Planting a garden based on the cycles of the moon has been practiced as long as humans have been planting food. Just as the gravitational pull of the moon affects the tides, it also has an effect on moisture in the soil. If you prefer to garden organically, lunar gardening is the perfect companion because it works better in soil not treated with chemicals.
There are two primary factors influencing gardening by the moon-the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. The first of these factors, the phases of the moon, has an effect on soil moisture, causing it to rise to the surface. This helps seeds to germinate more readily and stimulates the growth of roots and leaves. Each phase of the moon lasts approximately 6-8 days.
During this lunar phase, the moon's gravity has a strong pull on soil moisture, drawing it close to the surface. This increased moisture causes seeds to swell and burst, aiding in germination. Although the moon is not visible, the increasing light creates balanced growth of leaves and roots. This is a good time for planting those crops that produce seeds outside the fruit such as greens (lettuce and spinach), grains, broccoli and cauliflower.
Second Quarter Moon
During the second quarter moon phase, gravity starts to play less of a role, but the increased moonlight creates optimal conditions for leaf growth. This is a good time to plant crops that are harvested above ground, but form seeds inside their fruit (beans, melons, peppers, squash, tomatoes). For a thick, lush lawn, mow grass now to stimulate growth.
During a full moon, the gravitational pull is strong once again (increasing soil moisture), but the decreasing moonlight translates into focusing energy toward root growth. This makes the full moon phase ideal for planting root crops (carrots, onions, potatoes), planting bulbs and transplanting due to increased root growth.
Fourth Quarter Moon
The fourth quarter phase has decreased gravitational pull as well as less moonlight. This phase is the best time for resting and harvesting. Mow grass during this quarter to retard growth.
The Signs of the Zodiac
The second factor influencing gardening by the moon are the signs of the zodiac. Each sign of the zodiac is assigned to an element-earth, fire, water or air. As the moon moves through the different signs of the zodiac every few days, the astrological signs come into play because plants exhibit individual preferences relative to the elemental sign their planted in.
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Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn)
The earth signs are considered fertile signs and are good for planting and productivity. This is especially true for planting root crops because roots are the part of plants most closely associated with the earth. Transplanting while the moon is in an earth sign is advantageous for root development.
Air signs (Libra, Aquarius and Gemini)
The air signs are generally associated with a time for cultivation and harvest because they represent air that is barren and dry. Libra is the exception, and is semi-fertile and good for blooming flowers and herbs. Melons seem to prefer Gemini and Aquarius.
Fire Signs (Aries, Sagittarius and Leo)
Fire signs are also dry and barren, but are good signs for weeding, pest control, cultivation and harvest. When the moon passes through these signs, it is generally a good time to harvest and store fruits and root vegetables, and act to destroy weeds and pests.
Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces)
The water signs are the best signs for planting above ground crops such as leafy greens as well as for planting annuals. When the moon passes through these signs, it is generally a good time for planting sturdy plants and vines, grafting, pruning, transplanting and irrigation.
For more information on the 2006 astrological timetable, including the best days to garden by the moon, consult the Old Farmer's Almanac or the many other books and websites on Lunar Gardening.