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Moonlight Gardening

Moonlight Gardening
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For those of us bit by the gardening bug (and who are old enough to have some leisure to indulge our habit,) pretty much any new technique to increase our bounty interests us, but how about a very old one? An idea as ancient as agriculture itself is gardening by the moon, sworn to by centuries of farmers. For those of you who are skeptics, the idea does have some science to back it up.

Since our planet is influenced by both the sun and the moon, earth is one big gravitational field, with high tides at the time of both the new and full moons. Just as the moon helps moves the ocean tides, it also exerts influence on smaller bodies of water—like those droplets in your garden soil. The moisture rises up and the soil gets wetter. Studies conducted at Northwestern University showed seeds grew better and in fact absorbed the most water when the moon was full—even when the plants were never exposed to moonlight.

(For you neophyte moon watchers, the moon has four quarters, which last about 7 days each. The first two are called “waxing,” meaning the moon’s light increases between the new and full moon. The third and fourth quarters are when the light is decreasing and are called “waning.

New moons (the first phase) cause the water to rise up by lunar gravity, helping the seeds to swell and burst open and, since there is more moonlight (light is light after all,) it helps leaf growth. That makes it a good time to grow above ground crops like cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and lettuce. Cucumbers like this moon phase, too.

In the second quarter, the moonlight is also strong, but less water is rising underground (less lunar pull) so plant annuals that grow above ground and those that have seeds that form inside their fruits like tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons. (Two days before the full moon is said to be the optimum time to plant.)

When the big full moon recedes (or wanes) in the third phase, it takes the energy with it. The moonlight decreases and pulls the energy back down to a plant’s roots. So take advantage of that lunar leverage and plant root crops like carrots, potatoes and onions. Also, if you are planning to transplant anything, now is the moment, as the roots have the most energy to survive during this moon phase.

You and your garden should sit the last (fourth) quarter out and rest. Pull some weeds, prune, cultivate the soil around your tender plants, harvest what has grown or just sit meditating in the moonlight.

So to put it simply: Above ground producing plants benefit from a waxing moon while below ground producers benefit from the waning moon. If what you are doing is to encourage growth, do it during a waxing moon. If you are trying to slow down growth or discourage blooming, make use of the waxing moon. When it comes to fertilizing or feeding your plants, side dress your plants during the waxing moon to give them an extra boost of energy and use slower methods (like working compost into the soil that takes a while to breakdown) during the waning moon.

You may even get more involved by learning which crops to plant based on a method developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s called Biodynamics, which bases plantings on where the moon is in relation to the zodiac/astrologial signs in the sky. This method also uses the positions of the planets Venus and Saturn and requires some precise planting times, but adherents swear by it.

For those of us who aren’t so detail-oriented, just tracking what we are doing by moon phase is enough. Since planting by the moon is not an exact “science,” it is best if you keep a garden diary. Buy a paper or online lunar diary to mark the exact moon phase. Keep track of what you did in the garden every day your garden grows and compare results to next year’s yield. (We gardeners are never people in a hurry.) See if planting by lunar cycle affects your garden positively and what a little moonlight can do.




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