The ancient, mystical and mysterious moon serves many purposes. For plants, moonlight serves as a regulator as well as a water mover. This movement of water carries with it nutrients, hormones and metabolites.
As moonlight decreases (wanes), Mother Earth inhales, her lungs start filling and her insides become more energetic, bringing water towards her and towards plant roots. When the moonlight increases (waxing, like Mr. Miyagi’s wax on), Mother Earth is exhaling, releasing her energy, and water moves up to the surface of the soil and the aerial parts of plants. At the peak of each inhalation and exhalation, the moon is neither waxing nor waning, but it’s still aligned with the Earth and sun, enhancing gravitational forces.
The cycle of the moon passes through 28 minor phases before it begins again. These phases are broken down into quarters. Waxing/waning are two directions that the quarters go through, but they are not the quarters themselves; they complement each other in the moon cycle.
In the first quarter of the new moon, moonlight is absent because the moon is aligned between the Earth and the sun. Gravitational forces are strong because of this alignment, and the lack of moonlight means water is being pulled towards the soil and roots.
During the second quarter, the moon is no longer aligned with the sun and Earth, and gravity forces are weaker, meaning water can travel more easily. Because moonlight is increasing, gravity forces travel to the aerial parts of plants.
At maximum moonlight, gravity forces are high, but this time, the moon is behind the Earth, causing the water to be pulled up to the surface of the soil and the aerial parts of the plant hold more weight in the fruits, flowers and buds. The fourth quarter, or the waning moon, is the completion of the cycle, and this phase brings the water back down to the soil, going back to the roots as moonlight decreases and gravity forces are weak yet again.
Gardening by the Lunar Cycles
So, when in the lunar cycle is it a good time to do certain things in the garden like pruning and cloning? During the waxing moon stage, the water has moved to plants’ aerial parts, and vegetative growth after pruning is intense. On the other hand, the increasing level of water in the leaves dilutes root hormones, meaning rooting clones is harder than expected because of low root stimulation.
During the fourth-quarter moon cycle, vegetative growth is low and root activity is high, inducing better root development and more root mass, so this is when you should take cuttings and avoid pruning for vegetative re-growth.
When it comes to pruning, the timing depends on what your aim is. For better leaf growth, prune at the new moon cycle; for more sprout growth, prune between the new moon and waxing; at waning, prune to increase flower and fruit production, to control bad weeds and to slow vegetative growth.
Now let’s talk about transplanting and feeding. Do you want root or vegetative development? Are the roots deep or close to the surface? The beginning of the moon cycle is the best time to give food to roots deep in the soil. Plant activity is low, it’s resting time and growth is at a minimum.
At this moment, plants can also adapt better to changes or to a new medium. Transplanting during the new moon cycle is better for vegetative growth because it will give plants time to establish themselves and adapt to new circumstances, and if you want a better root system, transplant at full moon.
Plants with superficial roots will uptake nutrients better at full moonlight and micro-organism activity is at its maximum. It’s also a good time to brew compost tea.
We associate the harvest moon with the full moon and Neil Young, but it has two sides: before and after. Approaching maximum moonlight, the energy lies more at the vegetative parts of the plant, which is why re-growth is enhanced, but after full brightness, the energy moves to the fruits and flowers, on the way down to the roots.
Between the full moon and the waning moon is an ideal time to harvest to ensure better preservation of your crops. Their essential oil retention will also be better.
Planting by the Zodiac Signs
Predicting the movement of food, water and energy in our plants helps us when we are planning a grow season. We can obtain this information thanks to the positioning of the moon correlated to the Earth and sun, but is there more? Some gardeners use both the alignment of the moon and the zodiac constellations to predict when the activity in a specific area of the plant will increase.
Biodynamic methods of planting establish a relationship between the four elements of the Earth, a part of or a type of plant and astrological signs (in this case, the zodiac signs). Water, fire, earth and air contain three separate zodiac constellations each. As the moon passes through each of these signs, their effects can be enhanced or detracted by the lunar phases.
Water signs (Pisces, Scorpio and Cancer) are the most fertile of the signs and have the most promising effects on germination, especially on leafy greens and plants above ground. The earth signs (Virgo, Taurus and Capricorn) represent a good time to start seeds for root harvest as well as for transplanting to promote root growth.
Air signs (Libra, Gemini and Aquarius) signal a good time to harvest. In addition, Libra is great for sowing seeds that are going to be harvested for their flowers and buds. Lastly, the fire signs (Leo, Sagittarius and Aries) are good for sprouting seeds of plants you harvest for seed or fruit production. It’s also a good time to weed the garden because the fire element causes a slower regrowth of unwanted plants.
As you become more familiar with reading the moon, you will be able to work with nature to improve the quality and life of your plants. It is fun, brings you closer to the natural world and enhances your love of gardening, and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?