There is a lot of folklore surrounding old-time gardens. A quick glance through the Farmers Almanac or a chat with an elderly farmer will bring some of those to light. One common folklore tidbit is of planting by the moon. The advice goes that there are specific things to do during each quarter phase of the moon’s cycles.
I remember being amused as a child when the bean seeds we planted would be on top of the ground the morning after we planted them. My dad would tell me it must have been a full moon. He explained that it was the same forces that made high tide in the ocean. There were natural forces at play. Fast forward many years and imagine my surprise when I began to uncover all the information surrounding gardening by the moon. What I learned through the bean seeds all those years ago was just the tiny tip of the iceberg that will likely take me a lifetime to master.
Today though I want to explain the moon cycles and how they can be used for achieving the best results possible in our gardening efforts. First, we must look at the moon cycles and what they are. The moon circles the earth every 30 days. Since the earth is rotating as well and the moon reflects the sun, we see a full reflection one night a month (full moon) and no moon at all one night a month (new moon). In between the new moon and the full moon, we see a little more of the moon each night until the moon fully reflects the sun back to us and then we see less of the moon each night until the new moon when the moon is not reflecting any of the sun’s light.
As we are all familiar with from calendars, astronomy breaks the cycle down into 4 quarters- new moon, first quarter, full moon, and fourth quarter. Within each of these quarters are life-giving forces and amazing things that happen unseen to the human eye. It’s quite amazing just what goes on “behind the scenes”, so to speak. The way God has designed the forces of nature to make our world function is breathtaking.
When the moon is between the sun and the earth, we experience the new moon. As things move, and the sun begins to be reflected towards earth, there is a pull that draws sap and fluids up and into the stems and leaves. This happens until the moon is fully reflecting the sun to us. After the full moon and as less and less of the sun is reflected back to us on earth, the pull changes, and the sap and fluids are drawn back down into the roots.
Obviously, there is an increasing amount of sap and fluids throughout the time between the new moon and the full moon and decreasing sap and fluids throughout the time between the full moon and the new moon. Because if that, each quarter has specific tasks that are best done during those times.
This is the time between the new moon and the 1st quarter moon. This quarter starts the sap and fluids flowing up into the plants’ stems and leaves. This is the time to focus on new leaf growth for annual plants and plants that are used for their leaves and stems. In the veggie garden, this is the time to plant salad greens and many herbs.
This is the time between the 1st quarter moon and the full moon. In this phase, most sap and fluids are flowing up into the stems and leaves so nourishment is at its peak. This is the time to plant or transplant annual plants whose fruit we eat such as tomatoes, broccoli, and beans, for example.
This is the time between the full moon and the fourth quarter moon. This quarter following the full moon is when the fluids begin heading back down into the roots underground. This is the best time to focus on root crops and fruiting perennials, such as apples, asparagus, strawberries, and carrots. Dividing perennials and taking cuttings is best done in this quarter.
This is the time between the last quarter and the new moon. Heading towards the new moon, the sap and fluids are down below ground in the roots. That makes this time ideal for caring for the soil doing things like weeding, mulching, composting, and digging or plowing. Planting and transplanting is best avoided during this quarter.
Using Moon cycles in our gardening will enhance our efforts and maximize our results. We should get great germination, achieve higher yields, enjoy enhanced nutrition, have an easier time managing weeds, and benefit from longer storage times. The more I garden, the more I realize that working with nature is the best way to go. Understanding the world around us, both the seen and the unseen is the absolute best thing we can strive for and a worthy goal.
For more in-depth study in implementing this age-old method, I suggest getting your hands on a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac (affiliate link).
Resources for further study:
Planting by the Moon
Gardening by the Moon
Planting by the Moon.