Planting by the moon, otherwise known as lunar planting or “planting by the signs” is an ancient art (or superstition, depending on who you ask). I first read about this practice in the Foxfire books and thought it seemed kind of silly, but the more I read the more intrigued I became. The only argument that moon planters have is “don’t knock it ’til you try it” so I tried it in my garden last year. The vegetables I planted “by the signs” tended to be hardier and produce more. Granted, this could all be in my imagination. In some ways it’s like practicing/following feng shui. It’s something we do because it feels right. I think that doing any kind of mysterious practice like this opens a side door of your consciousness, allowing your intuition to pick up on ideas or solutions to problems that you wouldn’t logically figure out otherwise.
Lunar planting is based on the gravitational pull of the moon. We know that the ocean tides are influenced by the phases of the moon. Dallas Murphy talks about this in chapter 4 of his book To Follow the Water . The Lunar Planting Theory is that the soil and water in the ground are also influenced by the pull of the moon. Below-ground vegetables should only be planted and harvested during the dark of the moon (when it is waning) and above-ground vegetables should only be planted and harvested during a waxing moon. That is the extent of my understanding of it. The Foxfire Book goes into much more detail about how it all works. National Geographic also did an article on lunar planting in July 2003. Click here to read the article.
One other reason that I like to plant by the signs is that I like to have a schedule to follow. It’s very helpful for me to have something tell me “all you should do today is weed”. Then I get my weeding done and I know my work is done for the day. This way I don’t feel so overwhelmed with all the myriad projects that could possibly be done that day. I think it would be fun to find out when you should do laundry or other household chores too but I haven’t found a source to tell me that.
If you are interested in trying this, here’s what I do. I have a calendar that I use just for gardening and I mark the days on it when the moon is waxing (from the new moon until it is full) or waning (from full back to new) so I know if I should be planting roots or leafies (my shortened words for below or above-ground crops). I also get out my Old Farmer’s Almanac (for the 2009 Almanac, see pages 230-232) and mark which days should be for planting or which days should be for weeding or pruning (of course keeping in mind the frost dates), like this:
Click here to view a larger version.
I’m glad to be a part of the moon planting revival, if for no other reason than it preserves a little bit of the past. All I can say is… don’t knock it ’til you try it!
Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper/library assistant at OWL and is currently humming the song Three Little Birds by Bob Marley…