Planting By The Moon

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Have you ever wondered why it is that you’re successful some years with your vegetable or flower planting, and other times you failed miserably? Maybe planting using moon phases is the 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.

Full moon

You may be skeptical but once you investigate moon gardening you will be, forevermore, a convert! For those of you who already practice organic gardening, moon planting will add another string to your bow because they go hand in hand (along with companion planting).

We all agree that the moon has a powerful effect on the tides. We can also attest that the moon adversely affects our 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.

The moon completing a cycle every 29 and a half days and although there are 8 phases of the moon in each cycle, for gardening purposes only 4 phases are used: new moon, first quarter, full moon and third quarter. The new moon will actually be a dark period where you may not see any moon at all.

When you’re 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.

New moon

A new moon is not a good time for planting, but just after you see the first crescent you can begin. During this phase, the lunar gravity pulls water up causing the seeds to swell and burst. There is a surge of energy through the plants and the sap begins to rise through the stems. These factors, along with the increasing moonlight, create 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.

First Quarter

In this phase 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 first quarter are annuals that produce above ground but form seeds inside the fruit, such as beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Mow lawns in the first or second quarter to increase growth.

When the moon is waxing towards the first quarter, 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.

full moon in night sky

Full Moon

When the moon is a full moon all plants are at their peak. This is the time to plant crops and flowers that produce growth below the ground such as root crops, tubers and bulbs. For flowers, your biennials and perennials can be planted, and the perennials can be divided now too. Therefore it is time to plant onions, potatoes, carrots, swedes, turnips, beets, parsnips and radishes.

Towards the end of the waning period, you can plant trees, fruit trees and saplings. 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. 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, picking them in this phase ensures they won’t rot too quickly.

Over the next two weeks as the moon loses its light, it also loses energy and is waning to the third quarter. This is the time to harvest your crops. Herbs, especially medicinal herbs, will be more potent if picked at this time. It’s also a good time to harvest mushrooms and grapes. And of course it is the time to prune.

Third Quarter

As the moon wanes, the energy is drawing down. The gravitational 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. 

moon in sky

The last or fourth quarter is a barren phase for moon gardening. There is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight so it is considered a resting period. During this time, it’s 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. Mow lawns in the third or fourth quarter to retard growth.

Constellations

In its lunar cycle the moon passes through twelve unequal sectors derived from the stellar constellations, referenced by zodiac signs. Each constellation is associated with one of four categories, representing the four elements; Air, Water, Fire and Earth. It is believed that the signs of the zodiac are also influential for gardening.

When gardening by the moon, it’s best to plant seeds for annuals when the moon is in a fire sign. These are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Wheat, corn, squash, peas, beans, tomatoes and all fruit are best planted here.

constellations in the sky with flowers in foreground

Flowering plants are best planted 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. Carrots, turnips, swedes, beetroots, potatoes etc will benefit from being planted when the moon is in Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn.

Finally, when the moon is in Cancer, Scorpio or Virgo this is the best 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!

Confused about moon planting times? Then click here. 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.

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