If you think planting by the Moon is a New Age, hippie fad, you may be surprised to learn it has a long history, developed over centuries and based on careful observation of nature.
Early farmers noticed that the gravitational pull between the Sun, Moon and Earth had an effect on all aspects of farming. The Moon, being closest to the earth, had the strongest pull.
Since time immemorial, planting and harvesting by the Moon have been practised by different civilisations all around the world. It is based on observations of how water and soil behave during different phases of the moon. Just as tides are influenced by the Moon, so too is the moisture in soil and the sap in plants. Using this knowledge, moon calendars have been devised to show when is the best time to do certain gardening jobs.
Planting is designed around what phase the Moon is in and based on the cycle of the moon orbiting the earth. In each lunar month, there are four phases the Moon passes through: New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter. A cycle begins at the New Moon and finishes at the Last Quarter. A quarter is between 6.75 and eight days and the whole cycle takes, on average, 29.5 days.
In the first two phases the Moon is waxing, meaning it is increasing in light and size and the sap in the above-ground plants is rising. When the Moon is waning, it is decreasing in light and size. Sap flow is decreasing and is concentrated in the plants’ roots.
New Moon Phase
This is when the Moon is getting bigger and when plants have a surge of rising sap. It’s a great time to plant, graft and transplant annuals that produce above ground, such as leafy vegetables that produce seeds outside the fruit. It’s also the time to plant cereals, grains and green manure crops. Lawns will need mowing more often as they are growing.
First Quarter Phase
The Moon is still getting bigger and the sap is still fresh and rising. This is a good time to sow or transplant fruiting annuals such as beans, peas, peppers, squash and tomatoes. It’s the best time to carry out grafting and budding procedures. It’s also a good time to plant cereals and grains, especially green manure crops. Other gardening jobs at this time are mowing the lawn and dead-heading roses to encourage growth.
If you missed planting leafy vegetables in the New Moon phase, it’s still OK to do it in this phase. The last two days before the Full Moon are considered optimal for planting and grafting.
Full Moon Phase
This is the time there is a peak in the electromagnetic energy of all living things and everything has more energy. Slowly, after the Full Moon, there is a withdrawal of energy as the moon wanes (grows smaller).
It’s a good idea to prune now and it is an excellent time to harvest all crops as they will tend to rot less. This is the time to plant perennials, biennials, bulbs and root vegetables because the sap is now flowing downwards towards the roots.
This is also the time to sow lawn seed or establish instant turf, divide perennials and prune dormant plants such as deciduous fruit trees and apply solid fertiliser to all parts of the garden.
Last Quarter Phase (Before The Dark Moon)
This is a barren period of rest, relaxation and preparation for the next New Moon. This is not the time to sow or transplant but it is a great time to remove weeds, turn the earth, spread manure and prune. It’s also the time to make compost and apply mulch. This is the best time to harvest crops like pumpkin, which you want to store for a long time.
You can also transplant close to the end of this phase and the plant will recover quickly because in the New Moon phase the sap will start rising again. It’s also the best time to mow your grass because it is not growing as fast and will last longer before needing another cut.
Tip: Apply your liquid fertiliser in the first two phases as it is absorbed faster.
Timing is very important when following the Moon planting method; sometimes you may be planting at night. It’s recommended that you avoid sowing, planting or taking cuttings 12 hours before and after the exact change of phase. The jobs to do in this interim period are preparing garden beds, working on your compost and applying mulch.
To get correct timing information, you need to use a Moon planting calendar and you can find these on the internet. Also, when you are calculating your planting time, don’t forget to take into account daylight saving in summer and where you are in Australia. For example, South Australia and Northern Territory in daylight-saving time are 1.5 hours behind Victoria and NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.
Tip: Make sure you get the 2012 calendar as old ones are still available on the internet. And make sure it is specifically for Australia as well.
If you follow the phases of the Moon and carry out the appropriate tasks in the right phase, such as weeding, planting and harvesting, the flavour and yield of your produce will be significantly increased, all without having to add fertiliser. This is excellent for the hip pocket.
In this world where everything has to be right now, it’s very comforting to find an old tradition has survived the test of time and is still being used. This method relies on observation of the cosmos, respect for nature, allowing it to do its thing, and non-use of modern manufactured fertilisers and sprays, all of which can only increase your garden’s health and produce bigger, tastier fruit and vegetables.
If you would like more information on this way of gardening, I suggest searching the web and choosing sites that are designed for Australia as overseas sites will probably cause confusion with timing and seasons.
The Moon And Biodynamics
Moon gardening is a large part of biodynamics but it is not the whole story. As a modern system of agriculture, biodynamics was founded by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. It emphasises the interdependence of all organisms, including those above and below ground, and the earth’s place in the cosmos. Biodynamics uses sprays made from fermented manures and minerals rather than chemicals for maintaining the holistic health of the farm or garden. Biodynamics in the garden will be covered in more detail in a future issue.