Planting by Moon Phase Gardening
Our moon affects tides, gravity, and our culture, so it’s only natural it affects plant life also. For millennia, growers have tuned in to moon phases for more successful crops, and now you can, too.
The moon is so much more than just that shiny satellite appearing in the night sky. We need the moon. Without it there would be no tales of howling werewolves or words like Moonshine, Honeymoon, or the legendary Blue Moon; which is two full moons within the same month. But beyond its cultural influence, the moon emits powerful and unseen forces which directly impact life on Earth.
From its waxing (growing brighter) and waning (dimming) light cycles to its gravitational persuasion on the oceans, the moon is an integral part of our world. Its gravity even helps keep our planet from wobbling too much on its axis, which in turn lends stability to our climate.
Agriculturally, the same shifting phases of light and gravitational flux regulating the tides hold similar sway over plant life. Farmers, gardeners, and growers across the world and over the centuries have tuned in to those phases and the secret science behind them by planting their crops to coincide with them.
This is known as Moon Phase Gardening or Planting by the Signs. And science backs up its validity. Vegetation planted during their correct moon phase is more likely to take root, grow faster, and even thrive compared to plants that were sewn ‘the day you were able to get to them.’
Doubters, or those unfamiliar with this discipline, may believe that planting-by-the-signs is an old wives’ tale or just some ancient superstition doomed to fade into history. They would be mistaken. There is credible science supporting the efficacy of these timed plantings though they aren’t fully understood. (Note: Your climate may be different and require a regional Almanac relative to your neck of the woods.)
Show Me a Sign
Planting by the signs doesn’t mean dropping your seeds next to a billboard or ‘For Sale’ sign. It derives its designation from the 12 signs of the Zodiac in the Astrological calendar. The Zodiac is an imaginary celestial band that extends across the sky representing the path of the sun, moon, and the planets over a 12-month period. This is where we get our proverbial birth signs. The word Zodiac comes from Latin and means ‘circle of little animals.’
When applied to gardening, plants have signs, too. Which makes me wonder who the first person was to realize their cucumber was a Scorpio. Another of life’s great unsolved mysteries, I suppose.
Anyway, there are twelve Zodiac signs per calendar year with each sign varying in fruitfulness. Planting/pruning/harvesting on the right days during the correct phase is at the heart of moon phase gardening. So, how do you know your plant’s sign? For those specifics you’ll have to research. I can’t list here all the plants and days of the year best for moon phase planting, I’ve only room to introduce you to the concept and tell you what it’s about. There is a universe of very specific information on this subject available at your fingertips or local library.
The four phases of the moon occur during each (approximately) 30-day cycle. The new moon, the second quarter moon, the third quarter, and the full moon. Each phase contains its own magical effects that bear influence on animals, people, and even plants. And with each new phase a new quality is expressed.
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How Does it Work?
Mysteriously is the first word that comes to mind. But, also, scientifically. During the new moon phase and the full moon, when the moon, Earth, and sun are in alignment, the tides are at their highest. One theory of how plants are affected by this is that the same gravitational force tugging on the oceans pulls subtly at the water inside the earth as well, causing ground water to rise closer to the surface.
Another interesting hypothesis leans toward the moonlight itself contributing to the electromagnetic effects that alter the surface tension of the water making it readily absorbed by roots. Perhaps a combination of both forces working concurrently is at play. Whatever the exact answer, changes in a plant’s moisture content, germination, growth, and development, are undeniably influenced by this Lunar effect.
What’s Your Sign?
As the moon works its way phase by phase across the sky each month, it passes through one of the 12 constellations in the signs of the Zodiac. It’s proven that all plants grow differently during the four phases of the moon. The signs run from fruitful to barren. The whole process is pretty down to earth, and actually simplifies gardening by laying out a road map of what to plant and when.
This will give you a general idea of what moon phase gardening entails. The connection to gardening is that each plant type responds best to a particular element when planted in conjunction with its sign. There are fruitful signs and barren signs.
Here are some signs and what crops grow best under them:
Cancer is one of the fruitful signs. One of the best, actually. You can graft, transplant, and plant successfully under Cancer’s influence.
Scorpio would be next on the fruitful list. Plant pole beans, cucumbers, and vine crops.
Libra is good for planting cabbage, corn, and lettuce.
Capricorn benefits root crops and tubers.
Here are some barren signs:
Leo, along with Virgo, are two of the worst times to plant, so go kill some pests or clean up around the garden.
Aries and Sagittarius are barren phases, but onions and garlic should be good to grow.
When it comes to pruning, they have their signs, too. Sort of.
For encouraging growth, pruning is best done during the waxing moon or first and second quarter.
To inhibit growth, prune during the waning moonlight or second and third quarters.
In Astrology, the 12 signs are divided into the four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.
Earth Signs are root signs. Virgo, Capricorn, and Taurus are Earth Signs that are good times for planting underground crops and for transplanting. These periods encourage strong root development and growth.
Water Signs are also fertile signs that include Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio. When the moon is in one of these signs, it is a good time for planting most any plant.
Air Signs are most often barren and dry, although Libra is somewhat fertile and good for blooming flowers and herbs, tubers, and vines. Gemini and Aquarius are also Air Signs. This period is still good for harvesting and cultivating the soil.
Fire Signs are Leo, Aries, and Sagittarius. A barren and dry phase for the most part.
Naturally, there is much more to learn but I want to emphasize just how down-to-the-day you’ll find this method of gardening/planting.
What a Difference a Day Makes
With moon phase gardening, one day can be a good day for planting and the next day not good. To prove the point, here’s an example. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, February 2-3, 2022, “Is an extra good time to plant cucumbers, peas, cantaloupes, and other vine crops.” February 4-5, 2022, states “Seeds planted now will grow poorly and yield little.” It is that precise. Knowing which day is which will give your garden that secret edge and a better start toward a greater ending.
Moon phase gardening has been honed and refined over the centuries and once you delve into it a little deeper, it gets even more specific. Even down to matching the correct day with the right crop.
So, if you’re looking for something a little different, a bit more cosmic to expand your gardening experience, check out planting by the signs. It’s proven to be much more than just a passing phase.