Planting by the moon
Have you ever wondered why it is that you are successful some years with your vegetable or flower planting, and other times you have failed miserably? Maybe planting using Moon Phases is your answer. Kathryn Bax reports.
Have you failed with a crop of flowers or vegetables recently? You were careful, you worked hard, but something went wrong? Then perhaps you could try planting by the moon. It has been a method of gardening practiced by humans since ancient times. The ancients knew when to plant and when to harvest, because they planted by watching the lunar phases and so created moon gardens long before it became the popular practice it has become today.
For those of you who are skeptical, don’t be, because you cannot denounce something you haven’t tried. And once you investigate moon gardening you will be, forevermore, a convert! For those of you who already practice organic gardening, by moon planting, you are really just adding another string to your bow, because they go hand in hand, along with companion planting.
We are all in agreement that the moon has a powerful effect on the tides. We will also attest that the moon can also adversely affect people and their behaviour. People weren’t called “lunatics” for nothing! It is also believed that the moon affects the earth’s vegetation in different ways depending on the phase of the moon at any one time of the month. With the moon completing a cycle every 29 and a half days, and although there are 8 phases of the moon, for gardening purposes the moon phases are divided into 4 quarters; new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter, new moon. The new moon will actually be a dark period where you will not see any moon at all.
When you are looking at the moon from the Northern Hemisphere, you will see the phases as below. However, if you are looking at the phases of the moon from the Southern Hemisphere, you will see the reverse. That is the waxing first quarter and will remind us of the letter C and the waning third quarter will remind us of the letter D.
Phases of the moon as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. From left: new moon, crescent, first quarter, full moon, last quarter, crescent, new moon.
What to Plant When?
To make moon planting really simple, when the moon is a new moon, this is not the time to plant anything. However, just after you see the first crescent you can start planting as this is when there is a surge of energy through the plants and the sap begins to rise through the stems. The best zodiac signs to plant during the first quarter is when the moon is in a water sign, such as Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
When the moon is waxing towards the first quarter, that is when the light of the moon is increasing from a new to a full moon, this is the time to plant leafy crops, cereals, grains and other crops and flowers that produce growth above the ground. You can start to sow seeds, transplant seedlings and graft plants when the moon is waxing. When the moon is in the first quarter and is moving towards a full moon you can also plant ground crops that have inside seeds such as tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers etc. It is also the time to plant annuals and fragrant flowers such as roses. The last two days of the first quarter, just before the full moon, is an ideal time for grafting fruit trees. Again the best zodiac signs for sowing and planting your moon garden are during the first quarter when the moon is in a water sign, such as Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
When the moon is a full moon all plants are at their peak. However, over the next two weeks as the moon loses its light it also loses its energy and the moon is waning to the third quarter. This is the time to harvest your crops, your herbs, especially medicinal herbs which will be more potent if picked at this time, mushrooms, grapes and of course it is the time to prune. This is the time to plant crops and flowers that produce growth below the ground such as root crops, tubers and bulbs and for flowers, your biennials and perennials, and the perennials can be divided now too. Therefore it is time to plant onions, potatoes, carrots, swedes, turnips, beets, parsnips and radishes. It is also the time to plant trees, fruit trees and saplings towards the end of the waning period and any spraying of fruit trees should be done during this period of the moon phase. You can also plant strawberries and their runners out now and if you have any vegetables or fruit that will have to be stored for a long period of time, such as apples, potatoes, pumpkins etc. if you pick them now they won’t rot as quickly.
During the last or fourth quarter this is a barren phase for moon gardening where it more prudent to do some tidying up in your garden, pull the weeds, see to the compost heap, spread the manure and turn over the beds. Now wait for the first crescent of the new moon to plant new seed.
In its lunar cycle the moon passes through 12 unequal sectors derived from the stellar constellations, referenced by zodiac signs. Each constellation is associated with one of 4 categories, representing the 4 elements; Air, Water, Fire and Earth. In addition, it is believed that as the moon spends time in each zodiac sign, these astrological signs of the zodiac are also influential. When gardening by the moon, planting seeds for annuals are best when planted when the moon is in a fire sign. Fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Wheat, corn, squash, peas, beans, tomatoes and all fruit are best planted here.
The best time to plant flowering plants is when the moon is in an Air sign. Flowers planted when the moon is in Gemini, Libra or Aquarius will result in showy, fragrant blooms. Root crops should be planted when the moon is in an Earth sign. Therefore when the moon is in Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn carrots, turnips, swedes, beetroots, potatoes etc. will benefit from being grown during this moon phase.
Finally, when the moon is in Cancer, Scorpio or Virgo this is the time to plant leafy vegetables. Cabbage, lettuce, spinach, silver beet, grasses and cress will do best when planted during this time. So the next time you decide to grow vegetables or grow your favourite herbs or flowers, try planting by the moon, and watch your garden grow!
And if you are looking for books on planting by the moon, herbs, seeds and plants or would like some growing kits, visit www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com.
At the new moon, the lunar gravity pulls water up, and causes the seeds to swell and burst. This factor, coupled with the increasing moonlight creates balanced root and leaf growth. This is the best time for planting above ground annual crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit. Examples are lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and grain crops. Cucumbers like this phase also, even though they are an exception to that rule.
In the second quarter the gravitational pull is less, but the moonlight is strong, creating strong leaf growth. It is generally a good time for planting, especially two days 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. Mow lawns in the first or second quarter to increase growth.
After the full moon, as the moon wanes, the energy is drawing down. The gravitation pull is high, creating more moisture in the soil, but the moonlight is decreasing, putting energy into the roots. This is a favorable time for planting root crops, including beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and peanuts. It is also good for perennials, biennials, bulbs and transplanting because of the active root growth. Pruning is best done in the third quarter, in the sign of Scorpio.
In the fourth quarter there is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight, and it is considered a resting period. This is also the best time to cultivate, harvest, transplant and prune. Mow lawns in the third or fourth quarter to retard growth.
Moon Planting Matrix Software
Confused about moon planting times? Then get it all set out for you on your computer. Moon Planting Matrix Software gives you the ability to customise for yourself exact frost dates, time zones and the vegetables and fruits that you want to grow. It includes a database with more cultivation information on each plant, and capability of storing notes and harvest records. For a free trial, see www.gardeningbythemoon.com/MoonMatrix.html