Planting by the Moon

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Since at least the time of the ancient Greeks and Roman Empire, some gardeners have been scheduling various gardening chores to coincide with the different phases of the moon. This practice is referred to as moon gardening.

The basic premise of moon gardening maintains that the gravitational forces of the moon have an effect on the growth of plants. We know that the phases of the moon affect the tides, and those who practice moon gardening claim that the same lunar gravitational pull dictates the best time for planting and harvesting crops. Followers of moon gardening believe that the amount of moisture in the soil is somewhat controlled by the lunar phase as it causes the water table to rise and fall.

According to the moon gardening theory, during the waxing phase of the moon, which is between the time of the new moon and a full moon, water tables rise and plants are better able to take up nutrients. During the waning moon, the latter half of the lunar cycle between the full moon and the new moon, the water table is lower and sap runs more slowly in plants.

During the first quarter of the lunar phase, as the moon appears to be growing larger and brighter, those who practice moon gardening would be planting vegetables that grow above ground. The moon gardening theory suggests that this is the best time to plant crops such as lettuce, chard, spinach, or broccoli.

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During the second quarter of the lunar phase, the moon’s gravitational pull is lessened. During this phase the moonlight is becoming even brighter. Moon gardening experts claim that this is the best time to plant vine crops and vegetables that form seeds internally, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. This would also be the time to plant trees and shrubs.

The third lunar phase is just past the full moon. During this time, the water table would be dropping and less moisture would be available in the soil. The moon gardening theory indicates that this would be the time to plant vegetables that grow underground, such as radishes, potatoes, onions or carrots. Pruning should also be done at this time because it is felt that the plants will lose less sap or moisture from the cut ends while the moon is waning.

Finally, during the fourth lunar phase when the moon is dark, a moon gardener would do no planting or harvesting. This would be the time for weeding the garden.

The rules for moon gardening seem to vary somewhat depending on who is offering the information. Some moon gardeners swear that their root crops grow better when they are planted on a dark, moonless night. Others claim that their root crops keep better in storage if they are dug during the waning moon. But nearly every moon gardening advocate agrees that crops that produce edible parts above ground should be planted during the time of a waxing moon.

Moon gardening can be extended to ornamental plants also. During the waning moon, a time of decreasing moonlight, bulbs can be planted, shrubs can be pruned, and biennial and perennial plants can be expected to grow better if planted during this time in the lunar cycle.

There may be some truth to the moon gardening theory, and I invite you to do your own moon gardening experiment in your garden to test the theory. For example, plant some potatoes just after the full moon, then plant another row of potatoes right next to the first one, but plant those one week later. Keep a record of which row was planted according to the moon gardening schedule, and when the crop is harvested you can compare the size of the harvest to see if there is any difference between the two.

Moon gardening is an intriguing notion. It would be fun to experiment with moon gardening a bit, if for nothing else, to prove to yourself whether or not there is much substance to the theory.