Saturday, March 17, 2012

We will miss this great woman, Maria Thun

I love this photo, from Floris Books' tribute to Maria Thun
My fruits, flowers, leaves and roots will miss Maria Thun, "The Grandmother of Biodynamics", and so will I. The legacy of this eminent researcher (and the impact of her work on me) is so great it's difficult to describe.

For many years I have dabbled in planting by the moon signs, sometimes with success, and sometimes not. Then I discovered Maria Thun, who died in February of this year, just 2 months shy of her 90th birthday. My sowing success has increased greatly since following her calendars, although I still have lots to learn. I will have to keep following her planting calendars "by the book" (unless I can learn enough to to see the different constellations and the moon's passage through them, which is unlikely). Fortunately, Maria's son Matthias and daughter Christina have been working with her for many years and will continue the calendars.

Maria was born on a farm in Germany, and noticed her father would observe the sky every morning and evening before determining when it was time to plant. After she married in the 1940's, she began following the Ruini calendar which referred to star constellations in a broad manner, hoping it would give her the ability her father had to judge the right time for sowing. She started by experimenting with radishes and discovered variations between crops sown on different days, in spite of the seeds and soil conditions being equal.

Maria's husband introduced her to some biodynamic farmers, and she began taking courses at the Institute for Biodynamic Research. The principles of biodynamic agriculture were first proposed by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924. He spoke of life forces not detectable by our physical senses, yet linking together the universe and all living things. He believed that the energy of plants can be affected not only by human actions and the weather, but also by the energy of the moon, stars and planets. Decisions about when to sow and prune, he suggested, should be made according to patterns of lunar and cosmic rhythms.

Rudolf Steiner had pointed out the connection between cosmic forces and the growth of plants, so Maria began studying the astronomical calendar of the Goetheanum. She discovered that every two or three days the moon passed into in a different constellation of the zodiac. This made her decide to study astronomy more intensively. She found that radishes acquired a different form and size depending in which constellation they were planted.

Maria Thun continued experimenting with sowing during the 1950's with almost all types of crops to see whether the movement of the moon had the same effect on all crops. Over years of research she concluded that root crops (including onions and leeks, which are not technically root crops) do best if sown when the moon is passing through constellations associated with the earth signs; leafy crops do best when the moon is associated with water signs; flowering plants do best associated with air signs, and fruits did better with fire signs. From her observations she divided passage of the moon through the zodiac into four: root days, leaf days, fruit days and flower days, each indicating which type of plant is best sown on each specific day.

The news of the results of her trials spread quickly through the biodynamic movement, and  The Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar has been published annually for the last 50 years. As the extent of the trials expanded, so did the calendar and early on it was translated into French and Finnish, and today it is available in 27 languages. 

The results of planting and harvesting different plants at particular times have been well-documented over the years. Biodynamic techniques in agriculture can have a significant effect on the quality of the crops and how well they last. Maria Thun's book, Results from the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar, shows that if farmers and gardeners link their work into these cosmic rhythms, the quality of their produce is markedly increased, and is based on over 40 years of research.

The information on the background and research work of Maria Thun came from:
Amazon Books

Maria Thun also wrote Gardening for Life and When Wine Tastes Best


  1. Thanks for introducing me to Maria Thun, she sounds like a fascinating individual and I look forward to reading "Gardening for Life" in the near future.

  2. Thanks, I think you'll like what you read!

    I haven't actually read that book yet, have just used her calendar guides. However I did order the book earlier in the week when I read of her passing, so it's in the mail.

  3. Thank you for sharing about Maria Thun, I've never known about her until today. This sounds very interesting, and my son would enjoy this as well since he is an astronomy buff.

    1. I had heard about her for a few years but I didn't really get on the bandwagon until this year when I started following her planting calendar faithfully.

      I can't begin to tell you how much better my seed starts have been, and I'm anxiously awaiting the time to put them out into the garden and see if the garden production shows the same improvement.


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