Planting By The Moon

The Month of Moons

January 1st started with a full moon and if you happened to see it you most likely noticed how big and bright it was. This phenomenon is called a “Supermoon”, which means it becomes full on the same day it reaches its perigee, the point in the moon’s elliptical orbit when it is closest to Earth. If you missed this Supermoon, which was nicknamed the “Wolf Moon”, don’t worry you will get another chance to enjoy a full moon this month. January 31st brings us a”Bluemoon”, which means it is the second full moon in the month.

The month’s second full moon is not just your average Bluemoon, it will feature a total lunar eclipse, or a “Bloodmoon.”. If you up right before 5am, you might get to see the moon turn blood-red as it enters the deepest parts of the Earth’s shadow during the eclipse. A total lunar eclipse is one where the moon passes through the central region of the shadow of the Earth.

With such a month of moons, I thought I would share info about gardening and the lunar cycles.

Gardening by the Moon

The idea that the Moon affects plant growth is an old one. Traditionally most cultures gardened and farmed according to the cycles of the Moon. They also managed their forests and animals, fished and built with the moon in mind. Herbalists harvested, preserved and even prepared herbs in tune with the Moon.

The moon has a profound effect on the way plants grow on Earth, mostly due to its gravitational pull, which stimulates root and leaf growth. If the pull of the moon’s gravity on the oceans can cause tides, the pull of the moon’s gravity can affect things like the water in the vascular transportation system of plants. The notion is that the closer the moon is to the Earth, the more gravity affects the plants by circulating the water more vigorously. How vigorously may be debated, but the idea is that subtle changes in gravity may indeed impact plants in ways we are just beginning to research scientifically.

Moon Phases

In order to understand this theory, I will explain the moon phases.

  • Moon phases may be defined as:
    • New moon: occurs when the sun and moon are so closely aligned that is impossible for the moon’s surface to reflect sunlight. You cannot see the moon during the new moon phases. Keep in mind, however, that the moon may be ‘out’ during the daylight hours, so a night sky without a moon does not always mean the phase is a New Moon phase.
    • Waxing moon: occurs midway between the new and full moon. “Waxing” means increasing, so the moon appears to get bigger each night. What is really happening is that the sun and moon are moving from a close position in the heavens to a far away position, or moving towards the full moon.
    • Full moon: occurs when the moon is 180 degrees opposite the sun. The moon receives the maximum amount of sunlight on its surface and we see it on Earth as a full moon.
    • Waning moon: occurs between the full and new moon. “Waning” means fading or going away. The moon is simply moving into position closer to the sun (the New Moon).

The Moon and Planting

Now that you understand the moon phase, I will share some gardening tips that people who practice planting by the moon believe.

You will want to sow, transplant, bud and graft plants during New Moon through Full Moon. This is easy to remember plant when there is no moon through when it is bright and shining in the sky. At the new moon, the lunar gravity pulls water up, and causes the seeds to swell and burst. This factor, coupled with the increasing moonlight creates balanced root and leaf growth.

When your calendar shows New Moon, plant above ground crops with outside seeds, examples are lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and grain crops. and flowering annuals.

Once the Moon quakes with its First Quarter through the Full Moon phase you can plant above ground crops with inside seeds. In this quarter the gravitational pull is less, but the moonlight is strong, creating strong leaf growth. It is generally a good time for planting, especially two days before the full moon. Examples of these plants are beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

On the last day of the Full Moon through the Last Quarter plant root crops like beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and peanuts, bulbs, biennials and perennials for active root growth. After the full moon, as the moon wanes, the energy is drawing down. The gravitation pull is high, creating more moisture in the soil, but the moonlight is decreasing, putting energy into the roots.

From the last day of the Last Quarter through the New Moon do not plant at all. There is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight, and it is considered a resting period. This is also the best time to cultivate, harvest, transplant and prune.

If all of this makes your head spin, then you can do what many people over the last two centuries have done. Pick up a copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and find the Outdoor Planting Table section. At your fingertips, is a handy chart that tells you when to plant what.

This method could also be a great science experiment for you or your children. Plant two plants or seeds one at the ideal planting time and the second at a more “undesirable” time. Watch to see how these plants grow in comparison over the season. Will your plants wither and die if you plant them at the “wrong” time? Probably not. Your garden will still plug along, but you might lack the abundant harvest and lush growth that you might have had planting by the Moon.

Moon or no Moon, happy gardening!

Mary Church

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