This past weekend, I made sure that I planted potatoes, carrots and radishes. Why this weekend? Because it was the full moon, and I try to plant based on the cycles of the moon.
Also known as agricultural astrology, it is the practice of sowing, transplanting and harvesting according to the cycles of the moon. Evidence of its practice dates back to the early civilizations of the Euphrates River valley and it can be found in the folklore of ancient societies ranging from the Celts in Britain to the Maoris in New Zealand. Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote about planting by the moon in his History of Nature.
There are two factors that agricultural astrology takes into consideration: the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. The phase of the moons effect the amount of light and, just like how the moon effects tides, it moves the water present in the soil. The zodiac gets factored in because different signs are associated with the different elements, which correlate with different crops and garden activities.
Confused? Here are some of the main guidelines:
- New Moon (1st quarter): Gravity from the moon is pulling water up, which balances root and leaf growth. Plant those plants that produce seeds outside of fruit, such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage and grains during this phase.
- Waxing Moon (2nd quarter): Increasing light from the growing moon is good for leaf growth. Plant those that produce seeds inside of fruits, like beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash and tomatoes at this time.
- Full Moon (3rd quarter): Energy is drawn down, and after the moon has peaked, the light starts to decrease, good for root growth. Plant root crops, such as beets, carrots, onions, and potatoes. This is also a good phase to transplant.
- Waning Moon (4th quarter): This is the time of rest and maintenance. Harvest, weed, prune, fertilize, and graft during this moon phase.
- Zodiac: Consider that water signs are preferred by many plants, roots like earth signs, flowers like air signs, and fire signs are good for harvesting and destroying pests.
There are many nuances to the moon astrology, and, like everything, there are exceptions for certain plants or certain cycles or periods of transition. I am in no way an expert. A great resource to learn more and see detailed guidelines is from Caren Catterall, at www.gardeningbythemoon.com. She also produces a great calendar that has detailed info for different growing zones and exactly what to do each day based on the zodiac and the moon phases.
It is touted that when plants are sown at the right timing of phase and sign, they will show increased growth, better resiliency against pests, larger harvests, and take longer to go to seed. But, there is not much scientific evidence that astrological gardening has any beneficial effects. I have honestly not taken enough detailed records to notice if it has made a difference in my garden. Of course, there are many other factors that effect plant growth- like seasons and weather and chickens who scratch up your beds.
But in my opinion, a practice that has such deep roots must have some value, so I always take the moon into consideration. At the very least, it makes me more in tuned with the natural cycles of the earth, and you can’t go wrong with that!