When gardening we take great care
- in selecting quality seeds,
- maintaining living organic soil, and
- choosing suitable locations and companions for our plants.
So why not take the extra care to determine the best times for sowing seeds and transplanting starts using the cycles of the moon? We can’t ignore this quiet force. Tuning in to these “subtle” factors helps us determine suitable times to work with our plants for maximum growth and health.
In my early years of learning to work with plants, I’ve made many many mistakes. WOW! Lots of errors, self doubt, and time invested… And I find that I’m still learning. But the greatest gift I’ve received is becoming a great problem solver. One year I planted a small plot and it all flourishing with no issues. So the following year when I consulted my gardening journal and replicated the same timing and practices my garden was not vibrant and abundant AND I worked harder.
I asked myself: “What The Fava beans was going on?”
That winter I went to the library (when that was a thing folks did) and found a great book – Astrological Gardening by Louise Riotte. It introduced me to a whole other side of plant work and guided me to utilize the unseen energies found in nature to achieve gardening success. I discovered the practice of using the cycles of the moon to plant.
Working with the phases of the moon to determine optimal times for seed starting and transplanting is an aspect of biodynamic farming made popular by Austrian philosopher and educator Dr. Rudolf Steiner during the 1920’s. As a response to noticing a decline in the nutritional value and yields of European crops because of the introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Steiner developed the principals of biodynamic farming. He wanted to return farming to more gentle, diverse, and organic practices as a remedy to the damages done by an emerging synthetic and chemical farming industry in Europe.
Rudolf Steiner taught that in order to create holistic growing environments the following factors need to be considered:
- the growth rate of plants,
- the synergistic balance of their environments and nutrients,
- their proximity with other plants,
- their various companion relationships, and
- working with the phases of the moon for starting seeds and transplanting seedlings.
Forces of the Moon
Lunar gravitation tugs at us all! It produces high tides in the oceans and effects the pull of water in soil. Seed starting and transplanting during a new moon or full moon boost the forces of nature including gravity, light, and magnetism.
The best time to take advantage of the moon’s increasing forces is at a new moon. We plant short and extra long germinating seeds 2 days before the new moon lunar tide forces are stronger. Short germinating seeds include: beans, beets, cabbage, and lettuce. Long germinating seeds include: artichoke, bunching onions, garlic, and potatoes. This gives our seeds time to absorb water so when the force exerted on the water in the seed by the new moon occurs, it creates a “tide” that helps burst the seed coats open to speed up germination.
During the full moon (and up to seven days after) we transplant our seedlings into larger containers or to their final places in garden beds or containers. We also start more long germinating seeds like some pumpkins and parsley and a majority of our flowers. Within 28 days we find that if a seed is viable it will burst its coat and eventually catch up to it’s “older siblings”. Both lunar gravity and earth gravity affect root growth and leaf growth… We need healthy growth to produce good food.
Astrological Moon Signs
The moon transitions into a different zodiac sign every few days. Here is a quick look at the influences of the moon in each zodiac sign.
Moon in Aries
Used for destroying noxious growth and pest. Good for cultivating, plowing, tilling. Also a good harvest sign. Plants cultivated when the moon is in Aries are quick to bolt (or go to seed).
Moon in Taurus
Good for all root crops (like potatoes) where quick growth is an advantage. Beneficial for lettuce, cabbage and similar leafy vegetables. Taurus is also advantageous for transplanting.
Moon in Gemini
Used for destroying weeds and pest. Good for cultivation and for harvesting. Do not transplant in Gemini. Generally it is a poor planting sign for the exception of melons.
Moon in Cancer
For moon planters Cancer is the most productive sign, ruling the principles of growth in green foliage, stalk, leaf, or vine. Under this fruitful sign seeds germinate quickly. It it also used extensively for planting and irrigation.
Moon in Leo
Good for harvesting fruit and root crops. It is considered the most barren sign and is used for killing weeds and other unwanted plants. Not a good sign for transplanting seedlings.
Moon in Virgo
Do not plant or transplant vegetables. Virgo is favorable for vine growth. Good for plowing after crops come up in order to control weeds and destroying pests.
Moon in Libra
Used for planting many crops including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, eggplant, lettuce, peas, potatoes, squash, and watermelons. It is also the best sign for planting flowers. Seeds planted in Libra produce vigorous pulp growth and root development.
Moon in Scorpio
Good for transplanting and planting all crops but especially tomatoes. Do not harvest root crops- they may rot. Scorpio is also a good sign for irrigation. Good for planting flowers and berries.
Moon in Sagittarius
Good for planting fruit crops. Fairly good for cucumbers. It is also a good harvest sign and fruits picked in Sagittarius – like apples and pears keep well.
Moon in Capricorn
This sign is somewhat productive and favors root crops such as beets and potatoes. It is also a good time to apply organic fertilizers. Also good for grafting and pruning – for the wood heals well. Ideal for planting ornamental trees and shrubs.
Moon in Aquarius
Used for plowing and destroying weeds and pests. Good for harvesting fruit and root crops. Seeds planted in Aquarius does not grow well and is likely to rot. It’s a good time for cloning plants. The onion family benefits from being planted and transplanted under the moon in Aquarius.
Moon in Pisces
Used for planting and transplanting and is especially good for root growth. This is the best time for planting in dry soils where deep root penetration is needed.
Each sign will keep you busy in the garden working on a specific chore that benefits from using the guidance of the moon. Combining moon signs with the phases of the moon to set up your garden chore calendar helps to take advantage of the forces of the moon for optimal success.
We find that by utilizing this timing strategy of planting and working in our garden with the moon we’ve maintained healthy and quality plants through out their entire growth cycle. Of course there are times when we can not stay on schedule and we have noticed some seeds take a bit longer to germinate than the same variety planted at the proper time in the cycle. By their own timing seeds still burst open when their time is right if they are viable and transplanted seedlings survive if they have strong roots. Like anything we nurture, you make sure all needs are met – and for seeds and seedlings that includes moon light (or the lack of).
If you’re interested in trying out gardening with a little help from the moon we’ve found a lunar gardening calendar to get you started on gardening with the moon.
Give it a try and let us know how it goes for you. We will also keep you posted on our moon gardening adventures!
“Astrological Gardening” by Louise Riotte, copyright 1989 by Storey Communications, Inc., published by Wings Books, Pownal, Vermont.
“How to Grow More Vegetables” A Primer on the Life-Giving Biodynamic/French Intensive Method of Organic Horticulture by John Jeavons, copyright 1982 by Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula, published by 10 Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.