Gardens and the Lunar Cycle

Our gardening endeavors have been guided by the moon for long, long time. Recently, the advent of agriculture has been pushed back to 10,000 years in China; it is quite possible that cosmic influence with regard to planting was something of a science even then. The first known lunar planting calendar was devised by Hesiod in the eighth century BC and it is believed that agricultural calendars became lunar based thanks to his observation and determination. In the last century much scholastic effort has gone into validating what has been a human belief throughout much of the world. Maria Thun discovered when the moon was in Taurus, Capricorn, or Virgo, root crops such as potatoes were more prolific. Kolisko observed that seeds germinated much faster when sown on the full moon and that a new moon sowing was the least effective. Brown at Northwestern University found that seedlings absorbed more water on the full moon. He concluded that the presence of greater water made full moon the best opportunity for harvest as well. Witchita State and Tulane University also observed a far greater germination rate when seeds were sown on the full moon. It seems a pretty sure thing that the ancients had it right. Most concluded that maximum growth and production occurs when the moon is high in the sky rather than when it is hugging the horizon.

Availability of water has an enormous impact on newly sown seeds. Rainfall cycles with the tides which are governed by the moon. The highest rainfall is most often around the full moon.  A calendar that includes tide tables is a fabulous asset for a gardener. A company called Down the Shore produces an excellent one every year for the New Jersey coast.

There are three specific areas of the cosmos that are taken into account with regard to gardening with lunar cycles. They include the waning moon, the waxing moon, and the zodiac. The waxing moon is the time of beginnings, new growth, and therefore above the ground producing plants. The waning moon is the time of stabilization, cutting back, and below the surface producing plants. The moon spends two days in each of the zodiac constellations. It is a time that brings positive effects depending on the producing component of the plant. While I am not an expert, I will provide sufficient information on each of these areas to get you started. Let’s start with the waxing moon.

The waxing moon is the time for broadcast sowing of grass and grains. Leafy vegetables and flowers with shallow roots should be sown then. Flowers for beauty and fragrance should be sown during the first quarter of the waxing moon, and canes such as raspberry should be planted during the second quarter. During a drought sow seeds in the waxing cycle as close to full moon as possible. Grafting should be done in late January during the first or second quarter of the waxing moon.  Repotting, taking cuttings, and transplanting plants should be done at this time. Once cuttings are rooted they too should be repotted during the waxing cycle. Water and fertilize as close to full moon as possible. Fruit, vegetables, and leafy greens for immediate consumption are harvested in the same cycle. It is also the time for harvesting herbs. Grapes should be harvested as close to the full moon as possible.

The waning moon brings entirely different chores. It is the time to sow root crops, prune or cutback plants, remove weeds, and thin seedlings. Perennials should be divided during the third or fourth quarter of the waning moon. This is the cycle in which fruit trees should be sprayed. Fruit trees and saplings should be planted in the third quarter when root growth is substantial, affording better winter protection. For the same reason it is also the time to plant strawberries and runners. If plants need potassium the waning moon is the time to do it because potassium is best absorbed about new moon. The waxing moon is the time to spread mulch and start compost piles, especially in the third quarter.  Crops harvested for long term storage are harvested during this cycle. It is also the time to harvest flowers and seeds, roots, bark and leaves for medicinal teas, and drying herbs, flowers, and fruits.

When the moon is passing through a particular zodiac constellation it has influence on the crops sown. It is organized in this way:
Root Crops (Earth element) in Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn
Seeds such as fruits and nuts (Fire element) in Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Flowers (Air element) in Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
Leafy Crops (Water element) in Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces

Other than the tide tables a wealth of information can be found in The Farmers’ Almanac and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Lunar Garden: Planting by the Moon Phases by E. A. Crawford is a wonderful little book that contains charts for specific crops as well as a fabulous day by day example of a calendar.
Ref: The Lunar Garden: Planting by the Moon Phases by E. A. Crawford

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