Gardening by the Cycles of the Moon

 in Garden

Disclaimer, you can plant seeds on any moon and they will grow.
The idea of moon cycle planting is to use the natural pull of the moon to enhance the growth of certain plants. The theory can be used when planting seeds, transplanting, and pruning.

The science:
Without the benefit of modern calendars and the internet, many (if not most) first nations of the world used the moon and sun to track their planting cycles. However, some more modern science is catching up with the evidence of old to help us understand why the moon is so important in agriculture.

My favorite is, Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University who performed research over a ten-year period. Like any good scientist and gardener, he kept detailed records of his results. He found that plants absorb more water at the time of the full moon. He conducted his experiments in a laboratory without direct contact from the moon, yet he found that they were still influenced by gravity.

Further tests have been conducted, by Frau Dr. Kolisko in Germany in 1939, and by Maria Thun in 1956. They primarily experimented with root crops, showing the effect of lunar phases on seed germination. They found maximum germination on the days before the Full moon. This is why most planting should be done in the first and second quarter.

True to the complexities of nature, there are some crops that don’t follow the general rules of roots, grains and leafs making it hard to do exact categories. Use these guides below as just that, guides. Don’t fret if you miss the moon or pruned at the wrong times. Plants are resilient and the moon’s force over gravity and water is only an ally not the only factor in the success of your garden.

Almost all things are planted in the time when the moon is growing from New to Full because the water is raising during this time.

New Moon
The pull of gravity is up during the new moon meaning seeds burst out of their shell well during this time and create a healthy balance between root and leaf. Some people like to grow roots during this time, but I prefer the Kolisko method of planting roots on the full moon.
I personally plant my flowers on the new moon.

Waxing Moon
The is the time after the new moon but before the visible light fills halfway.
As the moisture is rising during this time it is the best for planting above ground bearing annual crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit. Examples are lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and grain crops.

This is also a great time to prune/harvest any plant you want to grow back quickly like roses, lemongrass or herbs because the sap level is high and moving to the tips of the plants and will help the plant grow new shoots.

First Quarter
This is when the moon reaches half full of visible light until just before the full moon.
The types of crops that prefer the second quarter are annuals that produce above ground, but their seeds form inside the fruit, such as beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. This is because we are reaching the time when moisture is highest and fruits like a lot of water.

Plant just before the full moon (I usually say up to 3 days before) to get the benefits of peak moisture.

Full Moon

The gravitational pull is high during the full moon creating more moisture in the soil, but the moonlight is decreasing, putting energy into the roots. This is a favorable time for planting root time for crops, such as beets and carrots.

It is also good for perennials, bulbs and transplanting because of the active root growth.
Especially if you are transplanting seedlings that produce fruit you should try to time transplanting with a full moon.

Furthermore, the full moon and few days after it in May is an considered an especially good time for pruning trees. However, any full moon would work. Remember if you want the plant to grow back quickly it’s best to prune the weeks before the full moon.

Waning Moon
During this phase the moon is moving from full and the water starts to settle into the roots again.
Sap is starting to move slower through the plants, therefore the time after the full moon isn’t for planting new, but more for garden maintenance and cleaning.

This moon is wonderful for transplanting fruit trees as it will guarantee strong roots, as well as dividing plants and taking cuttings. This is also a good time for harvest and storage of pumpkins and bulbs.  

Last Quarter
After the full moon until the new moon there is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight, and this is considered a resting period. This is also the best time to cultivate, harvest, transplant, fertilize and prune.

They also say to mow your grass during this time and it will grow back more slowly.

Further Study

You could read all year about this, and if you are interested there is a lot out there.
The primary philosophy is based on Louise Riotte’s books, “Astrological Gardening” and “Planetary Planting”, which is similar to the Old Farmer’s Almanac method.

“Living by the Moon”, by Ute York. Bluestar Communications. Woodside, CA 1997

“Astrological Gardening” by Louise Riotte. Storey Books 1995

“Planetary Planting” by Louise Riotte. McNaughton and Guan 1975

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac”, by Robert Thomas. Yankee Publishing Inc.

“How to Grow more Vegetables…” by John Jevons. Ten Speed Press 1991

“Llewellyn’s Moon Sign Book” by Gloria Star. Llewellyn Publications. Saint Paul MN 2000, 2001

“The Lunar Garden: Planting by the Moon’s Phases” EA Crawford. Weidenfield and Nicholson 1989

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