Moon phase for planting

The article as it appeared in the Seymour Telegraph

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Do it Yourselfer #6

The cycles of the moon have influenced gardeners from diverse cultures over many centuries. While science may not fully understand why planting by the moon works, anecdotal evidence suggests that it does.

Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren’s writes “good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns.”

Observing the cycles of the moon and the way that it affects both people and plants can help to determine when to plant in order to improve our health and yield from our garden activities.

Author of the Permaculture Home Garden Linda Woodrow, a self confessed ‘extreme sceptic’, adopted moon planting as a way to manage her time more effectively and get more organised. In doing so she found that “it actually does increase the germination rate and vitality of plants”.

How does it work?

There are a number of methods of moon planting, some are complex taking into account far off constellations – something that I find difficult to comprehend. There is an approach that I’ve found I can get my head around. Linking the ebb and flow of the sap in tune with the rhythms of the moon.

In a waxing moon, when light increases towards a full moon, sap flow is drawn up. This is the most suitable time for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals, biennials, grains and melons. Basically any short lived plant that we want to harvest its leaves, seed, flowers or fruits. It’s also a good time for applying liquid fertilisers, pruning and grafting as increased sap flow produces new growth more quickly.

With an waning moon, when the light is decreasing as the moon changes from a full to a new moon, the sap flow is drawn down. This focuses the energy towards the roots, which is more suited to root crops and perennials, plants that live longer than two years. It’s also a good time for applying solid fertilisers, pruning dormant plants and harvesting, as there is less likelihood of rotting.

This general pattern can be divided further into the quarterly moon cycles.

The new moon phase (from new moon to first quarter) is most suited to sowing or transplanting leafy annuals, where we value or eat the leaves or stem. Plants like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and celery.

The first quarter phase is most suited to fruiting annuals (not fruit trees) where we value or eat the fruit or seed bearing part of the plant. Like tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli and beans.

The full moon phase (from full moon to the third quarter) is most suited to sowing or planting out root crops as well as decorative or fruiting perennials. Like apples, potatoes asparagus and rhubarb. It’s also a good time for taking cuttings and dividing plants.

The 2019 Permaculture Calendar – Includes daily icons and moon phase times to guide your planting.

The last quarter phase is a time to avoid planting and focus on improving the soil, by weeding, mulching, making compost and manure teas as well as digging or ploughing.

The one caveat for this method is that 12 hours before and after the transition time from one phase to the next is when sowing, planting and pruning is best avoided. Use this time instead to improve your soil.

This method of moon planting is illustrated with daily icons and moon phase times in the Permaculture Calendar.

Is moon planting scientific?

Author Lyn Bagnall, who was consulted in the development of the guide for the calendar, has written the article Does moon planting work? to addresses this question. She followed this up with another short article which shows an experiment where she plants leafy green seeds during the incorrect and correct moon phases with some interesting results.

If you’ve come across research that demonstrates the success or otherwise of moon planting please share.

Gardening by the Moon is a great way to plan your garden. Many of our readers follow the age-old practice of planting by the Moon’s phase for a healthier, more productive garden.

Gardening by the Moon is a growing trend, but the technique isn’t anything new. Gardeners and farmers have been using moon phase gardening for ages! Best of all, it’s a fairly simple process.

According to the Garden Media Group, Gardening by the Moon is “more than just a phase. Connecting with the phases of the Moon taps into our deep desire to be in tune with nature.” (We approve of the pun.) Whatever happens in the world of trends, we’re all in favor of working with nature’s rhythms.

What Is Gardening by the Moon?

From what we are reading, many of these trend watchers are confused about the idea of Gardening or Planting by the Moon. There is a difference between traditional Gardening by the Moon and gardening by astrological “Best Days.”

Gardening by the Moon

The basic idea behind Gardening by the Moon is that the cycles of the Moon affect plant growth. Just as the Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil.

Therefore, it’s said that seeds will absorb more water during the full Moon and the new Moon, when more moisture is pulled to the soil surface. This causes seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination and better-established plants.

Moon phase gardening takes into account two periods of the lunar cycle: the time between the new Moon and the full Moon (the waxing of the Moon), and the time between the full Moon and the new Moon (the waning of the Moon). It’s considered best to plant certain types of plants during the waning of the Moon and other types during the waxing.

See more on this in How to Plant by the Moon’s Phases, below.

The Moon also impacts plant growth through geotropism—which is how plants grow in response to gravity. Roots grow downward in the direction of gravitational pull and stems grow in the opposite direction (i.e., upwards). This behavior can be easily demonstrated with potted plants. Lay one on its side and the stem will grow upwards. Or, consider a tulip bulb: if you plant the bulb incorrectly with the pointed end down, it will turn around and send its shoots upward, even though it’s in total darkness.

Astrological “Best Days”

Like Gardening by the Moon, astrological Best Days are based on the Moon. However, instead of depending on the Moon’s phase, Best Days take into account the Moon’s position in the astrological zodiac. When the Moon is in Taurus, for example, it is considered a good time to plant, transplant, or graft. Common gardening activities are associated with certain signs, shown here:

Activity Associated Signs
Plant, Transplant, or Graft Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, or Taurus
Harvest Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Build/Fix Fences or Garden Beds Capricorn
Control Insect Pests, Plow, or Weed Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Prune Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius

To see dates of upcoming Best Days, check out our Best Days Timetable.

How to Plant by the Moon’s Phases

To plant by the Moon, follow these guidelines:

  • Plant your annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini) during the waxing of the Moon—from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. As the moonlight increases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.

  • Plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such as onions, carrots, and potatoes) during the waning of the Moon—from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again. As the moonlight decreases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.

Dates for Planting by the Moon

See the Almanac Planting Calendar for planting dates based on 1) average last frost dates and 2) Moon phase. Both are customized to your local postal code (U.S. and Canada)!

The Almanac provides favorable dates for sowing seeds or transplanting in the ground for all popular vegetables and edibles.

You could also calculate planting dates yourself by looking at our Moon Phase Calendar and the guidelines above, though this method won’t take your climate into account.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our library of Growing Guides to learn how to grow all the your favorite fruit, vegetables, and flowers!

Do you garden by the Moon? Do you think the technique helps you grow better crops? Let us know in the comments!

Moon Planting

No Torch Required

Long, long ago in a city far, far away, I was a novice gardener with very limited horticultural knowledge (yes, I know it’s hard to believe). One phrase I kept hearing as a young pup was moon planting and, I’ll confess, it confused me. My grandmother spoke of and practiced moon planting religiously, and this mystified me for one main reason – my grandmother refused to leave the confines of her lounge room after dark, for fear of being mobbed by cane toads. How then could she possibly garden by the moon?

As I and my horticultural knowledge grew, I realised that moon planting had nothing to do with gardening after dark, rather gardening by the phases of the moon. Quite frankly, it was easier for me to get my head around gardening by torchlight than it was to understand the principles of moon planting. But, like any good gardener, I persevered and, while I don’t profess to be an expert in the field of moon planting, I now have a far greater understanding of this long used and passionately practiced permaculture principle. So, for your enjoyment, I present the “Beginners Guide to Moon Planting” and no, you won’t need a torch!

I’m Being Followed by a Moon Shadow

Moon planting is old… really old! Older than my car, my favourite jeans, even my nanna – we are talking ancient! In fact, the moon planting system has been utilised by just about every early culture in the world and its popularity and relevance has not diminished over time. Moon planting has seen a resurgence of sorts over the last 40 years, thanks in no small part to the popularity of permaculture, and there are some valid reasons for this. It is said that by planting, cultivating, harvesting, weeding and the like in the appropriate moon phase, the flavour, yield, and vigour of your edible crops can be significantly increased, without the addition of fertilisers. This is a top outcome – for your wallet, your taste buds, your health and the health of the planet! But, what’s it all about, does it really work, how do we do it and how on earth do we decipher those moon planting charts?

We know, just from sitting at the beach and watching the tide, that the moon has an impact and affect on the earth, but what good this have to do with gardening? Well, if you’re into moon planting, a fair bit. The Synodic Cycle (the moon or lunar cycle) not only controls the tide, but is also reported to have a serious influence on the surface tension of liquids, and, in turn, plant growth. Scientific studies have shown that subtle changes to the biological functions of plants occur in direct correlation to the planets tidal changes, due to alterations to the Earths electromagnetic fields. Yeah, it’s all a bit complex, but think about it this way – the moon has an impact on water movement on earth, plants take up water from the soil through their roots, while seeds require a far whack of the wet stuff to germinate. It makes sense then, that the phase of the moon would impact upon the way plants take up water and in turn, the way plants germinate and grow!

So, how can we use this knowledge, and the moon, to our advantage in the garden? Simply by knowing the phases of the moon (relax, there are only four main ones) and what they represent, we can begin to plan our moon gardening calendar. The moon moves through a complete cycle every 29 and a bit days, and, during that time, we have four main moon “quarters”:

New Moon Phase

When: From New Moon (crescent moon or dark moon) to the first quarter moon

What Happens: The moon is waxing (growing bigger) in this phase, and living things apparently feel an upsurge of energy! One thing is for sure though, sap rises during this period. Delay doing anything in the patch until a tiny wee fingernail of the moon is actually visible.

What to do in the patch: Planting, grafting and transplanting leafy annuals is recommended in this phase, as is whacking in cereal and grain crops. It’s a great time to mow the lawn, prune many plants and provide low environmental impact liquid fertiliser to the patch.

First Quarter Phase

When: From First Quarter to Second Quarter

What Happens: The moon is still waxing (growing bigger) in this phase, and the sap is still flowing! Gardening is NOT recommended in the 12 hours before the full moon.

What to do in the patch: Still a great phase for starting things off and even better for planting, grafting and transplanting fruiting annuals (those that produce above the ground, and have their seeds inside, like tomatoes, capsicums, beans and peas). Cereals and grains can also go in now, and it’s still okay to feed if you need.

Full Moon Phase

When: From 12 hours after Full Moon to Third Quarter

What Happens: All living things, be it plants, pets or people, are at the peak of their electromagnetic energy during the full moon phase (we’ve all heard about folks getting the crazies around this time, it’s all about the energy!).

What to do in the patch: Sap is flowing downwards during this time, so whacking in bulbs and root crops that produce underground is perfect. Pruning and harvesting is recommended during this phase, but avoid planting most foliage and edible plants, as their initial growth will be impressive but will wane (just like the moon during this phase)

Last Quarter Phase

When: From Third Quarter to New Moon (dark moon)

What Happens: This phase is barren which, in gardening terms, can be translated as, well, a bit boring and tedious.

What to do in the patch: This phase is all about doing those annoying jobs in the garden, the ones we put off all the time, like weeding, cultivating, pest control and fertilising. It’s also the best time to mow the lawn, especially if you want to slow down the growth of the grass. Preparing patches for impending planting is a perfect project during this phase.

So, now that you are armed with all this information, I can hear you ask “does this moon planting caper actually work?”. Well, to be honest, I don’t have an answer. Many of my colleagues swear by it, while others (like myself) tend to garden when we have time, irrespective of the phase the moon is in. There is loads of evidence available from both schools of thought, and, at a recent garden show I attended, moon planting calendars were selling like hotcakes. Speaking of calendars.

Whatever way you look at it, moon planting is illuminating, with or without a head torch! Happy gardening all you stars!

Lunar Gardening, planting and gardening according to the phase of the Moon

I have been gardening using the rhythm of the planets and the moon for many years and I apply the same principal passionately to every aspect in the garden and allotment. This includes planting, sowing, weeding, pruning, picking, turning the compost heap – to name but a mere few. Farmers and gardeners have been using the moon phases method for many hundreds of years and I believe Prince Charles is also an advocate!

I have had mixed reactions when talking about it, varying from polite head nodding agreement to rolling of eyes and belly laughter. The reason I tell people about it is because everyone asks me how I make and keep the garden so healthy and vibrant and how everything grows so well. Because lunar gardening works!!

I use a combination of the waxing and waning moon and the moon’s passage through the sidereal (or star zodiac which is in a fixed position). This is not the same zodiac as the one used by astrologers (this is the tropical zodiac which moves). The sidereal method works much better for crop purposes.

The basic principal is that the moon has pulling effect on all water. This includes the sap in plants. The sap rises during the waxing moon and falls towards the roots when it wanes.

The moon also passes in front of each sign of the zodiac during the month, spending roughly 2.5 days in each one. Each sign corresponds to an element which in turn corresponds to the best crops to plant.

  • Root days are the best to plant root crops when the moon passes in front of the “Earth” signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
  • Leaf days are leafy crops of spinach, lettuce etc. during the “water” signs of Cancer Scorpio, and Pisces.
  • Flower days for cauliflower, broccoli, and flowers passing the “air” signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
  • Fruit/seed days for tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers passing the “fire” signs of Aries, Leo, Saggitarius.

In my experience, the water signs are the most fertile(most things will grow I have found) followed by earth, air and then the fire signs which I find are the best for clearing as they are more barren.

Some Examples of Success with Moon Gardening

A couple of years ago, I was the only person on the allotments who managed to grow carrots and I have never used any sort of artificial fertiliser. I have always had the healthiest of plots!

My beautiful clematis is pruned on a root day when the moon is waning so that all the sap goes into the roots ready for the season; peas and beans are more productive when planted on a flower day in an air sign because the number of peas/beans is dependent on the number of flowers. More flowers equal more pods.

During a waxing moon I plant leafy crops as more water is absorbed at this time. As a matter of interest, if you want to dye your hair,do it during a waxing moon near to full as the hair shaft will absorb more colour!

During the 3rd quarter (waning moon) I plant root crops and trees (good root system) and in the 4th quarter to the new moon I weed and cultivate, turn the compost heap etc.

Mow the lawn during a waning moon – no it’s not a myth!

If you want to weaken a plant (usually a weed) then prune it during a waxing moon so that the sap isn’t going into the roots to make it rise again.

I fertilise when the moon passes a water sign.

All the signs are slightly different and it is worth taking into consideration eg if I can possibly avoid it I won’t plant anything during Leo as it is the most barren and I have had very weak plants in the past.

It takes a bit of effort and a bit of patience to find the perfect day for the task, and my success has come from much trial and error. It is worth it!

I use an excellent book called “Gardening and Planting by the moon” by Nick Kollerstrom to tell me which sign the moon is passing through and therefore which ”day” it is , but there are other really good sources readily available. – Buy a book and some seeds and give it a go!

This article was submitted to the allotment garden site and is copyright 2013 Tansy Jams.

Editorial Note:

As the author admits she has a range of reactions it is worth pointing out that gardening by the moon, moon planting etc. was the norm in most of history. Even just 50 years ago it was a brave farmer who planted when the phase of the moon was against him.

Lunar gardening and planting may seem to be just new age nonsense but, to my knowledge, there has been no long-term (5 year +) trial. Which™ carried out a one year trial in 2003 on a limited range of crops that showed no difference in planting on Good or Bad days but I would not consider that conclusive proof either way.

Just because you cannot understand how something works, doesn’t mean it can’t work. For example: how does electricity get through solid wires? Most of us don’t know but we accept that it works.

On the other hand, we now know many things that were accepted fact were wrong. You’ve just got to make your own mind up.

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Gardening By The Moon: Learn How To Plant By Moon Phases

Gardeners who rely on planting by the moon’s phases are convinced that this ancient tradition produces healthier, more vigorous plants and bigger crops. Many gardeners agree that planting by the moon really works. Others think moon phase gardening is pure myth and malarkey.

The only way to know for sure is to give moon phase gardening a try. After all, what can it hurt? (And it just may help!) Let’s learn a little more about how to garden by the moon.

How to Plant by Moon Phases

When the moon is waxing: This is the time to start planting annual flowers such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and petunias. Why? During the waxing of the moon (the period extending from the day the moon is new to the day it reaches its fullest point), the moon pulls moisture upwards. Seeds do well during this time because moisture is available at the surface of the soil.

This is also the time to plant above-ground vegetables such as:

  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Corn

Don’t plant below-ground plants during this time; according to old-timers, the plants will be full and leafy on top with little growth under the ground.

When the moon is waning: Below-ground plants should be planted when the moon is waning (from the time it reaches its fullest point to the day just before the full moon). This is the period when the moon’s gravitational pull decreases slightly and roots grow downward.

Take advantage of this time to plant flowering bulbs such as iris, daffodils and tulips, and vegetables like:

  • Potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Carrots

When the moon is dark: Don’t plant anything when the moon is at its darkest point; this is a resting period and plants won’t do well. However, many gardeners say this time of slow growth is ideal for getting rid of weeds.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers a Moon Phases and Lunar Calendar here.

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