Garden With the Moon

Wonder if lunar gardening is right for you? Learn more about following the moon as you tackle garden tasks.

Photo by: Shutterstock/vovan

Shutterstock/vovan

Planting and harvesting by the moon is virtually as old as agriculture itself. Records of lunar gardening pepper historical records, from Pliny the Elder of Roman Empire fame to the Celts of Britain. Basing certain gardening activities on various moon phases is the stuff of folklore and superstition to some gardeners, while to others it’s tried-and-true practice.

According to lunar gardening, when you plant in the correct moon phase for a certain crop, plants grow better, faster and bigger, resulting in larger yields. Plants tucked into soil at the right time also don’t go to seed as quickly, ensuring the longest harvest season possible. Should you aim to garden with the moon? Check out these facts to help you decide.

How It Works

Gardening with the moon operates on the principle of gravity. During the time of a full and new moon, tides are highest due to gravitational forces of the sun and moon. Lunar gardeners extend that principle of water movement to all water on the earth, including moisture in soil. During a full and new moon, they believe that gravity also pulls moisture upward in the earth itself, effectively increasing moisture near the soil surface. That condition makes for ideal planting and harvesting.

Hand Sowing Seed

Hand Sowing Seed

The trick to success with sowing seed is to time it right. Plant when soil is warm enough (per seed packet instructions) and moist, which is key to seed germination.

Photo by: Fiskars.com

Fiskars.com

In simplest practice, moon phase gardeners plant seeds for crops that yield an above-ground harvest when the moon is waxing (shifting from new moon to full moon). Root crops yield best if planted when the moon is waning (shifting from full moon to new moon).

Some versions of lunar gardening also incorporate the constellations and zodiac signs into planting schedules. Others subdivide moon phases into the four quarters and plant-specific crops in each quarter. It can get complicated, but you can search online for lunar garden calendars that give you all the specifics you need to get started. Or check out the Farmers’ Almanac, which includes planting-by-the-moon advice.

What Science Says

At this point, the science community doesn’t suggest that planting by the moon yields any specific results. According to Cornell University’s "Ask An Astronomer," there aren’t currently any scientific studies that support the proposed benefits of gardening with the moon.

That’s not to say that results may not come with time. After all, it’s not too long ago (2006) that scientists learned plants have circadian rhythms, and they recently discovered that plants talk to each other (2014). Who knows? As technology advances, maybe one day scientists will discover that moon phases create water movement in soil that impacts plant growth.

Planting Basil

Planting Basil

Basil is a warm-weather herb that does best when planted after soil has warmed and there’s no chance of late frost. Following lunar planting schedules, the best time to tuck plants like basil into soil is during the new moon phase.

Photo by: Fiskars.com

Fiskars.com

The Bottom Line

In modern garden circles, gardening with the moon stirs a pot of controversy. Greenthumbs who practice it stand firm behind its benefits, saying it’s the key to plants that grow stronger and yield better. Other gardeners say they get the same result by gardening with an eye to weather forecasts and soil and air temperature. From a practical standpoint, many of us just aim to get things planted when we have the time. So what’s the right answer?

  • If you want to garden with the moon, give it a go. Savor the fact that you’re practicing techniques your ancestors probably used. Take notes, and track your garden’s progress. See if it makes a difference in your corner of the planet.
  • If you don’t want to garden with the moon, that’s okay, too. Use all the tech tools at your disposal, like weather apps, soil temperature maps and smart irrigation systems to grow your best garden ever.

With gardening, the greatest results come when you do what works best with your lifestyle. Above all, remember that gardening is about savoring the process, as well as a tasty harvest.

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