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 tilt of the Earth’s axis regulates the seasons as we journey our way around the Sun. Distance from the equator (latitude) is the prime determinant of the growing seasons that combines with altitude, distance from the sea and other regional factors to create a diverse mosaic of climates and micro-climates across the globe. Any seasonal planting calendar must be regional if not local.
The Moon provides a more subtle influence on growing conditions, its light and gravitational force affecting plant growth that has informed traditional gardening rhythms through the centuries. Unlike the seasonal cycle, this lunar cycle is more universal so can be incorporated into a calendar with global relevance. This basic guide to gardening by moon phases can help improve health and yield from our efforts.
The 29½ day lunar cycle is divided into four phases, each lasting around seven to eight days. The transition, from one phase to the next, is where sowing, planting and pruning is best avoided for 12 hours before and after the change. Use this time instead to improve your soil.
Waxing Moon – increasing in light, sap flow drawn up
The new moon and first quarter phases are the most suitable time for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals (and biennials), grains, melons, annual grasses and green manure crops. It’s also a good time for applying liquid fertilisers, pruning and grafting as increased saps flows produce new growth more quickly. If you want to speed up lawn growth then consider mowing during this period.
Waning Moon – reducing light, sap flow drawn down
The full moon and last quarter phases are a good time for applying solid fertilisers, pruning dormant plants, harvesting crops and seed for storage or drying – as they are less likely to rot. Perennials, plants that live for more than two years, have root systems that are able to store sugars and nutrients in a similar way that root crops do. If you want to slow lawn growth then consider mowing during the waning moon.
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.
If you miss the planting windows, try it anyway and see how it grows
The guide given above is an introduction to moon planting, as you can probably imagine, there are varying levels of depth and interpretations of how the moon affects plant growth. Lyn Bagnall has written an extensive post about Tradition Moon planting, along with her book Easy Organic Gardening that expands on the concept.
For those of you who are looking for an easy way to remember and apply these garden activities, then look to the 2019 Permaculture Calendar. It includes these daily icons and moon phase times to guide your planting, along with an example of a design principle for each month.
Fork in garden photo from Michael Conlin – check out his blog Suburban Digs