Thursday, February 16, 2012
GARDENING BY THE MOON
When I raise baby orchids, they start out growing in a sterile environment, in a glass “flask” with nutrient agar. The seedlings stay in the flask for at least a year, until they’re mature enough to withstand the rigors of a real world in which only a tiny fraction of newly-germinated plants would ever survive. Even with the early years spent in a sterile bubble, there’s often some attrition of the weakest plants when I take them out of the flask. I usually deflask multiple batches of plants at once, and over the years have noticed that some batches fare much better than others for no apparent reason.
I’ve racked my brains trying to figure out why this is. Originally I thought it was taboo to deflask during the couple of months leading to the winter solstice, when day length was decreasing, and best to do it in spring, before the summer solstice, when day length was increasing. Patterns of change in day length do have an effect on baby orchid survival, but I was never convinced that that was the whole story.
Apparently the vegetative growth hypothesis wins out, at least that’s how it looks so far. Obviously I need more data before coming to a conclusion, but maybe the old farmers were right. Now I wonder if there’s a moon phase that’s optimal for perfume-making.