Gardening by the Moon, or more specifically, according to the phases of the Moon, is an idea that has been around for as long as humans have been growing their own food. It’s becoming more and more in vogue, cropping up (no pun intended) in books, blogs, and other educational materials coming out of the permaculture movement, “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”
The Gardening By The Moon Philosophy
Here at the Farmers’ Almanac, though, gardening by the Moon has always been our philosophy, and our editions include a calendar of the best days for sowing, planting, weeding, and other garden chores, as determined by the phase and position of the Moon. Our readers have long sworn by this method of managing their gardens and crops.
But how could a chunk of rock more than 200,000 miles away affect how plants on Earth grow?
Those who swear by this ancient growing method say the water in both the ground and in plants are affected by the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon, just like ocean tides are. Just as the tides are highest during the New and Full phases of the Moon, this theory holds, seeds, too, will absorb the most water during these times.
Though the practice is as old as agriculture itself, planting by the Moon is a complex art. Here’s a look at how Moon phase is believed to affect plant growth:
Over the course of a 29 1/2 –day lunar cycle, the Moon goes through four basic phases, New, Full, and two Quarter phases. For half of its cycle, between the New and Full phases, the Moon is waxing (growing in illumination). Then, after the Full Moon, it begins to wane (decreasing in illumination).
All aboveground crops should be planted when the Moon is waxing. During the New Moon is the best time to sow or transplant leafy annuals such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and celery, while the First Quarter phase is good for annual fruits, and foods with external seeds, such as tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli and beans.
Below-ground (Root) Crops
Root crops do best when the Moon is waning. When the Moon is just past Full, it’s a good time to sow or plant root crops and fruit trees like apples, potatoes, beets, turnips, asparagus, and rhubarb. During the Last Quarter phase, it’s best to avoid planting at all. Work instead on improving soil, weeding, mulching, composting, etc.
But knowing the phase of the Moon isn’t enough. Planting by the Moon also requires knowledge of the Moon’s place in the Zodiac, based on ancient lore that each sign confers certain growing conditions.
For instance, water and earth signs—Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn—are said to bring moist, fertile conditions, whereas most air and fire signs—Gemini, Aquarius, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius—are said to be barren. There are some exceptions to that rule, though. The air sign Libra, for instance, is said to be a relatively fertile sign.
Some signs are also believed to benefit specific types of plants. For example, Taurus is said to favor leafy greens, while corn does best under the influence of Scorpio.
Can’t keep track of all these variables? Not to worry. The Farmers’ Almanac has got you covered! Our Gardening by the Moon Calendar has it all figured out for you. Just consult this handy guide before you take your trowel to the soil.
by Jaime McLeod