Does moon planting work?

Renewed interest in organic gardening has also stimulated curiosity about moon planting. People are asking does it have a scientific basis? Is it all about astrology and spiritualism? How does it work?
Is it Scientific?
As I said in my post on the rules of moon planting, traditional moon planting uses the gravitational interaction between the Sun, the Moon and Earth. These are the same gravitational forces that affect ocean tides around the world, and the variations in high tides that occur when the Sun is in a direct line with the Earth and Moon, or at right angles to them. These variations occur at each change of moon phase.
Scientists have spent little time studying this practice, but have recently confirmed that subtle changes in Earth’s electromagnetic fields and variations in sap flow and biological functions in plants do correspond to the Moon’s gravitational pull. Scientists have also confirmed that the Moon has an influence on breeding and feeding cycles of many life forms on this planet. It makes sense to me that plants, which contain a high proportion of water, would not be immune to the effects of a gravitational force strong enough to move large bodies of water.
The science behind traditional moon planting is the observations by farmers since Babylonian times of improved germination and growth when seeds are sown at certain times of the lunar month, and better results when plants are harvested, or pruned during particular moon phases. Over a period of eight years, I have compared different forms of moon planting against detailed records of sowing, germination, growth, harvesting and pruning. I found that traditional moon planting methods worked best for us, and this is the method I have included in my book, “Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting”, and perhaps science’s failure to find is a failure to look. Scientists are now beginning to apply serious study some practices that were previously dismissed as merely folklore.
Is it all about astrology and spiritualism?
This question arises from the inclusion of fertile or barren moon signs that are named after constellations in the zodiacal belt that stretches either side of the ecliptic, which marks the apparent path of the Sun. “Fertile” days are considered better for some gardening activities and “barren” days better for others.
In relation to traditional moon planting, I think that fertile and barren signs have more to do with the subtle changes in Earth’s electromagnetic fields than with the actual position of the constellations as related to astrology. Traditional moon planting uses the tropical zodiac that divides the celestial belt into twelve equal parts of 30 degrees, named after the constellations that were closest to them in the second century B.C., and ignores that fact that the actual constellations vary widely in size. The twelve segments were also given alternate labels of “positive” or “negative”. The equal divisions were basically markers for degrees of tension from the major permanent points of reference, which occur within 24 hours of the same days each year.
The first two points are the spring and autumnal equinoxes that mark the intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator (a projection of the Earth’s equator into space). These points are at right angles to the polar inclination. The two other points of reference occur half way between the equinoxes and mark the summer and winter solstices. The equinoxes move backwards very, very slowly, and the position of the segment marked Aries is now in the constellation of Pisces. The designation, by moon planting farmers, of “barren” (to most of the positive signs) or “fertile” (to most of the negative signs), varies slightly from the fertile/negative and barren/positive labels applied in astrology, and I feel there had to be a reason for this variation to remain constant through the centuries.
There has been no scientific study into this part of moon planting, and I do not know for sure why this part of moon planting works but it has been quite helpful to me, particularly pruning and taking cuttings on fertile days, and harvesting seeds and crops for storage or drying on barren days. However, watering only on fertile days (or only on barren days as some guides advise) makes no sense to me, at all.
In contrast to traditional moon planting, the biodynamic method of moon planting, which was developed some 50 years ago, uses the actual positions of the constellations and planets, and does include a spiritual element. I found the biodynamic method of moon planting more complicated to follow, and it didn’t seem to work as well as the simpler, traditional moon planting in our conditions, but I have no problem with gardeners who prefer the biodynamic method.
It is not necessary to use any form of moon planting (with or without fertile and barren signs) to garden organically, but it is considered by many farmers and gardeners to provide a little extra help, and assists in establishing a routine in the garden.

3 thoughts on “Does moon planting work?

  1. So far Mark, there has been little scientific research done on the Moon’s synodic period and its effect on plants. However, scientists have tended to disregard a lot of what they consider folk lore. They are only beginning to seriously study companion planting (under the fancy new name of Ecological Engineering) and its application to Australian agriculture.
    There has been some research on tidal patterns and a corresponding variation in sap flows and hormone levels in plants. This was shown in a Canadian David Suzuki program on SBS some years ago. I have tried to track down a copy of this program to give you a reference but SBS don’t keep records of programs so far back.
    To date, most ‘research’ relies on records and observations of farmers and gardeners. I compared our records of sowing, germination, taking cuttings, transplanting, and harvesting over a period of eight years with the various forms of moon planting and decided the traditional one was the most accurate in our conditions. We use it. Some gardeners and farmers do, others don’t. It is a personal choice.

  2. Pingback: Planting by the moon - Permaculture Principles

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