Traditional Moon Planting

Traditional Moon Planting is an ancient agricultural practice that has been used by farmers for several thousand years. It is based on the synodic period of the Moon from one New Moon to the next, an average period of 29.5 days.
Over time, farmers observed that all aspects of farming were affected by the interaction of the gravitational forces between the Sun, the Moon and Earth. These are the same gravitational forces that affect ocean tides around the world. Because the Moon is closer to Earth, its effects are more noticeable. Scientists have more recently confirmed that variations in sap flow and biological functions in plants, and subtle changes in Earth’s electro-magnetic fields, correspond to the Moon’s gravitational pull. After comparing the various methods of Moon Planting over the past ten years, I came to the conclusion that the traditional method, although the simplest, works best for us and is still used by many farmers and gardeners around the world. The basic rules, or principles, are described below.

The Lunation Cycle
Each lunar month the Moon passes through four phases – New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter. The number of days between each change of phase can vary from 6 3/4 to 8, so to make it easier for you, the current moon phase and its duration is shown on the right side of my home page in the ‘Aussie Organic Gardening Moon Phase’ panel. Please note that Moon phases are given in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), which applies to gardeners in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Gardeners in South Australia and Northern Territory should subtract half an hour from the given times, and gardeners in Western Australia should subtract 2 hours. New Zealand gardeners should add 2 hours to the given times. Adjustments will have to be made for Daylight Saving when it applies.

1. Avoid sowing, planting or taking cuttings from 12 hours before to 12 hours after the exact change of moon phase.
The twelve hours immediately before and after the exact change of each phase is not a good time for sowing, planting, or taking cuttings. We have found that the increase or decrease of unfavourable energy is gradual and it will not have an obvious effect if you run an hour or so into this period when you have a lot of sowing or planting to do. While this is not a good period for sowing or planting, this time can be used to prepare beds, compost heaps, apply mulch, etc.

During the New Moon and First Quarter phases, the Moon is waxing or increasing in light. In these two phases, sap flow increases in the above ground parts of plants, and these are the most suitable phases for sowing and transplanting annuals (and biennials). Flowering annuals, grains, melons and spring onions do well if planted in either phase but, generally, New Moon phase is best for leafy annuals and First Quarter is best for fruiting annuals. Liquid fertilisers will take effect more quickly if applied during the waxing phases. Shrubs and trees can be pruned in First Quarter phase when you want to produce new growth quickly, such as pruning spring-flowering shrubs or summer pruning of roses. When pruned while sap flow is high, sap is quickly diverted to the lateral shoots. When sap flow is low, regrowth is slower and dieback is more likely to occur in some plants. The same principle applies to lawns. If you want to encourage fast regrowth, mow during the waxing phases. First Quarter phase is also good for grafting and budding because these require a high sap flow for successful results.

2. NEW MOON PHASE – the best time to sow or transplant leafy annuals (we eat the leaf or stem), and flowering annuals, grains and melons. Also sow annual grasses, green manures, and apply liquid fertilisers. Mow lawns to encourage growth. This is the second best phase to sow or transplant fruiting annuals.

3. FIRST QUARTER PHASE – the best time to sow or transplant fruiting annuals (we eat the fruit or seed bearing part), and flowering annuals, grains and melons. Also sow annual grasses, and green manures and apply liquid fertilisers. Prune to encourage growth and deadhead roses and flowering annuals. Carry out grafting and budding. Mow lawns to encourage growth. This is the second best phase to sow or transplant leafy annuals (we eat the leaf or stem) and flowering annuals.

During the Full Moon and Last Quarter phases the Moon wanes or decreases in light and sap flow in plants is more concentrated in the root area. As sap flow gradually slows during these two phases, Full Moon phase is best for sowing and planting because germination is lower, and regrowth slower, during Last Quarter phase. Because sap flow is lower in the foliage part of plants, crops or seed harvested for storage or drying are less likely to rot if harvested during the Moon’s waning period.
Full Moon phase is best for the sowing and planting of both root crops and perennials (plants that live longer than two years). All trees, shrubs, vines (including fruit trees and vines), globe artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, herbaceous perennials, bulbs and lawn grasses are perennials. The reason that these plants are planted (or sown) in the root vegetable phase is that perennials have a different type of root system to leafy and flowering annuals. Roots of perennial plants have, like root vegetables and garlic, the ability to store carbohydrates and nutrients through periods of dormancy, and this type of root system is important for the longevity of perennials.
Because Full Moon phase favours root growth, this is also an excellent phase for taking cuttings, or for aerial layering, because root growth must form to support new foliage growth. This is also the best phase for dividing plants for the same reason.
Prune dormant plants during Full Moon phase. Last Quarter phase is best for cutting back rampant shrubs and vines, – regrowth will be less vigorous.

4. FULL MOON PHASE – the best time to sow or plant out root crops and all fruiting and decorative perennials. Also sow lawns or lay turf, harvest for storage, take cuttings, divide plants, prune dormant plants and apply solid fertilisers. Mow lawns to slow growth.

5. LAST QUARTER PHASE – no sowing or planting during this phase. This is a good phase for attending to your soil; weeding, applying mulch, making compost, preparing manure teas, applying solid fertilisers and digging or ploughing, if necessary Prune to restrain growth, and mow lawns to slow growth during this phase.

Fertile and Barren Days
These are a further refinement that has been added to moon planting principles through the ages. Fertile days, i.e. when the Moon is in the fertile signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, or the semi-fertile days of Taurus, Libra and Capricorn, are considered to be of extra help for sowing, grafting, taking cuttings, pruning to encourage growth and planting bare-rooted perennials. Barren days, i.e. when the Moon is in the barren signs of Aries, Leo or Sagittarius, or the semi-barren signs Gemini, Virgo or Aquarius are considered to be of extra help for weeding or harvesting crops for storage. If digging is unavoidable outside Last Quarter phase, it is best to do it on barren days.
Some moon planting guides will tell you to only water on barren days, while other guides will tell you to only water on fertile days. After keeping rain records for many years, I’ve noticed that Mother Nature does not comply with either of these rules. The truth is that you should water your plants when they need it.

Moon Planting Guides
A list of fertile and barren days is outside the scope of this post but fertile and barren days to the end of 2018 can be found in my book, Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting – Updated Edition, so that Australian and New Zealand gardeners can plan ahead. This practical handbook contains a full moon planting guide advising what to do when in your garden each month for all Australian and New Zealand climate zones. Or, if you are happy with fertile and barren days for the coming year, I recommend Thomas Zimmer’s Astrological Calendar for Australian gardeners.

18 thoughts on “Traditional Moon Planting

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  3. Thank you i enjoyed reading what you have written and i found out what i needed and that was can i plant in the last quarter and no is the answer so thank you Regards Jeanette

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  7. Great site and book. Very helpful. I check in regularly. Thankyou for sharing your knowledge.

  8. Hi by the looks of this you are basing your calculations on the synodic month rather than the sidereal month which changes the times and dates that the moon is influenced by that constellation usually by approx 2 days.

    That’s correct, Ian. Traditional moon planting IS based on the synodic month, which is the time it takes from one New Moon to the next, because it uses the gravitational interaction between the Sun, Moon and Earth – the same energy that controls ocean tides. As plants contain a high proportion of water, their sap and hormone flows are also affected by this rhythmic force. – Lyn : )

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  10. Thanks for the post and especially the up to date current phase and timings on the side panel. I’m trying moon planting out for the first time and finding it a great help with succession planting and getting a bit more organised in the garden.

  11. Pingback: Traditional Moon Planting | Aussie Organic Gardening | Organic Gardening Guide

  12. Love the website – I am an astrologer and often mention moon planting to my readers – hope you don’t mind I linked through to you. Thanks, Asha

  13. I would like to purchase a calender from Thomas Zimmer – are you able to give me his address in Queensland as I have miss placed it – thanks for your help. Madeleine

    If you only want one or two Thomas Zimmer calendars, they can be purchased by mail from Greenpatch Organic Seeds PO Box 1285 Taree NSW 2430. You can order from their website or by phone or fax 02 6551 4240.
    If you want to enquire about bulk orders: Thomas Zimmer, Mt. Cougal Road Tallebudgera Valley QLD 4228

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  15. I am loving the detail in your article in Organic Gardening mag that is taking my moon phase gardening to a new challenge.
    If I am now to plant with seedlings is there a better time to pot them?
    Thanks, Rosie

  16. hi there, i am a recent new comer to biodynamic gardening. i am looking for more information on planting trees according to their planetary counterparts. can you direct me to a useful publication? thanks!

    Hi Tamara, I am not an expert in biodynamics. However, Kate and Mark at Purple Pear Farm are experienced biodynamic farmers and they will probably be able to advise you. – Lyn

  17. Hi there, just wondering if you could help me? I am trying to find info on when is the best time to apply corrections, such as fungicides for black spot on roses within the correct moon cycle please? Also corrections for leaf curl, etc. in citrus and other issues with stone fruit? I am using all natural, organic remedies. Thanks for your blog, I love it. Warm regards, Belinda

    If you had read my book you would know that the time of year or the weather is more important for treating plant diseases than particular moon phases as natural fungicides work by changing the pH of the leaf surface so the fungi can’t survive and the treatment is wasted if rain is imminent. Pest and disease attack are merely signs that cultivation practices need improving. Black spot is more common where roses have poor air circulation or foliage is wet late in the day. An application of seaweed extract tea at weak black tea strength is beneficial as trace elements in seaweed strengthen plants’ immune system. If applying this as a foliage spray when plants are in leaf, it is best to apply it during First Quarter phase when sap flow is higher for faster absorption.
    Leaf curl in stone fruit is more common in undernourished trees. Lack of copper and other trace elements contribute to susceptibility to this disease. It must be treated before bud burst when the fungus is transferred to the new leaves – late winter for most trees and early winter for almonds. Apply seaweed extract tea and a complete organic fertiliser to the soil at the base of trees during winter to prevent future problems.
    Leaf curl on citrus is caused by a pest, citrus leaf miner. Eggs are laid by a tiny moth along the midrib of young leaves and and the larvae after feeding curl the leaves as shelter while they pupate. Treatment is usually an oil spray. However, the problem with that is that ladybirds and their larvae, which eat large quantities of garden pests, also shelter in the curled leaves and the oil spray kills them, too. If I get an attack from these pests, I make sure I improve watering and fertilising for that tree. – Lyn
    See: Ladybird larvae

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