas Kollerstrom, has discredited himself and his beliefs by associating himself with the Holocaust-denial movement.
But what of those amazingly abundant and lush biodynamic acres, like the magical Fern Verrow in the Black Mountains? Well, people who pursue something with their heart and soul tend to succeed, and biodynamic practices certainly put you back in touch with natural processes. Anyone who pays attention to the needs of their plants and tends them with loving care will get great results, whether the moon is in Virgo or Gemini.