I was excited when I was given the chance to “blog” about my favorite hobby, my livelihood, my passion: gardening! As many of us did, I found myself scanning through Facebook more than usual during the Covid-19 quarantine. One post specifically caught my attention – a Farmer’s Almanac post about “Gardening by the Moon.” No, that does not mean you’re outside at midnight with a flashlight trying to pinpoint where you dropped that tiny seed. It’s actually an idea that has been around nearly as long as gardening!
Gardening via the phases of the moon is somewhat controversial among hobbyists, some convinced ancient tradition produces healthier plants and bigger crops. Although the belief of many cultures strongly suggests the moon greatly influences plants and crops, there is no direct scientific evidence, to date, for any relationship between lunar phases and plant production. I discovered while researching for this blog post that for every article claiming the moon’s affect, I found another discounting the practice entirely. Despite the current state of the scientific literature, lunar gardening is becoming more and more popular thanks to movements like permaculture. The practice is actually quite complex, but the gist is: as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls upon the water in the ground, causing moisture to rise in the earth, which encourages growth.
The Farmer’s Almanac post was perfectly timed for me! After 25 years of gardening, I was ready for a new challenge! I was getting ready to start my vegetable, herb and flower seeds. Knowing I would have a little extra time in the coming quarantine weeks, I pledged I would only plant and tend to my garden when the moon’s cycle was prime. Would this experiment help my plants grow faster, be more bountiful, or would I even notice a difference? And when exactly do I plant my veggies?
With more research I learned the moon pulls moisture upward during the “waxing of the moon” This is the time to start planting annual flowers and vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli, marigolds, and petunias. Seeds are said to do well during this time because moisture is available at the surface of the soil.
When the moon is “waning,” the moon’s gravitational pull decreases slightly and roots grow downward. Take advantage of this time to plant below-ground plants. Flowering bulbs such as iris and lilies and vegetables like potatoes and onions are said to perform best when planted during this time.
Do not plant anything when the moon is at its darkest point; this is a resting period and plants won’t do well. However, this time of slow growth is ideal for getting rid of weeds and performing other garden preparations.
The Gardening Calendar became my preferred page. I started my seeds on days “favorable for planting crops bearing yield above ground”. I cleaned, weeded and prepared my garden on days that were best for “general farm work”. I refrained from planting on the days the Almanac warned me that they would “tend to rot in the ground”. Potatoes, carrots and onions were planted on the best days for “root crops’. My seedlings were moved into the garden on the days “favorable for transplanting”.
Three months later, I must admit my garden looks the best it’s looked in years! My petunias and cosmos grown from seed are in full bloom, and the sunflowers are nearly to my shoulders. My seed-grown tomatoes are on the verge of being overloaded with tasty treats, and my herbs are so large, some are going to seed already! I have never had the success growing seeds that I’ve had this year. There were some varieties I have tried to start for several years with no success – until this year. Now, I have finally witnessed the blossoms of my ‘Popstars’ phlox and ‘Spellbound’ petunia!
My years of experience have led me to conclude 2 things: #1- In the past several seasons I’ve worked at Wellfield, after gardening all day at Wellfield, it wasn’t always my top priority to continue gardening once at home. So, the extra time at home due to the pandemic was beneficial to my seed starting & to my garden. #2- maybe there “is” something to moon gardening…I definitely will start my seeds on a new moon next year to test my theory. So, this weekend while the moon is full, feel free to start that fall harvest!
Tammy Hopkins, Horticulturist