Believing in the Moon: A Gardener’s Lost Knowledge

Sought after for light and direction, and often to simply gaze at fondly, our brilliant and beautiful moon has been a compass to sailors, and also provided naturalists, scientists, farmers and gardeners a way to connect its phases to the tides and weather patterns, so that seeds become thriving plants. In this more technologically advanced world, some may call “moon planting” nothing more than a silly wives’ tale, but research and countless studies have shown many effects of the moon’s systematic orbit. Seeing is believing!

Lunar Gravity

The sailors were not the only ones who studied the constellations. Based on written records, farmers claimed particular crops thrived when the moon passed through a specific constellation. And, as the moonlight entered the new and second quarter moon, a noticeable growth was observed, termed the leaf growth period. Scientific studies confirm particular plants required more moisture in the soil to germinate. We can connect this concept to the height of tides. During the new moon, lunar gravity forces the water to rise. While we can clearly see the effects of the phenomenon in the ocean, it is also linked to the soil. Studies have proved that during the first quarter moon, seeds are more likely to swell and burst open. By the second quarter moon, leaf growth appears. (For gardeners, this is an amazing fact. Not only are seeds germinating faster, but they gain a boost of vitality and health based on the moon’s position.) In a time of observation, study, and diligent journaling, the “cutting-edge technology” of moon gardening is still an important practice, today!

The Knowledge Lasting Centuries

If you have ever wondered why a crop did not germinate or produce fruit, several factors may have been the cause. Most often the question, “Was it planted at the right time?” arises? With this information, gardeners can begin to alter their planting season with more know-how instead of just hope and faith.

First Quarter: The new moon is in a waxing phase. The first two quarters reveal an increasing larger moon and light. (It is important to know each quarter lasts seven days.)   Begin planting above ground annual crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, lettuce, and spinach.

Second Quarter: Leading up to the full moon, plant above-ground seed crops such as beans, watermelons, squash and tomatoes.

Third Quarter (The third quarter begins after the moon is full. As the light begins to decrease, it becomes a “waning” moon. At the end of the fourth quarter, the cycle starts over.)

The Waning Moon is best suited for root crops, defined as vegetables which grow below the ground. Examples are beets, rutabaga, and turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes (tubers), and garlic, onions, and shallots (bulbs). Perennial flowers that grow from bulbs such as cannas, daylilies, and lilies should also be planted.

* Farmers have indicated thankfulness to the waning moon during the last freeze of the season. As temperatures dipped below 28 degrees while fruit trees are in bloom, the freeze causes little damage to the season’s apple and peach trees.

Fourth Quarter: Leading up to the new moon, termed “the dark of the moon,” this is a time to focus on gardening maintenance; tilling and cutting timber, mowing and pruning, and weeding. Avoid planting until the new lunar cycle begins.


Yes, we could pound a nail into the northern side of the orchard to bring a larger yield at harvest, or plant hot peppers when our disposition is fiery and boiling. Superstitions are wonderful motivators; yet, the outcomes are highly unlikely. Planting by the moon, however, is a worthwhile investment of time. You, too, can be one more believer in the beautiful lunar moon!


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