I have always been curious about the topic of Lunar Gardening. After watching a TV show where they compared two vegetable plots. Both had the same growing conditions and the only difference being one was planted according to the moon phase and the other they planted whenever they felt like it. Amazingly the moon planted one looked like the amazon rainforest in comparison to the other. I decided to try it during the 2013/2014 growing season as well as doing some research.
Lunar gardening is based on the gravity effects of the moon on the Earth. All objects in the universe have gravity, not just planets, but animals/plants have gravitational effects on one another too! The impact of this gravity depends on size and proximity, thus we (humans) are stuck to the earth, which is far greater than our bodies. Also the gravitational pull between two people becomes so small (relative to the Earth) that it has no effect at all. This applies to the relationship of the Earth, the sun and the moon. The Sun is very large, keeping the solar system and all its planets in check. The moon exerts a gravitational pull on the Earth; where the Earth is larger and keeps the moon in orbit, whereas the moon pulls on the large water bodies of the Earth. This creates bulges of the ocean at opposite ends of the Earth, depending on the position of the moon, also known as the tidal forces. This causes the elevation or reduction of the ocean levels and causes ocean tides. The same can be applied to unseen water bodies of the earth, such as the water table below the ground and soil moisture. This creates a lunar water cycle in the soil, where more or less soil water is available to growing plants – and in turn affects their growth.
Phew! Hold on a little longer, some more physics to come! Now then, the moon has different phases during the month. This is due to the locked orbit of the moon. The moon rotates around its own axis once it completes an orbit around the Earth – this means the moon is in a sidereal revolution or synchronous orbit to the Earth – and has the same side facing the Earth at all times. Trying to visualise this just makes my head spin… Anyways, the moon goes through phases as it orbits the Earth, depending on how much sunlight it receives. The moon takes 27 days, 7 hours and 43 minutes to orbit the Earth and equates approximately to an Earth month.
What does all of this mean for growing plants? Lunar light and gravity will determine certain gardening jobs throughout the month.
1. New Moon to 2nd Quarter
Balanced root and leaf growth due to this phase having the strongest gravitational pull & increasing light.
Sow: Above ground growing crops with ‘outside seeds’
Plant: Annuals (leafy veg, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery & grains), parsley & most herbs, and cucumbers (the exception to outside seeds).
Jobs: Fertilise, graft & prune to promote leaf growth
2. 2nd Quarter to Full Moon
This phase promotes leaf growth, since the moonlight increases and the gravitational pull decreases.
Sow: Above ground growing crops with ‘inside seeds’, preferably two days before the full moon.
Plant: Flowers, annuals on vines (squash, pumpkins) and Solanaceae family (capsicums, tomatoes, eggplant), legumes (peas, beans)
Jobs: Prune to promote leaf growth
3. Full Moon to 3rd Quarter
Moonlight is decreasing and the moon has a high gravitational pull.
Sow: Below ground growing; root and bulb crops. Shrubs, trees, biennials and perennials
Jobs: Transplanting and prune to reduce leaf growth (to shape plants)
4. 3rd Quarter to New Moon
Moonlight and gravitational pull are low, no planting is done, but all the other gardening jobs can be done during this resting time.
Jobs: Harvesting, weeding, pest control, removal of plants, turn the soil, start composting piles and prune to reduce leaf growth (to shape plants).
NOTE:No planting on the day the moon is “in phase” – thus no planting on the day of the full moon, new moon or quarters.
Now most of it makes sense, except the harvesting part – so you are going to go hungry or let ripe fruit go to waste for most of the month!!! So maybe we just then harvest when we need to rather, unless I am missing something.
You can also combine the moon phases with the Zodiac and elements, but then it becomes all too complicated if you ask me…
I think it is fine to try this strict sort of lunar gardening when you really have the time. But I feel that the garden should fit around your schedule and not rule your life. I tried for about two months and gave up because I can only garden when I have time (which usually does not align with the moon) and lunar-gardening then just takes over your life!
I will post a follow up in 2018 on the Biodynamic Planting Guide that I use instead of this strict lunar gardening approach (the biodynamic calendar includes the lunar aspects, but also considers solar and astronomical aspects for gardening as well) and does not take over your life! I am quite convinced that it helps for seedling germination.
Anyways, you can get the tables for the Moon Phases in South Africa for 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 from Time&Date should you be interested in these.
The dates and times for the phases will differ depending on where in the world you are. I got this specifically for SA; you can generate a similar one for your area at www.timeanddate.com. They have all kinds of other cool features there as well. Else you can get a lunar planting calendar from many websites. If you want a more detailed calendar for SA: The Gardener Magazine has a lunar planting guide in their current issue each month.