the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma
as well! They all planted gardens by the phases
of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities
for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first
century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny
wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful
over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It
warrants a trial in our gardens too.
gardens are what gardeners want for their efforts, and planting by
the phases of the Moon makes this possible. Seeds germinate faster.
Plants are hardier and more disease-resistant. They blossom sooner
and bear more fruit. Just as importantly, they better resist the stress
of harsh weather, drought and insect infestation. Naturally, good
gardening techniques must still be followed. Gardens need be watered,
pruned, mulched, hoed, weeded and fertilized. Ugly potato beetles
must be plucked off and young plants protected from spring storms.
Paying attention to the Moon phases may be the easiest part of our
gardening experience but the one with the biggest rewards.
are the Moon’s Phases?
to plant by the phases of the Moon, we first need to identify them
correctly. The most obvious way (in the Northern Hemisphere) is to
look at the night sky and remember the word “D-O-C.” As the Moon cycles
around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun, its position relative
to the other bodies changes. The four resulting Moon phases are called
“quarters.” The Moon is “new” when it comes directly between the Earth
and the Sun and can’t reflect much of the Sun’s light. The first quarter
Moon appears as a small crescent with the bulge facing to the right,
as it does in the capital letter “D”.
quarter, the Moon appears half full and resembles the letter “D”.
The light of the Moon increases each night until it reaches the Full
Moon stage and hangs in the night sky like a great big “O.” When the
Moon decreases from Full Moon back to New Moon phase, the bulge moves
to the left side, like a “C”. When it reaches the fourth quarter stage,
the Moon looks half full again. Other sources for Moon phase information
are the weather page of your local newspaper and almanacs.
of the Sun, Moon and Earth
our rural ancestors planted by the phases of the Moon, they were not
acting out of ignorance or superstition. They were making a deliberate
attempt to align their actions with the natural cycles of the Earth.
We do this today with solar cycles. The Sun’s movement in relationship
to Earth establishes the primary natural cycle we’re most familiar
with. The first thing gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere learn is
to plant tender crops after the last average frost date. This date
depends on the annual cycle of the Sun north and south of the equator.
Waxing and Waning Moon
the Sun’s cycle is primary, considering the phases of the Moon can
further refine planting dates. The goal is to plant in harmony with
these phases so crops will thrive. Different types of crops are planted
at varying times because of their affinity with a certain phase. Crops
that set produce above the ground are connected to the Moon’s increase
in size from New Moon to Full Moon (the waxing period) because the
Moon is growing “up.” Crops with the edible part growing below the
ground are related to the phase between the Full Moon and New Moon,
when the circle of light diminishes or grows “down” (the waning period).
Quarters of the Moon
is a further refinement of this method that considers the quarters
of the Moon as well. Experienced Moon phase gardeners have found each
quarter phase is connected with the following kinds of plants and
Plants that produce their seeds on the outside, such as lettuce, broccoli,
annual flowers and herbs have an affinity with this quarter of the
Moon. Sow and transplant them during this phase.
quarter Moon: Plants that set seeds inside a pod or skin
do best when planted in this quarter. These are primarily vegetables
such as beans, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.
quarter Moon: All vegetable root crops such as potatoes,
onions, radishes and beets do best planted in this phase. Perennial
flowers, flower bulbs, shrubs and trees also prefer the third quarter.
quarter Moon: This phase is reserved for garden clean up.
There’s a gardening rumor that if you pull weeds during the fourth
quarter, they won’t grow back!
plan your garden this year, consider timing your plantings by the
phases of the Moon. Once you see the great results, you’ll know why
centuries of gardeners swore by this method.