Gardening and Moon Phases

Jeanne Grunert
Moon phases may affect your garden

Used since ancient times, gardening and moon phases is a technique that's worth trying for a bumper crop of vegetables, low-maintenance lawn, or a pretty flower garden. Many old-time farmers and gardeners swear by planting in accordance with the moon phases. Before you scoff at the idea of lunar planting, consider the evidence.

The Background of Gardening and Moon Phases

Historical Evidence

Ancient cultures frequently used the moon phases to ascertain when to sow and when to reap their crops. Astrologers throughout the ages have charted the progress of the sun, moon and stars through the heavens. The belief that heavenly bodies influence the growth and development of plants and animals is found in many cultures from the ancient Mayans to the Greeks. Seed germination, garden planning and garden tasks can all be scheduled around moon and zodiac phases for best results. Thomas Jefferson, who did not subscribe to lunar gardening methods, kept a detailed gardening journal at Monticello. He was an avid vegetable and flower gardener and his journals are famous for their detailed insights into agriculture. Peggy Gilmour, a gardening writer, used Jefferson's writings to construct a chart comparing his plants to the moon phases. She discovered that when Jefferson planted peas on a favorable moon phase, he harvested them on average ten days earlier.

Formal research conducted in 1952 by Maria Thun of Germany yielded interesting results. Thun experimented with lunar planting and potatoes. She weighed each crop and kept careful records over a ten-year period, from 1952 to 1962. The results: if potatoes were planted when the moon was in the constellation of Taurus, Capricorn or Virgo (Earth signs) the crop was more prolific than if planted in other signs.

Test it yourself. Garden by the moon's phases, record your results, and study them to prove if this method works.

How it Works

Gardening and moon phases work by both the pull of the moon's gravity and the amount of moonlight available for crops. 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 plant growth in ways we are just beginning to research scientifically.

Lunar Gardening Plan

To begin gardening by the moon's phases, it's helpful to first look up the phases of the moon. Many calendars include moon phases. The United States Navy has an excellent online database that allows you to input the year and generate a full year lunar calendar. Print this calendar and keep it in your gardening journal for handy reference.

Planting by the moon may yield a bumper crop

Major Points

  • Gardening and moon phases work in conjunction with both the phase of the moon and its position in the zodiac.
  • Moon phases may be defined as:
    • 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.
    • 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. Check your lunar calendar to be accurate.
    • 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.
    • 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).

    Planting by the Moon

    The chart below details when to plant many common garden vegetables.
    Planting by Moon Phase
    Type of Crop When to Plant Moon Phase
    Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, lettuce, and all above-ground crops Moon in the sign of Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces Waxing moon when moon is in Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces
    Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, radishes and other root crops Moon in Taurus (best results) or moon in Capricorn (good results) Waning moon when moon is in Taurus or Capricorn

    Reference Sites

Gardening and Moon Phases