Moon Planting Guide

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Using the moon as a guide

The cycles of the moon have influenced gardeners from diverse cultures over many centuries. While science may not fully understand why planting by the moon works, anecdotal evidence sugsgest that it does.

Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren’s writes

“good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns.”

Observing the cycles of the moon and the way that it affects both people and plants can help to determine when to plant in order to improve our health and yield from our garden activities.

Author of the Permaculture Home Garden Linda Woodrow, a self confessed ‘extreme sceptic’, adopted moon planting as a way to manage her time more effectively and get more organised. In doing so she found that “it actually does increase the germination rate and vitality of plants”.

How does it work?

There are a number of methods of moon planting, some are complex taking into account far off constellations – something that I find difficult to comprehend. There is an approach that I’ve found I can get my head around. Linking the ebb and flow of the sap in tune with the rhythms of the moon.

In a waxing moon, when light increases towards a full moon, sap flow is drawn up. This is the most suitable time for sowing and transplanting flowering annuals, biennials, grains and melons. Basically any short lived plant that we want to harvest its leaves, seed, flowers or fruits.

It’s also a good time for applying liquid fertilisers, pruning and grafting as increased sap flow produces new growth more quickly.

With an waning moon, when the light is decreasing as the moon changes from a full to a new moon, the sap flow is drawn down. This focusses the energy towards the roots, which is more suited to root crops and perennials, plants that live longer than two years.

It’s also a good time for applying solid fertilisers, pruning dormant plants and harvesting, as there is less likelihood of rotting.

This general pattern can be divided further into the quarterly moon cycles.

The new moon phase (from new moon to first quarter) is most suited to sowing or transplanting leafy annuals, where we value or eat the leaves or stem. Plants like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and celery.

The first quarter phase is most suited to fruiting annuals (not fruit trees) where we value or eat the fruit or seed bearing part of the plant. Like tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli and beans.

The full moon phase (from full moon to the third quarter) is most suited to sowing or planting out root crops as well as decorative or fruiting perennials. Like apples, potatoes asparagus and rhubarb. It’s also a good time for taking cuttings and dividing plants.

The last quarter phase is a time to avoid planting and focus on improving the soil, by weeding, mulching, making compost and manure teas as well as digging or ploughing.

The one caveat for this method is that 12 hours before and after the transition time from one phase to the next is when sowing, planting and pruning is best avoided. Use this time instead to improve your soil.

This method of moon planting is illustrated with daily icons and moon phase times in the 2015 Permaculture Calendar, permacultureprinciples.com

2015-Pc-Cal-Cover

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15 thoughts on “Moon Planting Guide

  1. I’m happy to keep an open mind about this, but as the saying goes, “The plural of anecdote isn’t data”. Does anyone have any data to demonstrate that planting according to phases of the moon actually works, and that it is the moon phases rather than some other correlated factor which is responsible?

  2. “While science may not fully understand why planting by the moon works, anecdotal evidence sugsgest that it does.”

    I think this should be corrected to

    “While there is no scientific evidence that planting by the moon works, many people nonetheless believe that it does.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I know quite a few people who use biodynamic calendars and produce plenty of healthy vegetables. But that alone doesn’t validate biodynamic methods. As far as I know there has not been enough scientific research to determine whether moon phases influence plants or not, because most scientists think it’s extremely unlikely to be the case. Also, I think most practitioners of moon planting don’t realise how easy it is for human beings to fool ourselves. For instance, there is a widely held belief among delivery room nurses that more babies are born at the full moon; but repeated studies have found this not to be the case:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_effect#Birth_rate

    I have posted about the topic of cutting wood by the moon, here:
    http://www.permies.com/t/34288/biodynamic/Wood-cutting-moon
    proposing a study which would be relatively easy to carry out (not so many variables as with planting or harvesting, etc.)

    Anyone interested?

    1. Hi Robert, just read your post regarding planting by the moon. Healthy scepticism is never a bad thing, but clothing disbelief up in ‘scientific lack of proof’ is not quite the same as healthy scepticism. While there is no ‘scientific’ evidence to suggest planting by the moon is beneficial (most likely because ‘science’ usually takes an initial stance of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ when considering such ‘superstitions’, meaning the likelihood of objective, evidence based studies being undertaken are extremely low), this doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t there. You mention how easily people fool themselves, and you’re right, people do, but cynics are equally guilty of such folly. So, to the anecdotal evidence then. Without offering actual alternative possibilities for greater yield or healthier plants from those grown using lunar cycles, the evidence that this is the case can then either be down to the moon, or consistent and disproportionate coincidence, however unlikely. As for the moon’s clear and unquestioned influence on natural phenomena, one only has to look to coral reproduction cycles to find it. There is no question that the timing coincides strictly with lunar cycles, and if lunar cycles influence biological function in even one species so clearly, there is no reason to dismiss the possibility or likelihood that it may do so with others. Of course there are plenty of other examples of lunar cycles – as well as those of other planetary bodies – affecting not only plants, but people and animals as well, however the lack of open-mindedness, willingness or proper scientific method on the part of most modern practitioners today means they too are dismissed out of hand as hokum or outright superstition. Not very scientific.

  3. Hello.

    I would like to ask what moon phase do you guys use for transplanting fruit trees (1 or 2 year old fruit trees)?

    On side note, as far as I know, there isn’t scientific evidence that supports the importance of the moon in way described in this article. For that reason, AFAIK, this isn’t taught in any university course.

    Thanks and best regards,
    Jorge

  4. When will we realize that science is not the end-all-be-all. The moon and the stars and the soil and the plants are far more wiser that we will ever be. And when we “fud” up the earth, Mother nature adjusts herself accordingly.

  5. Agree 100% with you Kat. Plus there’s are many things science currently does not understand/have evidence for. This is one off-putting aspect of human beings (arrogance, close-mindedness). We cannot let our limited knowledge/technology/science limit our experience. Lack of evidence does not equate evidence of lack.

  6. That’s just what I was going to say, Ceferino: that absence of evidence doesn’t constitute evidence of absence. According to the Guardian link that David shared, the Royal Horticultural Society (UK) didn’t find any scientific evidence to support moon planting, but on the other hand it doesn’t actually state that they found evidence against it. From what I can tell, it is still an open question because not enough research has been done to come down one way or another. But unlike other people, I think it is a question that can be answered empirically (or rather, a set of linked questions) and I am interested in the answers.

    I would also say that I am rather tired of hearing people criticize science for being arrogant, while arrogantly assuming that their own preferred belief system (like biodynamics) has all the answers!

    Science is not behind all the environmental problems in the world. The ancient Mesopotamians managed to “fud” up their environment and salinate their fields without anything resembling a scientific method. The problem was a culture based on domination.

    True, science has been pressed into the service of the capitalist system, but then so have most aspects of human culture, sadly. Science has also told us about the problems and proposed solutions.
    Religion and spirituality are not immune to corruption by power! Quite the opposite.

    1. Thanks, Robert. I quite agree. Whereas individual scientists may be arrogant, the field or practice of science is not. At least it should not be if it is done well. As I understand it, the actual testing of ideas and explanations by careful observation, measurement and/or experiment is one of the best ways we have devised to uncover the way to world works and to keep from fooling ourselves from believing something just because it is cool or convenient. As Stephen Novella so eloquently put it: “There’s nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”
      In point of fact, many gardeners and smallholders are some of the most scientific people I know: they hear about an idea or technique and they try it out, often quite rigorously, and in comparison with other techniques. If it works they keep it, if it doesn’t they modify it or discard it and try something else.

  7. You’re quite right Sharon, but I can’t find any record of other researchers having tested and replicated her results, which would be necessary for it to be accepted by the scientific community.
    Lots of people who follow them and get good results, but that’s not scientific evidence. As far as I can discover there have been no controlled studies.

  8. In Missouri’s rock and clay gardens, before I was even a teenager and cared about permaculture. My Mom followed the moon cycles and never had a failed crop of anything including carrots. Peas survived the heat. Tomato’s were full of juice and sweet as well as abundant. More cucumbers, squash and melon’s than we could eat. Dad ran the rabbitry the same way. Science or not it works!

  9. If it is not appropriate to post other websites please let me know. But I couldn’t help but give a little guidance toward moon planting. This one is from India but the principles still hold true because we are all on Earth. http://www.biodynamics.in/RhyFrm.htm, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen lately.

  10. Charles Dowding has done some research concerning planting just before or just after full moon: see http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/learn/moon-sowing/

    There is also evidence out there that, the further away from the equator you go, the more pronounced is a temperature rise around full moon, it being most prevalant in places like Alaska, noticeable in Europe, but not in the tropics. See: Robert C. Balling and Randal Cerveny (1995) The influence of lunar phase on daily global temperatures Science 267 1481-1482. At the time of year when you are sowing, this may translate into increased germination/seedling survival if sowing occurs just before full moon, but I’ve not seen data where the two events (namely temperature at sowing and crop outcome) are correlated.

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