Over the centuries diverse cultures have observed that planting during certain phases of the moon has affected the germination and growth rate of plants.
The Moon provides a more subtle influence than the sun on growing conditions, its light and gravitational force affecting plant growth that has informed traditional gardening rhythms. Unlike the seasonal cycle, this lunar cycle is more universal so can be incorporated into our permaculture calendar with global relevance.
Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren writes “good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns.”
Observing the cycles of the moon and the way that it affects both people and plants can help to determine when to plant in order to improve our health and yield from our garden activities.
Author of the Permaculture Home Garden Linda Woodrow, a self confessed ‘extreme sceptic’, adopted moon planting as a way to manage her time more effectively and get more organised. In doing so she found that “it actually does increase the germination rate and vitality of plants”.
How does it work?
The 29½ day lunar cycle can be divided into two main parts which link the ebb and flow of the sap in tune with the rhythms of the moon. The waxing moon, where the moon changes from a dark moon to a full moon, and a waning moon, where the moon returns to a dark moon.
In a waxing moon, sap flow is drawn up. This is the most suitable time for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals, biennials, grains and melons. Basically any short lived plant that we want to harvest its leaves, seed, flowers or fruits. It’s also a good time for applying liquid fertilisers, pruning and grafting as increased sap flow produces new growth more quickly.
With an waning moon, the sap flow is drawn down. This focuses the energy towards the roots, which is more suited to root crops and perennials, plants that live longer than two years. It’s also a good time for applying solid fertilisers, pruning dormant plants and harvesting, as there is less likelihood of rotting.
This general pattern can be divided further into the quarterly moon cycles.
New Moon phase
Sow or transplant leafy annuals – where we value or eat the leaves or stem. Eg: lettuce, spinach, cabbage and celery.
First Quarter phase
Sow or transplant fruiting annuals – where we value or eat the fruit or seed bearing part of the plant. Eg: tomato, pumpkins, broccoli and beans.
Full Moon phase
Sow or plant out root crops, decorative and fruiting perennials – take cuttings and divide plants. Eg: apple, potatoes, asparagus and rhubarb.
Last Quarter phase
Time to improve your soil – weeding, mulching, making compost and manure teas, digging or ploughing.
It is recommended that 12 hours before and after the transition time from one phase to the next is when sowing, planting and pruning is best avoided. Use this time instead to improve your soil.
This basic guide to planting by the moon can help improve health and yield from your efforts. The icons are highlighted for each day of the Permaculture Calendar so you can tell at a glance what phase we are in, and what you can take to improve your garden. It’s proved itself to be a great motivator to take action before the ideal time has passed.
Is moon planting scientific?
Author Lyn Bagnall, who was consulted in the development of the guide for the calendar, has written an article about traditional moon planting and addresses the question “Does moon planting work?”. This includes an experiment where she plants leafy green seeds during the incorrect and correct moon phases with some interesting results.