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Why Do We Garden By The Moon?

Why Do We Garden By The Moon?

Gardening by the Moon, or more specifically, according to the phases of the Moon, is an idea that has been around for as long as humans have been growing their own food. It’s becoming more and more in vogue, cropping up (no pun intended) in books, blogs, and other educational materials coming out of the permaculture movement, “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”

The Gardening By The Moon Philosophy

Here at the Farmers’ Almanac, though, gardening by the Moon has always been our philosophy, and our editions include a calendar of the best days for sowing, planting, weeding, and other garden chores, as determined by the phase and position of the Moon. Our readers have long sworn by this method of managing their gardens and crops.

But how could a chunk of rock more than 200,000 miles away affect how plants on Earth grow?

Those who swear by this ancient growing method say the water in both the ground and in plants are affected by the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon, just like ocean tides are. Just as the tides are highest during the New and Full phases of the Moon, this theory holds, seeds, too, will absorb the most water during these times.

Though the practice is as old as agriculture itself, planting by the Moon is a complex art. Here’s a look at how Moon phase is believed to affect plant growth:

Over the course of a 29½ –day lunar cycle, the Moon goes through four basic phases, New, Full, and two Quarter phases. For half of its cycle, between the New and Full phases, the Moon is waxing (growing in illumination). Then, after the Full Moon, it begins to wane (decreasing in illumination).

Aboveground Crops

All aboveground crops should be planted when the Moon is waxing. During the New Moon is the best time to sow or transplant leafy annuals such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and celery, while the First Quarter phase is good for annual fruits and foods with external seeds, such as tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli and beans.

Below-Ground (Root) Crops

Root crops do best when the Moon is waning. When the Moon is just past Full, it’s a good time to sow or plant root crops and fruit trees like apples, potatoes, beets, turnips, asparagus, and rhubarb. During the Last Quarter phase, it’s best to avoid planting at all. Work instead on improving soil, weeding, mulching, composting, etc.

But knowing the phase of the Moon isn’t enough. Planting by the Moon also requires knowledge of the Moon’s place in the Zodiac, based on ancient lore that each sign confers certain growing conditions.

For instance, water and earth signs—Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn—are said to bring moist, fertile conditions, whereas most air and fire signs—Gemini, Aquarius, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius—are said to be barren. There are some exceptions to that rule, though. The air sign Libra, for instance, is said to be a relatively fertile sign.

Some signs are also believed to benefit specific types of plants. For example, Taurus is said to favor leafy greens, while corn does best under the influence of Scorpio.

Can’t keep track of all these variables? Not to worry. The Farmers’ Almanac has got you covered! Our Gardening by the Moon Calendar has it all figured out for you. Just consult this handy guide before you take your trowel to the soil.

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  • Cjbigdog123 says:

    When is the best time to harvest sugar beets by the moon phase?

  • Skeeter says:

    What about taking succulent cuttings that have to be planted in dirt. When should they be planted?

  • Nancy Johnson says:

    Hi, I appreciate this article and I want to plant by the moon but the author wrote:

    “Water and earth signs—Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn—are said to bring moist, fertile conditions, whereas most air and fire signs—Gemini, Aquarius, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius—are said to be barren. There are some exceptions to that rule, though. The air sign Libra, for instance, is said to be a relatively fertile sign.”

    Then why on the other page of this farmers almanac website does the dates given say for Scorpio, for example, that “Seeds planted now will do poor or yield little” or “Neither plant nor sow on these barren days”. It says similar things for Cancer, Pisces and Taurus.

    And vice versa. For example, the above article/quote says that the moon in the sign of Gemini, for example, is said to be a barren time. Yet on the same page of this same farmers almanac.com website, the page containing the moon calendar always says things like “Most favorable “ for planting…( so many kinds of crops )when the moon is in Gemini.

    I know because I use an ephemeris to check what days the moon is transiting Gemini, etc.

    I don’t mean to find fault, just looking for an answer so I may understand in order to use the moon signs properly.

    Has anyone else noticed this discrepancy?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Nancy, I took a look at our Gardening by the Moon calendar and compared it with our Moon’s Place in the Zodiac chart on page 129 of the Farmers’ Almanac (and also available here at our Zodiac Calendar but you won’t see past dates).

      The dates you mention, for example, April 10, 11, we say “Neither plant nor sow during this barren time.” The Moon, according to our chart, is in Sagittarius on those dates, which is a barren time.

      On April 22-24, our Gardening calendar says these dates are “favorable for planting beans, corn, cotton, tomatoes, peppers, and other aboveground crops” because a) the moon is waxing, and b) in Taurus, which is a fertile time.

      So I wonder if it’s about your source for the Moon in the zodiac. Our table coincides with our formula so this is the basis for our Gardening by the Moon calendar. Thanks for writing and we hope this clears up the discrepancy.

    • Nancy Johnson says:

      Susan, thanks for clearing that up! I always use a sidereal ephemeris. For example, the link you thoughtfully sent says today the moon is in the sign of Sagittarius whereas in the sidereal calculation the moon is still in Scorpio sign. And I must say I just started following moon signs for planting etc this year and it’s been the most prolific production ever!

    • Amy says:

      Good point!
      Does the variance have to do with changing the algorithm to use the the weather forecasting predictions as well?

  • Jim Ingles says:

    My Dad always planted by the moon phase’s, and always did well. I plant when weather permitting, it has been such a cool wet spring, all I can do just to keep the grass mowed.

  • Beverly Nix says:

    I love your website and daily emails but the pop up ads are about to make me stop using it. Very frustrating.

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Beverly, thank you for your feedback. Ads, unfortunately, are necessary for us as a small business to help pay the bills as we offer our information for free. Hopefully, you will stay with us!

  • Glenn Lambert says:

    Does the moon have signs for better sleep??

    • JimmyJO says:

      My grandfather always insisted that the head of his bed be pointed to the North, and feet to the South.

  • Capiert says:

    Change your location (3D=xyz also includes height=altitude)
    too much
    & the results will also become (a bit) different.
    Different weather, affects the crops.

  • Capiert says:

    Mike Hulas,
    You can try growing inside (a greenhouse) instead,
    but please expect changes=differences,
    because the almanac(‘s advice) was written for (outdoor) farmers
    & all their problems.
    Indoors is a different moderated climate,
    with fewer & often more different pests,
    e.g. molds & bacteria monocultures.
    Inside is a whole different ballgame.
    E.g. Whether you are using glass or (non_UV light absorbing) plexiglas
    to allow increasing plant (energy & thus) health.

    Transplanting times (for sprouts from inside to outdoors) is also another (new) ballgame
    for it’s rules,
    due to it’s (humidity, pests, light, etc) conditions.

    Good luck!
    Maybe in the future
    someone will have enough experience (data, statistics)
    to make some helpful suggestions=recommendations,
    in a book.

  • Capiert says:

    Different moon calendars say different things
    due to the author’s location (timing, hour)
    & climate.
    Your position with respect to the universe (siderial).
    So it’s a bit complicated,
    & needs to be fine tuned
    to you.
    E.g. Temperature when, insects (pollination versus pests), humidity water.
    The final result, is a simple (general tendancy) decision: yes or no,
    preferred for whatever.
    The statistics are: either better or worse, for whatever detail.
    Often general tendencies can be determined.
    That’s what it’s all about: “arrow_scope” (“horoscope”,
    [#h], o->a, r->rr, written characters increased, & vowel’s (writing) shifted, with (increased?) intelligence (more detail).)
    =The general tendency “direction”, good or bad.
    You might think of it easiest, as a weather report & its consequences.
    =How the environment & its beings respond under all those conditions.
    Science is knowing ((reproducible) facts), everything else is guessing & belief (=assumptions).

  • Mike Hulas says:

    Would the growing by the moon also work for plants that will be grown indoors in a tent under artificial lighting. Thanks in advance.

  • Jason m callender says:

    Thank u so much for this article and the comments from people helping giving information much appreciated

  • Dee says:

    I know planting by the signs works! My Daddy, wish he was still here, always planted by the signs on about a half acre. We had so much excess, he had me carrying grocery bags full to all our neighbors, my Mother canned, and we still had more than we could eat. I miss his tomatoes! Once, I asked him why he planted by the signs, probably around 7 or 8 years old. He told me he wouldn’t the next season so I would know. When he did not plant by the signs that one year, the garden did not produce half as much. Luckily Mother had canned so much the year before we didn’t suffer!
    I’m tired of paying for stuff that doesn’t even taste like it’s supposed to at the grocery store. I’m going to plant tomatoes and a few other things this year. I didn’t realize the zodiac was involved too. I’ve learned a lot from this site. Thank you, and wish me luck!

    • CarolAnn says:

      Me too. I’ve heard of planting by the moon but it always seemed so complicated. This year I’m going to try it. I’ve also heard of companion planting and would like an article on that as well. Thank you for informative articles.

  • Jean says:

    After married and starting a family life, my first gardening “solo” my Dad happened by just as I had finished planting some pole green beans, asked “what are you planting”? after telling him, he said “Humm, Sis, wrong time, they will bloom their selves to death” (the moon was in the heart) …..Well THEY DID…flowers on the ground looked like a big snow fall, off of two long rows I barely got a bushel of beans….That made a believer out of me…IT WORKS

  • me says:

    why is there a comment section

  • Kaz says:

    Indians believe everything is controlled by the moon. Having surgery in a waxing moon will take longer to heal, most people tends to get angry faster around full moon. Dig a hole at new moon and try filling it back, there is not enough soil but at full moon there is a little excess. All proven.

  • len mison says:

    We are living in Tanzania now, having moved from the UK. We keep chickens for meat and eggs,
    3 Years ago I started to keep a daily graph of how many eggs our ladies produced, to 0ur surprise we found that on the last quarter of the moon production dropped then picked up again he the next day. We would be interested if any other members have experienced this behavior??? Many thanks for the emails, always find them fascinating and instructive, keep up the good work. Asante Sana

  • Len Mison says:

    Many thanks for producing the Almanac, I have found it Very interesting and helpful,
    Born in the UK now living in Tanzania and I keep chickens here for meat and eggs, For 3 or more years I’ve kept a daily graph of how many eggs my ladies produce, and found on the last quarter of the Moon the production drops 99% of the time, if it does drop, it is just the day before or day after, Probably due to the Moon timing and Cycle!!!! There’s food for thought. Anyone else experienced this ????
    Thanks again for the Almanac.

  • Shanta says:

    My Moon calendar has Virgo as an infertile time to plant, more for pulling weeds, pruning or harvesting herbs — “dry” tasks requiring a judicious precision. I have always thought it was the Earth exception that balanced the Libra exception among the Air signs. A further detail about the Libra exception was that because Libra is ruled by Venus, like Taurus only in a less substantive, more ethereal plane, it was the best time for planting flowers or ornamental vines, plants that look pretty. I plant by the Moon, for both indoor and outdoor plants and my garden and plants do very well. It may be they just thrive with focused attention and all these details draw that out.

  • Frank Gaines says:

    The Chinese have done this for centuries. They know what time of day to plant certain herbs (food) and what time to harvest. They know how long it takes for an herb to reach maturity and then harvest on that day. Some herbs are planted at 6:00 a.m. while others are planted at midnight. Some are harvested in the morning and some in the middle of the night. They do this so that they get the maximum amount of nourishment from the herb. Most bananas we eat are picked several weeks before they are ripe which means you are not getting very much nourishment. Most of the really good nutrients in a banana do not appear until the last 4-5 days before harvest. So when you buy a banana in the store that is still green or barely yellow just realize that you are not getting very much nourishment from that banana.

  • Joyce says:

    My dad always planted by the moon. We always had a great garden with plenty of veggies to eat! I miss him so much!

  • Sue Miller says:

    I grew up on a farm & not only planting but many other chores were done according to the moon. Dehorning cattle, castrating hogs, butchering, & many other things. Cutting hair & weaning everything from baby animals to human babies as well.

  • K Krichinsky says:

    This may not be quite obvious to some, but PLEASE inform your readers that ‘gardening by the moon’ does NOT mean planting at night. ;D

  • Stephen says:

    Here’s the one thing I don’t get about moon Phase/Zodiac planting. I get that the moon affects the tides and storms, so it makes sense that the water in your garden in in each plant and EVEN INSIDE YOUR BODY. But in the Zodiac cycle, the power of the signs alternates in a set pattern. Fire, Earth, Air, Water… ALso, each sign is only 75 hours duration and is changed by the following sign. So, if I seed a root that germinates in 14 days as carrots do, then setting them out in Gemini so they GERMINATE in Earth sign Virgo makes more sense.

    I still live by the Almanac, but if you want an Aries child, you better romance their mother between Flag Day and the 4th of July. LOL

  • railnuts start says:

    I started planting by the moon last season and had the best crop ever. My bell peppers grew bigger than ever before. Bush beans came in great!!, egg plant and yellow squash were the best ever too!! Even my pot plants grew good with some nice seedless buds.

  • Judy says:

    *Anyone who, not whom. Autocorrect was trying to be smarter than me again.

  • Judy says:

    For anyone whom thinks it is odd that the zodiac is involved, check out some history, way back when, astronomy astrology were pretty much one and the same. Additionally, I always figured if the moon can move oceans, what else might it affect? The earth, the human body, etc. It’s simply science and nature working in perfect harmony!

  • Neil David says:

    The moon is the “pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night” that the lord manifested himself as, even unto this day and night.

  • Neil David says:

    The moon is man that’s why we garden by it. That’s according to the biblical scriptures…

  • Daryl Lamothe says:

    Dr. Oz’s doctor, Rebecca Kurth, issued a warning.

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    Garcinia Cambogia helps fat burning by suppressing hunger AND enhanced fat burning.

  • Gerardo Sansom says:

    The second herbal treatment is called Garcinia cambogia extract Extract Reviews which lowers glycogen production in muscle cells and in the liver, coming from India and South East Asia, it is similar to that of grapefruit and also oranges, this is also taken 3 times daily thirty minutes to a hr before consuming.

  • Nancy Neilson (Mifarmgirl) says:

    I grew up in lower MI where the ground is excellent for farming. However my father was about to plant acres of seeds (not sure which ones) navy or soy beans or wheat. At that time the grains were stored in our barns. A triangle of farmers homes were close, they watched the # of bushel’s were taken to their barns..Not my parents but we found the neighbor lady did. Her husband asked my father how he got such a bountiful crop. My father said,” well I listened to my wife she told me to wait one day as the moon sign will be better, so I did. But, he said, I told her I was planting the seed in the ground not the moon.
    Needless to say my father counted too, comparing to other years the yield of bushels to the acre and it was much higher. Our neighbors started calling my mother to find out when was the best time to plant and they too enjoyed a higher yield.
    Needless to say, I am on this website to check the moon sign to start my seeds! Generations have found it works. I believe!
    Thanks for the article today on the website April 10th, helps me to understand more about it.

  • cecile says:

    I start my seedlings in my greenhouse on by the moon then transplant by the moon also. I don’t want to take any chances. Too much time,money and effort to mess up!

  • JGWDenton says:

    My grandfather, who was from the western part of North Carolina and born in 1900 farmed by the moon. He told me he even butched under a particular lunar phase as their was less bleeding. My grandfather always had a Farmers Almanac calendar hanging up in the kitchen. My grandma used it for best days to go fishing. That’s no fish story.

  • may whitney says:

    My Father use to always plant his garden by the moon. As a child we had some of the best vegetables you could ever ask for. My Father also tended to the farm animals by the moon. I can also remember he would check the farmers almanac before he would dig holes too put in fence post. There wasn’t much my father did on the farm before he checked the farmers almanac. Now I buy one every year and I also have it downloaded on my phone my tablet and my laptop. Thank you all for doing such a wonderful job at setting up and putting together the farmers almanac each year.

  • James says:

    to Cathy Thomas,don’t believe in using the zodiac signs??? try canning your veggies when the sign are in the lower half,say like in the bowels or lower and you’ll be a believer then.
    I’m not knocking you at all,but this was proven to me as a child when we had to can to have food for winter.

  • Donna rees says:

    The almanac was my grannies bible. She always planted by the moon and weaned her cows etc. She always had the best gardens

  • Joe McDaniel says:

    After 50 years of planting by the moon I wonder if the same applies to nurseries that start their seeds indoors. Does it matter if I start seeds inside on barren days then transplant them outside when the moon is in the right sign?

  • Cathey Thomas says:

    You lost me when you started talking about planting by the zodiac. Seriously?

  • skb1323 says:

    Why are some gardening by the moon calendars different than others? One calendar says April 10 is barren and one says it is good for planting.

  • jaqesu says:

    I agree with “gardening by the moon. While growing up, my grandparents and parents always planted by the moon. It just works! Family and friends all think I have a “green thumb”, but its the moon all the way…

  • If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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