Since ancient times, gardeners have looked to the moon for guidance in their gardens. Modern practitioners hold that planting seeds and plants by the phases of the moon yields stronger plants and more bountiful crops. Moreover, they say certain garden tasks should be done during one of the four phases of the moon — new moon, first quarter, full moon, or last quarter — for optimum benefits in the garden.
Gardening by Phases of the Moon Theories
Those who garden by the phases of the moon follow a couple of tenets, according to RJ Harris, author of RJ Harris’s Moon Gardening. Harris tells National Geographic that he’s gardened by the moon since the 1950s.
He says moon gardeners plant according to phases because the lunar cycles control not just the the ocean tides, but also the groundwater tables below us, creating optimum periods for planting and other tasks. And, he says, light is more abundant at certain times of the 29-day cycle, which contributes to germination and plant development.
Gardening Chores by the Moon Phases
New Moon Gardening
During the new moon, lunar gravity pulls groundwater up, feeding roots and causing seeds to swell. At the same time, moonlight begins to increase, creating the perfect balance for growth. The new moon is a good time to plant above ground crops like lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower, which produce their seeds outside their fruit.
The new moon is also a good time to harvest, transplant, prune, apply pest control and till your soil to eliminate weeds. Some say the weeds that are removed during this time never grow back.
First Quarter Moon Gardening
In the first quarter phase, the moonlight is getting stronger, encouraging the growth of seeds along with healthy, leafy plants. The first quarter is a good time to set out plants that produce their seeds inside their fruit, for example, tomatoes or watermelon.
Other tasks appropriate to the first quarter? This is an ideal time to do most planting and transplanting. It is also a great time to mow the lawn, if you wish to encourage new growth.
Full Moon Gardening
At the full moon, when the sun and moon align, moonlight is at its strongest and groundwater is at its highest; it is a time of equilibrium. The day of the full moon itself is not a time for planting, but afterwards the light begins to wane and plants focus on root development and seed germination, drawing moisture from the higher groundwater table. As the moon wanes, it is an ideal time to plant root crops, including potatoes, onions and carrots.
During the full moon phase, it is also a good time to apply fertilizer. Later in the growing season, the harvesting of fruits and vegetables is best during the full moon, as they reach their peak ripeness and nutritional value.
Last Quarter Moon Gardening
As the moon enters the last quarter, it continues to diminish in light, and groundwater recedes, forcing roots to grow and dig deeper into the ground. Root plants favor this period, as do trees, so planting any kind of bush or tree during this phase of the moon is a good idea. As the light wanes, so does planting, and the focus turns to maintenance, cultivating soil, applying pest controls, construction projects, etc.
The last quarter is a great time to weed and prune, and if you’re trying to slow down the growth of your lawn (to save on mowing) then be sure to mow the lawn in the last quarter. During harvest time, this phase is also a good time to can vegetables and fruits that have just been harvested, to preserve their freshness.