As May begins, our gardening plans are closer to being put into action. Let’s dive deeper into understanding the cycles of the moon so that we can compile our to-do lists in the way that will serve us the best.
On first glance, gardening by the moon may seem a bit crazy. While I can’t get on board with using the astrology side of gardening that can be grouped with gardening by the moon, I can totally get on board with understanding the moon cycles.
The whole basis of gardening by the moon is solidly rooted in the forces of nature that control the tides in the ocean. High tides occur during the new and the full moon because the oceans are facing the moon during that time. Lunar gravity is what controls the tides.
Lunar gravity is the gravitational pull from the moon. It is this unseen force that causes the tides. The tide is highest when the ocean is facing the moon and under the stronger pull and lowest when the pull is the weakest when the ocean is not facing the moon.
During these moons, the gravitational is pulling the water up out of the earth causing the high tides. In the same way the ocean waters are pulled up, so the moisture in the ground is pulled up out of the ground and more available for use by the plants. During the times of low tides, the water had returned back down into the earth and is then nourishing the roots and root crops.
So with that in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at each phase, what’s going on and how that makes the conditions ideal for the recommended tasks.
[memb_is_logged_in] The moon cycle is divided into two main parts: the waxing moon and the waning moon. The first two quarters are considered the waxing moon as the moon goes from new to full and with light increasing. This half is ideal for and is associated with growth. The second two quarters are considered the waning moon as the moon goes from full to new with decreasing light. This half is ideal for and associated with harvesting and pruning.
During the new moon quarter, it is the lunar gravity that pulls the water up from the ground. This brings higher water levels in the ocean resulting in high tide. This also makes more water available for the plants in the ground. The excess water is taken up by seeds, causing them to germinate. You should, however, wait until the moon shows its crescent before planting.
While the lunar gravity is pulling the water up out of the earth, the increasing extra moonlight provides a balance between root and leaf growth. Because a healthy plant has about the same size root mass below the ground as plant size above the ground, this is crucial to plant health. The balanced growth results in a healthy plant.
The focus of this quarter should be on plants whose leaves and stems we use. This would include leafy annual plants. Another way I’ve seen this explained is any plant that produces seeds outside of its fruit. Although this list is not exhaustive, it covers many examples:
- Swiss chard
- Grain crops
- Herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley
Gardening tasks that are helpful this quarter:
- Planting/seeding leafy annuals after the moon shows its crescent.
2nd Moon Quarter
During the second quarter moon, there is increasing light and the maximum amount of water available to the plant. The increasing amount of light bolsters the leaves and supports healthy leaf growth.
The Farmers Almanac pinpoints the best time for planting is 2 days before the full moon because moisture levels are at their peak.
The focus of this quarter should be the annuals that provide fruit and flower. Another way to describe it would be the plant whose seeds form inside the fruit. This would include annuals plants such as:
- Fragrant flowers
- Flowering herbs such as lavender, calendula and chamomile.
Gardening tasks that are recommended for this quarter:
- Spray fruit trees
- Harvest long storage crops like apples, pumpkins and potatoes.
- Last two days before full moon are good for grafting.
During the quarter following the full moon, decreasing light works to pull energy down into the roots. At the same time, gravitational pull is high so it is also a time of night moisture. This quarter is consequently associated with active root growth.
Root growth typically precedes leaf growth so as the cycle ends it sets the stage for the growth in the new cycle.
The focus of this quarter should be root crops and perennials. This includes but is not limited to:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fruit trees
Gardening tasks that are helpful in this quarter:
- Pick medicinal herbs (most potent)
- Harvest mushrooms
- Harvest grapes
4th Moon Quarter
During the 4th quarter moon light decreases until the new moon phase begins. This quarter brings rest to the plants and it is the time for us to tend to the ground. We should give attention to the compost pile, feeding the soil so the nutrients are available when the plants growth is active again, pruning or cutting back, and weeding.
Being intentional about pruning, weeding and cutting grass in this quarter will inhibit growth in the coming weeks. Cutting grass in this quarter is said to stunt the growth of the grass. Our efforts put forth here will set the stage for the next months progress.
This is a task oriented quarter. Activities should include:
- Tending compost
- Mowing lawn if a decrease in growth is desired
- Amending soil
- Deep watering shrubs and trees
This fascinating gardening method promises to be a friend and an ally to us. Anytime we work with nature instead of against it, the rewards are great. Making sure the plants have the most water available when and where it’s needed makes for stronger, healthier plants.
Further Reading and Study:
Moon Phase Gardening | Planting by the Phases of the Moon
Old Moore’s Almanac | Planting by the Moon
Dave’s Garden | Gardening by the moon