My great great grandmother Ina was a native American farmer in Colorado. My grandmother Lucille remembers her garden as one of the biggest and most beautiful in the whole county. Lot’s of people teased her about planting by the moon but nobody argued about the size of her harvests!
For centuries farmers have planned not only the planting and harvesting of crops according to the phases of the moon but all sorts of seemingly unrelated farm activities like when to wean animals, when to set fence boards and even when to cut the lawn have traditionally been planned according to the cycles of the moon!
This ancient practice has fallen out of style but speaking from experience – it can work!
The basic explanation of the benefits of planting by the lunar cycle is that the moon governs moisture. Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist, wrote that the Moon “replenishes the earth; when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, when she recedes, she empties them.”
Water on the earths surface is influenced by the gravitational pull of the moon. Imagine the moon pulling the tides in the oceans across the globe. The theory is that the moon has a pull on all bodies of water, or bodies that contain water such as plants and animals and even human beings. This is a subtle pull but it has a very real effect. This lunar pull also brings moisture in the soil closer to the surface, which encourages things like growth and germination.
The moon has four phases or quarters each one lasting about seven days. The first two quarters, between the new and the full moon are called the waxing moon, this is the period that the moon appears to be growing. The third and fourth quarters occur after the full moon when the light is waning and it looks as if the moon is shrinking again.
Vegetable planting tips guided by the phases of the moon
The first quarter:
After the new moon, when the moon is completely dark, it begins to gradually “grow” pulling energy towards the earths surface which encourages seeds to swell and germinate. This phase of gentle pull makes for a balanced time for both root and leaf development. Plant seeds for vegetables with above ground fruit but that set their seeds outside the fruit – Broccoli, cabbage, celery cauliflower, lettuces, spinach and greens. Cucumbers and zucchini are an exception as they can also be planted in this phase.
The second quarter:
During this phase the moon is growing and the pull is increasing which makes for strong leaf growth. Plants that produce above ground with their seeds inside the fruit do very well planted in this phase. Beans, and peas, peppers, squash, eggplant and tomatoes. Two days before the full moon is an especially good time for planting in general and is the best time to transplant starts or any new potted additions to your garden because as the moon transitions into and past the full moon root growth will be coming into it’s prime this includes perennials and ornamentals as well as fruit trees, potted herbs and vegetables that have been started indoors.
The third quarter:
This is the time directly after the full moon. The moon is at its peak pull creating the most moisture in the soil, but that pull is beginning to diminish. Root crops do best planted in this phase as energy is dropping back down into the deep soil and root systems. Veggies to plant now – beets, radishes, garlic, onions, potatoes and carrots. You can also gather seeds and harvest fruits, herbs and vegetables for their peak time near a full moon.
The fourth quarter:
This phase of the moons cycle has the pull dropping to it’s minimum as it moves toward the new moon. It is called a fallow moon and is generally a time of rest for the plants in the garden but there is plenty to do for the gardener. Now is a great time to transplant or divide plants, compost and remove brush as well as pruning for retarding growth. You can also apply side dressings and composts at this time. You will actually find that pulling weeds is much easier after a full moon and lawns mowed will grow back at a slower pace.
If you want to learn more about the subtleties of gardening by the moon or simply want a calendar of planting dates without any research or physics required – pick up a copy of the Farmers almanac. And for a strangely modern twist on this ancient practice download the application for use on a mobile devise.