Planting by the Moon and Stars: Great Idea or Hogwash?

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We use the forces of nature as an aid in obtaining the highest possible degree of success. These are tools to be used along with other knowledge, advice, and information. Planting by the Moon and Stars has been handed down from generation-to-generation as a tool to grow the best food and medicine.

What facts and science do we have to back-up these claims?

Earliest attempts to prove this was not a myth

Francis Bacon conducted many experiments in which he planted seeds during various phases of the moon’s cycle. He observed that seeds germinated and produced healthier plants if they were sown immediately after the new moon (dark moon). The scientific world didn’t take notice of his discovery.

Moon and Star gardeners aren’t concerned with explaining why the moon and stars affect plants. They are only with stating what they have proven through experience over and over again. The believe that the positions of the planetary bodies, especially the sun and the moon, match the natural cycle of the Universe. Therefore, if we understand these effects and use them to our advantage, we can live in harmony with our world’s natural rhythms.

“… I believe in a dissymmetric cosmic influence which naturally and constantly controls the molecular organization of those principles immediately necessary for life, and that as a consequence, the types of controls of life are, in their structures, forms, and nuclear arrangements, in a relation with the motions of the Universe. ~Louis Pasteur

The Moon

The cycles of the moon have influenced gardeners all over the world for centuries. While science doesn’t fully understand why planting by the moon works, experience suggests that it does.

When you garden by the moon, it is easy to plan your above- and below-ground crops.

How it works

The same gravitational force that creates the tides and brings the sea turtles ashore to lay eggs, also cause crops to grow. When the moon wanes, and its light and gravitational pull decreases, the Earth’s gravity kicks in and root crops bear happily in the ground.

However, don’t plant anything on the dark of the moon (new moon). This is the time when plants should rest. It is a good time to kill weeds, because they will not grow back.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when planting by the moon.

During a waxing moon, the light increases toward a full moon. This is a great time for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals, biennials, grains, and melons. Any short-lived plant that you want to harvest for its leaves, seeds, flowers, or fruits.

It’s also a good time to apply liquid fertilizer, prune, or graft to produce new growth more quickly.

During a waning moon, the light decreases as the moon goes from a full to a new moon. This is the time the energy focuses on the roots, which is a perfect time to plant root crops and perennials.

Apply solid fertilizers and compost at this time. You can also prune dormant plants and harvest. It is less likely that your harvest will rot.

The New moon (from new moon to the first quarter) is best for sowing or transplanting leafy annuals. These are plants where we value or eat the leaves or stem, like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and celery.

The first quarter phase is most suited to fruiting annuals (not fruit trees) where we value or eat the fruit or seed-bearing part of the plant, like tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli, and beans.

Full moon (from full moon to the third quarter) is best for sowing or planting root crops, as well as fruiting perennials, like apples, potatoes, asparagus, and rhubarb. You can also take cuttings and divide plants.

In the last quarter phase, avoid planting and focus on improving your soil. Weed, mulch, add compost and manure teas, and create new garden beds. It is also a good time to weed and take care of pests.

Do not sow, plant, or prune 12 hours before or after the transition from one phase to the next.

Once in a blue moon

Do you know what this means?

There is such a thing as a blue moon. As a child, I was always looking for the moon to turn blue, but that’s not quite it. It is simply the occurrence of two full moons in one calendar month.

Plant as you would for any full moon.

The Sun

The Sun is our closest star. It provides light that promotes photosynthesis in our plants.

An Eclipse (Lunar or Solar)

Fear led ancient people to shoot flaming arrows at the sky to rekindle the Sun. Many stories and myths from around the world tried to explain an eclipse, especially a solar eclipse.

The perfect lineup of the Sun and the Moon form a total solar eclipse. A solar eclipse happens about twice a year, but can happen as many as five times in a year, but that’s rare!

Ancient Babylonian tablets show a belief that the land is infertile during the time of an eclipse. This myth has lasted longer than most. The early bio-dynamic sowing calendars also say not to plant during the days leading up to an eclipse, the day of the eclipse, and the days following the eclipse.

Everyone has been so busy looking at the sky, that no evidence exists as to its effects on plants and planting. It is possible that plants will exhibit nighttime postures. Nighttime plants may bloom, and daytime plants may close up. It will be an interesting time to observe and record.

What about Solar Flares?

Solar flares create high energy particles that are dangerous to living organisms. Most of the dangerous particles of a flare are stopped by our atmosphere and rarely reach the Earth. If these particles reached the surface of the Earth, it would not only affect plants, but people, too.

The Science

When I asked a scientist about planting by the moon, I got a blank stare and a few chuckles. And rightly so.

It’s true. There is very little, if any, scientific evidence that planting by the moon has any validity.

Scientists haven’t tried to study this stuff, because it is believed to be a myth.

However, there has to be a physical reason why the moon’s different phases affect soil properties, soil temperature, moisture content, precipitation, which are physical factors that make seeds germinate. And that isn’t documented!

The scientist explained that the tidal forces—the gravitational pull of the moon—would be there, but the amount would be so small that it would not affect a plant’s processes.

The moon is 238,000 miles away from us, which is very close in astronomical measurements. The Sun is 92.96 million miles away from the Earth.

Scientists are logical and literal. We need that logic to understand our world.

So why is it that so many farmers and gardeners plant by the moon? Perhaps it is not for us to ask why or how, but to simply enjoy the abundance of our homegrown food and medicine.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Gardening by the Signs!

Do you garden by the phases of the moon? What are your results? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

 

Resources:

Planting by the Full Moon. The New York Times. May 2, 1991.
Gardening by the Moon. Farmer’s Almanac.
Solar Eclipse Folklore, Myths, and Superstitions. Farmer’s Almanac.
Moon Planting Guide. January 26, 2015.
Lunar Gardening: The Eclipses, The Planetary Aspects.
Astrological Gardening. Louise Riotte. Storey Communications, Inc.

 

 

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