‘Tune your fork’ – a moon planting guide

 Tune Your Fork - A moon planting guide

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.

The Waxing Moon

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.

The Waning Moon

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 - Leafy Annuals

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 - Fruiting Annuals

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 - Root Crops

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 - Improve the Soil

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.

2019 Permaculture Calendar

The 2019 Permaculture Calendar Includes daily icons and moon phase times to guide your planting.

Fork in garden photo from Michael Conlin – check out his blog Suburban Digs

9 Responses to ‘Tune your fork’ – a moon planting guide

  1. Alex August 31, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Yes, but the moon waxes and wanes from right to left in the northern hemisphere. Any chance that there will be a northern hemisphere version of the 2014 Permaculture Calender?

    • Richard September 2, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      We share the same moon in both hemispheres, it waxes and wanes in exactly the same way. The only difference being that we are looking at the moon from different places. So from the southern hemisphere the waxing moon is light on the left hand side, whereas in the northern hemisphere it is light on the right hand side. The opposite applies for the waning moon. This is a cosmetic issue only, as the calendar can only show one side or the other.

  2. Kajetan Hundhammer August 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Aren’t the tides (twice a day) controlled by the moons gravitational force?
    And the phase of the moon the relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun?
    So isn’t it more the moonlight which has the influence on our plants?

    • Richard August 22, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Moonlight, gravitational pull and the subtle changes of the earths magnetic field as the moon revolves around the earth all have an influence on the way plants grow. For more information I’d recommend reading Lyn Bagnall’s post about moon planting.

  3. Louise August 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    Is the calendar for Australia only or do you have a uk one?

    • Richard August 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      The calendar is international. Moon phase times changes in the calendar are in UTC, and need to be adjusted depending on where you are in the world. Being in the UK, you probably wont need to adjust them at all.


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