Moon Gardening — What is that? You may ask. It sounds like some sort of psychedelic experience, doesn’t it? Or maybe something out of a sci-fi story!
Well, as I learned, it’s neither — It’s actually an ancient method of working with the earth’s natural connection to the moon to harness the best gardening outcome. Far out!
So, how exactly does moon gardening work?
As we know, plants rely on light to flourish. They also hold onto water within their roots and leaves for growth. But what’s the connection? Well, it’s thought that just like the tides in the ocean, groundwater also increases and decreases depending on the moon’s phase, making certain times ideal for sowing delicate seeds, and other times best for growing or harvesting — which is also dependent on the amount of moonlight being cast.
By using the moon’s energy, lunar gardening looks to combine the moon’s periods of celestial lightness and darkness, along with its effects on earth’s water — both for plant circulation and ground moisture. Not surprisingly, this gardening method’s been around for a heck of a long time.
Thought to have been born out of the cradle of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, it’s believed that lunar cycle planting and harvesting has its roots. Curiously though, variations of this belief also appear across geographically distant cultures too — from the Aboriginal peoples of the Oceanic region to some Indigenous groups within the Americas and beyond.
In fact, moon gardening seems to be everywhere, from Classical Rome, as seen in the 2000-year-old works of philosopher and naturalist, Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (which also happens to be one of the largest written texts remaining from the Roman period), to the Celts of Ireland and Britain, who used a 13-month lunar calendar and believed in sowing seeds during the Budding Moon of March and April.
Similarly, many North American Indigenous communities also relied on a 13-moon calendar that was calculated and tracked using the nodes atop a turtle’s shell. This calendar was used for many purposes and helped determine when to plant, forage, and harvest certain crops, among other things.
An example of moon gardening beliefs can be directly observed in this traditional Iroquois saying: “plant seeds with kind thoughts three days before the full moon.”
Clearly, the connection between lunar calendars and gardening has always been tightly knit and widely understood by many cultures across the world — Why? Likely because so many ancient civilizations relied on the moon and astrology as fundamental to their perceptions of the passing of time and seasons.
The science behind the madness
But what about the scientific side of this age-old practice? After all, any rational person would expect to have some sort of backing behind this, dare I say, lunacy (get it? get it?).
Well, unfortunately, from a scientific front, there hasn’t been very much research made towards the moon’s effects on plants. And based on what studies have been made, many of the outcomes have remained frustratingly inconclusive, leaving some scientists believers, and others, not.
But, for the sake of moon gardening devotees, let’s focus on what findings have been observed — because they’re promising!
Let’s start at the beginning. In the 17th century, Sir Issac Newton observed that ocean tides were stronger during certain times of the lunar cycle. Through this research, he found that the moon seemed to play a large part in this phenomenon, which he called gravitational pull.
So how does this discovery tie into moon gardening? Well, since the moon affects the rising and falling of the tides, it too must affect all water on earth — meaning that any moisture stored in soil would also be influenced by lunar pull. In moon gardening practices, planting seeds close to the full or new moon is recommended since the ground is more saturated during this time.
But the question remains — does the moon really affect plants to any degree that matters?
According to a few contemporary scientific studies, some findings are quite promising.
We know that humans’ and animals’ circadian rhythm is tied to the moon, and recently it’s been observed that plants also have a cycle that’s influenced by this. I don’t know about you, but this makes perfect sense to me since we’re all connected, right?!
In a handful of university studies, it’s suggested that the moon’s gravitational pull might not have a huge effect on plant growth, but that moonlight does! That’s right — it’s been observed that the moon’s light affects plant nutrition, its ability to heal if wounded, as well as aiding in increased root growth and leaf movement since sap flow increases and decreases depending on where we are in the lunar cycle. Although it’s still not exactly clear why this happens, the findings are intriguing nonetheless.
There’s still so much to learn, but I’m sure that with more research, further discoveries will either make or break our views surrounding moon gardening — but, for those of us who staunchly stand by our ancestor’s gardening wisdom, some of these discoveries are hopeful!
How to plant by the moon
As I always say, the best way to learn and discover your own truth is to try something for yourself, and see what the results are — so, let’s take a look at how to garden using the lunar cycle.
There are four basic lunar phases in moon gardening, which can be tracked with the help of a (nifty) lunar gardening calendar. Of course, if you follow this method, it’s equally important to take into account your growing region. So, consider balancing lunar cycles alongside any seasonal forecasts to get the best results for your green space.
New Moon —
This is when the moon is least visible in the sky and is entering the beginning cycle towards becoming full. During this time, the gravitational pull of the moon is supposed to strengthen and is thought to affect the speed of geotropism — which is when gravity pulls roots down towards the earth and the plant shoots skywards. The new moon also draws moisture up from the soil, creating an excellent environment for sowing and germinating seeds for leafy plants that grow above ground, such as lettuce, kale, flowering annuals, and so forth. It’s also an ideal time to transplant such greens.
Waxing Moon —
A waxing moon is when the moon slowly becomes brighter and brighter each night until it becomes full once again. Although gravitational pull decreases during this time, moonlight increases, causing a positive effect on leaf growth. According to tradition, you should plant annual fruits and veggies which contain seeds such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries just a few days before the full moon, since this environment will help with optimal growth.
Full Moon —
During the full moon, the night is at its brightest, and, like the new moon, gravitational pull is also at its highest. These conditions are thought to be a great time
to spot werewolves, witches, and ghouls — oops — I mean, plant root veggies, perennials, and bulb plants, like beets, tulips, and potatoes, since root growth is heightened.
Waning Moon —
The waning moon is the period where light and gravitational pull slowly diminishes until the cycle starts again with the new moon. The recommendation is to use this time to support your green space by keeping the soil healthy and nutrient-rich through fertilizing and mulching. It’s also an ideal time to transplant, prune, or harvest your crops — It isn’t the best time to start any planting though.
Going back eons, people all around the world have sworn by the method of lunar gardening, and in fact, many people swear by it to this day.
On the flip side, there are the doubters, who claim the practice is nothing more than hogwash, and that there isn’t enough scientific proof for such claims.
Oh, such controversy! Will the argument ever end? Perhaps.
For now, however, whatever side of the gardening wall you stand on for lunar cultivation, only time (and experimentation) will tell — so go and get gardening!