Planting by the moon phases is something I always heard about as a child. I remember my grandmother waiting for a certain moon phase to trim her roses. Now, I frequently hear fellow gardeners and farmers waiting for a certain moon to plant, prune or harvest their crops. “Does it matter though?” That’s the question I used to ask myself. In the world we have today, we are so far removed from our connection to nature and the old ways of doing things. In almost every indigenous culture and every generational farming family, there are teachings on planting by the moon. But what’s the science behind it? What did our ancestors know that we didn’t?
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What is planting by the moon phases?
Planting by the moon, gardening by the moon or moon phase gardening is premised on the notion that moon phases affect plant growth. Planting by the moon is also a huge part of biodynamic farming. We know that the moon affects the tide and the oceans, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to think they could also affect the water in soil and plants. The moon has over 30 rhythms but we are just going to discuss the three most important in this post.
Thankfully, we don’t need to work all of the moon phases out ourselves. There are a few gardening almanacs to choose from. If you happen to be in Trinidad we have one available here. If you’re in North America we have a few options below.
The Full Moon/ New Moon Rhythm
The strongest rhythm when planting by the moon is the full moon new moon rhythm. Planting by the moon takes two periods into account:
- The waxing moon – the time between the new moon and the full moon
- The waning moon – the time between the full moon and the new moon
Plants are affected by the gravitational pull known as geotropism; the growth of the parts of plants in response to the force of gravity. The upward growth of plant shoots is an instance of negative geotropism; the downward growth of roots is positive geotropism. The same way the moons gravitational pull affects the tides in the ocean, it also affects the plant’s growth and the water in the soil.
How to plant according to the full moon/ new moon rhythm
Moon gardening recommends sowing seeds that yield an above ground harvest when the moon is in its waxing phase. In this phase, the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth is increasing, pulling more moisture up towards the soil’s surface and improving seed germination. Seeds that germinate better when exposed to light (such as celery, lettuce and dill) will do well when sown during the waxing phase.
Conversely, root crops are best planted during a waning moon. During this time there is less of a gravitational pull on the earth’s surface and the roots can grow down into the soil more easily. If you plant root crops during a waxing moon they are likely to be bushy on top with very little root growth on the bottom.
Pruning according to the Full moon/ New moon rhythm
Anytime during the new moon (i.e. 2 days before or 2 days after) is also the best time to prune flowers and small plants. During this time the sap isn’t rising up in the plants as strongly. Pruning during the new moon reduces the loss of plant vigour.
The ascending and descending moon rhythm
The ascending and descending moon rhythm is the second strongest moon rhythm on the plants. If you’re in the northern hemisphere for the first 6 months of the year the sun gets higher and reaches its peak in mid-June. For the next six months, the sun gets lower. The moon does the same over the course of a month. For 2 weeks it gets higher and for another 2 weeks, it gets lower.
The period where the moon is getting lower is called the Northern transplanting time. This is a good time to transplant. At this time the sap in the plant is in the lower part of the plant and the roots and the plant will connect much more readily with the soil during this time. The descending moon is also the ideal time to add compost, fertilizer or any top dressing to the soil.
The ascending moon rhythm results in the sap being in the upper part of the plant. This makes it a great time to harvest especially if you are hoping to store your produce for long periods of time.
If you’re in the southern hemisphere, the cycle would be in the reverse
The apogee perigee cycle
The perigee apogee cycle refers to the elliptical path the moon makes around the earth. Because the path is an ellipse (and not a circle) there will be times when the moon is close to the earth and times when it is far away. Perigee is when the moon is closest to the earth, this is also when tides are the strongest. Apogee is when the moon is furthest away from the earth and the moon’s impact on the earth’s water is the weakest.
The perigee period isn’t known to be good for anything when it comes to gardening. However, the apogee period is a great time to harvest fruit crops that will have a more concentrated (less watery flavour).
The idea that the moon and the position of other planets in our solar system can have such a huge impact on plants can seem farfetched. That is until you remember how strong an effect the moon has on our oceans or the broomstick challenge that went viral not too long ago.
Determining the planting times by the moon phases can seem complicated. While some people can work out the moon phases using a traditional calendar there are easier ways. You can download a free moon phase calendar or planting by the moon guide. Personally, I’d rather save myself the headache and buy one of my favourite farmer’s almanacs. I have noticed the benefit of planting by the moon but I haven’t stuck to it as much as I would like. Do you plant by the moon? Would it be something you would be willing to try? Let us know in the comments.
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What a thorough and insightful post, thank you so much! I’m learning so much from your work. We just planted some seeds a few days ago and I’m going to be taking a look at the moon phase they were planted in and keep a record of how they’re doing. All are above ground harvests! I hope I did it at the right time!
I definitely believe it makes a difference (the moon phase and gardening). It makes sense that plants would in tune with the energies of the different moon phases – never thought about it that way though, so thank you!
This was such a fascinating post! Thank you 🙂
I had no idea that the phase of the moon affected plant growth. Thank-you for the gardening info!