The majority of the following information, which outlines the basic ideas behind gardening by the moonphases, comes from the website Gardening by the Moon by Caren Catterall. If you would like more detailed information or would like to purchase a Gardening by the Moon Calendar (available in three formats: Printed wall calendar, PDF download, and Moon Planting Matrix software) please click on the banner below to go to Caren Catterall’s website.
Planting by the moon is an idea as old as agriculture, based both in folklore and superstition, but there are scientific ideas to back it up. The Earth is in a large gravitational field, influenced by both the sun and moon. The lunar phase controls the amount of moisture in the soil. The tides are highest at the time of the new and the full moon, when sun and moon are lined up with earth. Just as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls upon the subtle bodies of water, causing moisture to rise in the earth, which encourages growth. The highest amount of moisture is in the soil at this time, and tests have proven that seeds will absorb the most water at the time of the full moon.
The Phases of the Moon
As a general rule of thumb, when the Moon is waxing, plants develop leaves and ‘above ground’ systems, when it is waning plants develop their root systems. Leafy crops that grow above ground are best sown at waxing moon and those that will require strong root systems or grow below ground should be sown after full moon, in the waning phase. The Moon’s Quarters and Intermediate phases are important as each represents a turning point at which human beings can act or intervene with nature to promote appropriate results.
The four ‘quarters’ occur at :
New Moon | First Quarter | Full Moon | Last Quarter
These quarter phases demonstrate times when specific human activity promotes a natural result.
These activities can be described simplistically as:
Planting | Feeding | Harvesting| Destroying
The four ‘intermediate’ phases occur at:
Crescent | Gibbous l Disemminating | Balsamic
These intermediate phases demonstrate natural activity based on the actions taken at the previous quarter.
These results can be described simplistically as:
Germination | Growth | Seed Setting | Dormancy
The complete cycle of phases correlates with activity and results that are described thus:
Plant > germination | Feed > growth | Harvest > seed | Prune > dormancy
|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 First 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 first 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 during the waxing moon phases 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 in this phase is best done in the sign of Scorpio.|
|In the Last 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 waning moon phases to retard growth.|
It is important to note that you should not do any gardening task at the exact time of a Quarter phase. Wait a few hours. Each of the exact phase positions marks a ‘critical time’ as the moon makes a shift from one phase to the next and one natural activity to another.
The Influence of the Zodiac Signs
The moon moves through the signs of the Zodiac in the heavens every couple of days. Different signs are associated with an element of earth, air, fire or water. When the moon is in a water sign it is the most fertile time for planting. Different types of plants have favorite signs too, such as leafy plants prefer the water signs.
The fertile water signs are Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio, and are best for planting above ground, leafy annuals.
Cancer – Very fertile and moist. The best sign for all planting and transplanting. Also good for grafting, and irrigation.
Pisces – Very productive and moist. Second best sign for planting and transplanting. Especially good for root growth and irrigation.
Scorpio – Very fertile and moist. Best planting sign for sturdy plants and vines. Tomatoes like to be transplanted in Scorpio, and it is a good sign for corn and squash. Graft or prune in the third and fourth quarter to retard growth and promote better fruit. A good sign for irrigation and transplanting.
The Earth signs, Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, are also very fertile and good for planting. The root is the part of the plant associated with earth signs, so it is especially good for planting root crops, or for transplanting to encourage root development.
Taurus – Productive and moist. Second best for planting and transplanting. Good for root crops and potatoes, especially when hardiness is important. Also a good sign for leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach.
Virgo – Barren and moist. Some flowers and vines are favored by it. Cultivate and destroy weeds and pests.
Capricorn – Productive and dry. Good for planting potatoes and other root crops, and for encouraging strong hardy growth. Good for grafting, and pruning to promote healing, and applying organic fertilizer.
Air signs work well for some plants, but are generally barren and dry. Libra is an exception to that rule, and is semi-fertile and good for blooming flowers and herbs. Flowers are the part of the plant associated with air signs. Melons like Gemini, and onions respond well in Aquarius. When the moon is in an air sign it is a good time to harvest and cultivate.
Gemini – Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Melon seeds respond well in this sign.
Libra – Semi-fertile and moist. Best sign for planting beautiful and fragrant flowers, vines and herbs. Good for planting pulpy stems like kohlrabi, and root crops.
Aquarius – Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Good for planting onion sets.
The fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are very barren and dry, but may be used for crops grown for their seed. Because it is barren, Leo is a good sign for weeding and cultivation, so seeds won’t sprout. It is also good to harvest during a fire sign.
Aries – Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests.
Leo – Very barren and dry. Cultivate, harvest root and fruit for storage. An excellent time to destroy weeds and pests in the fourth quarter.
Sagittarius – Barren and dry. Harvest roots and onions for storage, and plant onion sets and fruit trees. A good sign in which to cultivate the soil.
Some plants have better results with a certain sign or element. See this chart for specifics… http://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/chart.html
Other garden chores have preferences for the sign also, such as pruning in Scorpio, weeding in Leo. Harvesting in the dry air and fire signs in the last quarter helps preserve fruit and vegetables for storage.
The Influence of the Sun Signs
The Sun’s position is worth considering as well as the Moon’s phases. The Sun stays in a sign for a full month so there are some months that are better for certain gardening tasks than others. Interfacing the Sun cycle and the Moon’s cycle takes a little skill but is not difficult once you apply the logic. If the Sun is in a ‘fertile’ sign for a month, then you should take advantage of that month to do some gardening – naturally the best results occur when the Moon is also in a fertile sign and is in the correct phase for your purpose. Synchronising the phase with the sign is important in gardening. There is no point in planting at the correct phase, if the Sun and Moon are in infertile signs. Gardening by the moon phases is all a matter of timing and planning.
Sow peason and beanes in the wane of the moone,
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soon,
That they with the planet may rest and arise,
And Flourish with bearing most plentiful wise…..
Thomas Tusser “Five Hundred Points of Goode Husbandry” 1562
He that would know the reason of the operation of the Herbes, must look as high as the Stars.