As springtime approaches and the third quarter moon continues to wane, this seems like the perfect time to review the ancient practice of planting by the phases of the moon.
Although this method dates back thousands of years, the folk wisdom of the moon cycles remains a controversial subject. Some scoff at it, some swear by it, and pitifully little evidence is available to confirm one way or the other. As holistic herbalists, we tend to believe that planting a garden in accordance with the natural rhythms of the celestial bodies will bring about positive results, even if they are too small to measure and too difficult to quantify.
Starting a garden isn’t like flipping a light switch. Many steps are involved and many factors must be taken into consideration. The phase of the moon is one factor, but maybe not the most important. If the cycle of the moon says you should plant today, but the weather forecast calls for an abnormally late frost next week, then the weather should be the determining factor.
On the other hand, if the weather is good, the seeds are ready, and your schedule is open, why not wait another day or two for the ideal moon phase? This is just one more way to put some good intentions into your seedlings and imbue them with positive energy.
Even if you were the most hard-headed skeptic and rational materialist, if someone offered to place some positive energy in your direction, why would you turn that down? Likewise, if you’re planting a garden to produce food and medicine for your friends and family, you’ll want to take every chance you get to infuse your seeds, soil and plants with whatever form of blessings are available, even if you’re not 100% sure that they’ll produce verifiable results.
Part of the mystery of gardening according to the phases of the moon, is the question of what difference it makes. And the answer to that, I’m afraid, is somewhat speculative.
The most common explanation makes reference to the moon’s role in the oceanic tides. If the moon can cause the seas to rise and fall, surely it can effect the flow of water in the plants and soil. Similarly, many claim that the phase of the moon, the full moon in particular, can have a noticeable effect on moods and mental health. It’s only logical that these same lunar energies would hold some sway over the vegetation.
Another explanation has to do with the moonlight affecting the growth of small plants and saplings.
Here’s a rough schedule of when to do what during which phase of the moon.
The time between new moon and first quarter is considered ideal for planting leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Think of the moon slowly growing, and how you’d like your tender greens to do the same. If you want to cut your grass (or hair) and see it grow back quickly, this is the best time for it.
From the first quarter to the full moon is the time to plant your fruiting annuals (but not fruit trees), crops that produce food above ground with the seeds inside, like broccoli, peppers and tomatoes. This is when the moon is increasing to its maximum girth.
After the full moon and into the third quarter, it’s time to plant fruit trees, ornamentals and root crops like beets and potatoes. Energy is in the roots now, so it’s a good time for bulbs and transplants, and also to take cuttings. This is supposed to be the best time to mow the grass (or cut your hair) if you don’t want it to come back quickly. The moon has reached its peak size, and now it’s waning again.
As the moon whittles down and fades from the sky, this is a time to rest. Now is the time to put energy into the soil, weeding, mulching and composting. It’s not a time to be sowing seeds. Instead you should be pruning and harvesting.
Have you tried planting according to the cycles of the moon? What results did you get? Let us know and share your tips in the comments section below!
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