Words by Alice Whiting
We know the beautiful, serene moon in our skies can influence large bodies of water on earth, but can it influence how plants grow, and should we consider lunar gardening when tending to our plants?
The ancient tradition of working with the moon’s cycles to guide seed sowing and growing timetables is one that has been practiced in diverse cultures over many centuries. The Old Farmers’ Almanac, a North American publication dating back to 1792, is one of many almanacs which is now used worldwide and includes such information. Inside, it details weather predictions, planting charts, natural remedies, folklore and full moon dates; sharing knowledge passed down through generations that were dependent on a productive crop for their survival.
Although there is some scientific scepticism, anecdotal evidence suggests moon phase planting does work, and that paying attention to the specific phase of the moon while growing plants can help us to have more healthy, vigorous growth and bigger crops. Most often this practice is used with vegetable and fruit crops, but it can be used with any plant - and you don’t need to be an expert astronomer.
Although there is some scientific scepticism, anecdotal evidence suggests moon phase planting does work.
Impacts of a waxing and waning moon
Moon phase planting acknowledges the influence of the moon’s gravitational effect on the ocean tides with the corresponding phases of the moon. It is said that during the waxing phase (the time between the new moon and the full moon) and the waning phase (between the full moon and the new moon), different types of gardening activity should be carried out, based upon the how the moon will be influencing plants (due to their high water content) and their growing environments.
During the waxing moon, as moonlight increases towards the full moon and sap is drawn up, this is said to be the best time for sowing seeds, as they will absorb the most moisture at the soil surface. As with the highest tides, the moon’s gravitational effect on water can mean moisture rises in the soil and plants and encourages new growth. It is also said that this is a good time for transplanting flowering annuals and biennials and planting any fruit or vegetable crop that bears fruit above the ground. Pruning should also be done at this time, again because increased sap flow means more new growth, and moonlight can encourage growth of fresh new shoots and leaves.
It is said that during the waxing phase and the waning phase, different types of gardening activity should be carried out.
During the waning moon on the other hand, as moonlight is decreasing from full moon to new moon, the sap flow is drawn down and the focus of energy moves towards the roots. This time is said to be better for planting fruit and vegetables that bear crops below the ground, as the energy focus and water content will be moving down, and the decreasing moonlight can encourage plants to grow roots, bulbs and tubers. It is also said to be a good time for harvesting, as new growth has slowed.
As well as aligning planting and harvesting times with the phases of the moon, some gardeners also design gardens with moonlight in mind. Also known as a moon garden, these gardens include plants with white flowers such as jasmine and white wisteria, which can be planted to reflect the moonlight and mean the garden can be enjoyed by the light of the moon. Silver and variegated foliage is also great at catching those rays of moonlight, with some beautiful flowers such as evening primrose only blooming at night to attract night pollinating insects.
Moonlight gardens are planted using white flowers which reflect moonlight.
Moon planting is a key principle in biodynamic gardening, which also aims to take into consideration many other factors such as crop rotation, companion planting, and the influence of other cosmic forces on soil health and plant growth. Although now considered by some to be folklore, the moon phases method has been used for hundreds of years all over the world and is an ancient agricultural practice. Tapping into our innate desire to be in tune with nature’s rhythms, it is a nice thing to keep in mind when putting those seeds in the ground, and helps us to remember and stay connected to the influences in the wider world around us, meaning it is surely worth a try.