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 this page. 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.
THE WAXING MOON
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.
THE WANING MOON
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.
WATERING YOUR GARDEN
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 2013 can be found in my book, Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting – New 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.