The Distance of the Moon – Ink on Paper by James Moore
“The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.”- Jean Ingelow
One of the more fascinating things that we discovered lately is that for hundreds of years people have been planting their plants and vegetables depending on where the moon is in its cycle.
For example, they would plant annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as tomatoes, and courgettes, peas) during the waxing of the Moon, that is from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. As the moonlight increases each night, they believe plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.
During the waning of the Moon – from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again – gardeners would plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such as onions, carrots, and potatoes – the kind of plants known as the nightshade family). As the moonlight decreases night by night, it was believed that plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.
According to UNESCO, the term “cultural heritage” is not limited to monuments and collections of objects. It also includes living expressions of culture—traditions—passed down from generation to generation. Hallowe’en is a perfect example of this.
There is something magical and mysterious about Hallowe’en. The dressing up, the decorations, the bonfires, the fireworks, the peculiar traditions, the lack of formality. It is our most anarchic and pagan time of year. It is one of the few times that a person can knock on the front door of a stranger’s home and be welcomed in a ritualistic way.
All Hallows Eve, 31 October, is the time in the Christian calendar when the dead are remembered, including saints (hallows) and martyrs. Hallowe’en goes back to the time of the Druids and the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which was the beginning of the Celtic new year on 1 November. Oíche Shamhna, Night of Samhain, is the Gaelic word for the Christian festival of Hallowe’en. It celebrates the harvest, paticularly fruits and orchards.
This year Hallowe’en felt darker than normal. No tiny monsters would be knocking on our door. As a response to the invisible menace of Covid-19 we created a tableau in front of our house. A macabre vision from the days of the Black Death, the Plague Doctor stands with his burning herbs to ward away malignant spirits. The Druid Monk with his burning eyes evokes Hallowe’en’s religious and pagan past. Behind him the Bloody Hand of Death scuttles about.
I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. I grow my art. I use the garden soil like it’s a piece of cloth, and the plants and the trees, that’s my embellishment for that cloth. You’d be surprised what the soil can do if you let it be your canvas. – Ron Finley the Gangsta Gardener
Ron Finley, aka the LA gangsta gardener, didn’t have a garden of his own and was sick of living in what he describes as a food desert. He decided to plant some vegetables on the verge in front of his house. They started to grow and everything was going well until the city authorities knocked on his door and said you can’t do this and threatened him with fines and even jail time if he persisted. He persisted and he fought back and got a neighbourhood petition together and got the law changed so that people can now grow their own food on municipal verges. It has transformed the area where he lives from a concrete jungle to an urban oasis.
Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do … There are so many metaphors in that garden – we’re cultivating ourselves, we’re learning how to take care of things, we’re learning that nothing is instantaneous – Ron Finley
We find this idea inspiring. So we’ve been getting a little hooked on gardening lately. We are looking around us at the suburban environment in which we live wondering what we can do to extend our gardening into the wider community.
Our first foray into the wider community has been through our front garden. Along with local kids we planted a number of vegetables such as courgettes, tomatoes and peas, sharing the produce with neighbours. We planted a fig tree and a pear tree. This is an investment in the future which we hope to share with neighbours. We also planted a pumpkin patch on the grass verge between the footpath and the main road. This grass verge is owned by the council along with the street lamps and so on, but why not plant things there?
There are thousands of these patches of council owned grass verges around Dublin and across the country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were all growing a mix of pollinator friendly flowers and vegetables and fruit trees that everyone could share.