Moon Gardening: Planting by Moonlight

Moon Phases and Planting

Planting by the phases of the moon is a method of cultivation as old as agriculture and civilization. Based both in tradition and superstition, the character and growth traits of plants were seen to vary with the phases of the moon. Through the corridors of time this rhythm of growth was recorded and passed down to following generations.

Today we have access to this half forgotten knowledge and what has endured is a schedule of plant growth that we can use just as those gardeners of yore. It is an example of mankinds struggle to understand and harness the forces of nature and in so doing master this world.

Moon, Tides, Seeds and Water

The Earth is in a gravity well that is constantly altered by both the sun, moon and planets. The ocean tides are at their highest during the time of the full moon, when the sun and moon are lined up with the earth. The ancients believed that as the moon draws the tides in the seas, it also draws upon all water, causing moisture to swell up in the earth, which promotes growth. This is the best time for planting seeds.

The Full Moon: A window of opportunity for planting seeds

When the moon is full the lunar gravity draws water up and causes seeds to germinate. It was also believed, in ancient times, that the increasing moonlight created balanced root and leaf growth. This, they thought, was the best time for planting above ground annual crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit. Examples of such crops are lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and grain crops. Through time and trials cucumbers were thought to like this phase also, even though they are an exception to the rule.

The Second Quarter Moon: A window of opportunity for planting above ground crops

In the second quarter moon (i.e. waxing half moon) the pull of gravity is less, but the moonlight is substantial and on the increase, which was believed to encourage strong leaf growth. It was generally considered a good time for most types of planting and the prime time for this was usually two days before the full moon. The types of crops that prefer the second quarter moon are annuals that produce their fruits above the ground, but the seeds form inside the fruit, such as beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

The Third Quarter Moon: A window of opportunity for planting root crops

When the moon enters the third quarter its light is diminishing (i.e. waning half moon), the light energy is dwindling. But during this time the gravitational pull is still quite high, creating increased moisture in the soil. Also, at this time the moonlight is decreasing, which our forefathers believed was putting energy into the roots. This was thought to be an excellent time for planting root crops which include beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and peanuts. It is also considered a good time for planting perennials, biennials, bulbs and transplanting because of the active root growth. Pruning is also best done in the third quarter moon.

The New Moon: An opportunity for maintaining the garden

At the time of the new moon both the gravitational pull and the moonlight are decreasing and was thus considered a resting period. Growth during this period was believed to be stable and steady providing strength to the plants and a good time for maintenance. This was predicted to be the best time to cultivate, harvest, transplant and prune. 

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