How to Plant by the Moon

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The Heart of New England
Make a Date to Plant by the Moon
by Jeanne Sable

I began writing this column during an enormously bright full moon.  It made me
think of one clear, cold night a few winters ago, when the moon was closer to
earth than it had been in 133 years, and was said to be shining seven percent
more brightly than at any other time of year. That night, the buds in a vase of cut
flowers on the windowsill burst into magnificent bloom, remaining fresh and
open  for the better part of a month. That’s when I decided to take the ancient
wisdom of planting by the moon a bit more seriously.

If the moon can pull the great ocean tides, surely it can draw a minuscule
amount of water up a slender plant stem. The basic premise is that water rises as
the moon increases, enabling seeds and plants to take up ample water after

Planting During Waxing and Waning Moons

Thus if you wish to sow seeds or transplant seedlings for above-ground crops
such as greens or tomatoes,  you should wait until the moon is waxing—
approaching  fullness in the so-called first or second quarter increasing phase.  
After  peak fullness, the moon enters its third quarter decreasing stage. At that
point, the planting of root crops such as beets or carrots, or of trees, perennials
and other plants requiring moisture deep in their roots,  is favored. From the
fourth quarter until the new moon  (when no moon is seen),  one should forgo
planting and attend instead to weeding, composting, or harvesting.

An integral part of lunar gardening also involves the Zodiacal signs. Each day is
ruled by one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Each sign remains in command for
roughly two and a half days and is said to influence growing conditions. Since
Leo is deemed barren and dry, nothing should be planted on the days it governs,
no matter how favorable the phase of the moon. Scorpio is considered moist and
fruitful, producing sturdy plants and abundant blooms, so it's a go for planting
berries, beans, melon, eggplant , peas, pumpkins, flowers, etc., that is—if  the
moon is on the increase. Consult a Zodiacal calendar, such as in the Old Farmer's
Almanac, to determine which signs rule over your optimal planting days.

If your regular calendar is already crammed with notes and appointments, the
idea of scheduling the exact days on which to plant peas might seem a bit
impractical—more so if the notion of lunar planting strikes you as a bit loony.
But if you keep a gardening journal and have access to the Internet, here's
something you can try that might make a believer of you.

Check Moon Phases

Check the dates on which you planted several crops in a previous season, and
note the day you harvested them. Then go online to
Moon Phases. There you
can type in any date from the year 1800 to 2199 to find out in what phase the
moon was (or will be) on that day. Punch in the dates on which you planted and
note whether the moon was favorable for that crop. Then count how many days it
was to your harvest. You will then know whether the crops planted during a
favorable phase of the moon matured sooner than those that were not.

Internet gardening columnist Peggy Gilmour used this method to construct a
chart from data taken from Thomas Jefferson's gardening  journal: The chart
shows that Jefferson, who did not espouse to lunar planting, enjoyed peas 10
days earlier, on the average, when he'd accidentally planted them during a
favorable phase of the moon.

Referring to my own gardening journal, I found that I'd planted the same variety
of peas on the same date two years in a row (March 31, 1998 and 1999). Weather
and soil conditions were favorable both years,  but in '98,  I'd planted during the
recommended first quarter increasing phase of the moon. The following year, I'd
waited until after the moon was already full. Result? The peas planted during
the waxing moon were ready seven days earlier than the latter ones.

Of course,  failing to take into account rainfall and other variables, this limited
experiment is inconclusive at best. Still, it provided me with enough incentive to
mark my calendar for lunar planting every year. Assuming the frost is out of the
ground, I plan to be in my garden planting peas, spinach, and other hardy above-
ground crops this year sometime between March 28-29, and April 2-3.

Care to join me?

About the author

Jeanne Prevett Sable is an organic gardener, editor, and freelance writer
specializing in farming and environmental issues, with hundreds of articles
published in local, regional, and national publications. She has written
environmental scripts for children's television, live puppet theater, and the Web.
She is also the author of
Seed Keepers of Crescentville, her first novel.
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