Moon Planting - Not just for crazy garden-nerds

Have you ever heard of 'Moon Planting'? I bet if you have, you might have had visions of crazy gardeners outside at midnight with torches hunched over their garden beds popping seeds in the ground by moonlight - am I right? ( - yeah, me too). When we initially spoke with our (now) bosses, they indicated that a moon planting schedule was something that they would be wanting us to follow...and so here we are, 8 months in and moon planting like it's nobodies business!

What is Moon Planting?

Moon planting is an ancient 'wisdom', and basically means structuring your planting month around the different phases of the moon - with different types of plants 'preferring' particular phases. A lunar cycle is approximately 29.5-ish days, and the gravitational interactions between the moon, the sun and the Earth throughout this cycle create different energies at different times. It's the same gravitational energy changes that cause the rising and the falling of the ocean tides on a daily basis, and that affect a diverse range of other natural occurrences, like the opening and closing of oysters and fluctuations in the level of growth hormones in plants.

How does it work?

It's a fact that these gravitational forces exist and play an important role in our natural, water-driven world - so it stands to reason that the growth of plants, whose lifeblood is the liquid stuff, would be affected by these forces also. The four phases of the moon are New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter (imaginative, huh?), with each lasting 7 - 8 days. The first two quarters are referred to as 'Waxing', when the moon is visually growing in size, while the full moon and last quarter phases are referred to as 'Waning', when the moon is reducing in size. Generally speaking there is greater sap flow in the plant during the Waxing Phase, making it the preferred time to sow or plant leafy annuals or fruiting annuals, with the part of the plant we eat above ground. During the Waning Phase the sap flow is slowed, meaning that root crops and fruiting perennials (which have the capacity to store sugars in their root systems to sustain them year to year) benefit from being sown or planted during these phases.

(It does get a tad more complex than this, with it generally being advisable to not sow or plant in the 12 hour window around a change of phase and there being better times to apply different fertilisers and prune different plants, but as a simple guide the Waxing/Waning concept is enough to take on board for now!) 

What to plant, when?

New Moon Phase: Leafy greens like Spinach, Celery, Lettuce, Kale, Basil and other leafy herbs, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Fennel, Leek, Spring Onions.

First Quarter Phase: Beans, Peas, Tomato, Capsicum, Chilli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Melons, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Corn.

Full Moon Phase: Beetroot, Carrot, Turnip, Parsnip, Radish, Potato, Sweet Potato, Onion, Fruit Trees, shrubs like Blueberry, cane fruit like Raspberry, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Garlic, perennial herbs like Lemongrass and Mint or those that reproduce from cuttings, like Thyme and Rosemary.

Last Quarter Phase: No planting in this phase as the gravitational pull of the moon is weak - this is the time to weed, mulch, mow etc.

What about fertilising and pruning? 

Fertilise with liquid fertilisers during the New Moon phase, when sap flow is active in the upper part of the plant and uptake will occur quickly. Conversely, fertilise with solid fertilisers during the Full Moon phase, when activity is concentrated in the root area.

Pruning to stimulate growth should be undertaken in the New Moon phase - and, you guessed it, pruning to contain growth is best done in either of the two Waning phases.

So, does it work?

Well, I can't say that I've really done any scientific experiments on the efficacy of moon planting vs 'normal'. There are plenty of well documented, and reputable, sources that swear by it, and it is certainly a discipline that has been around for centuries...and from a plant physiological point of view, it does make sense. In our market garden, we're sticking with it, as we've had good germination rates using it as a planting guide.

And you know what? It simply provides us with a beautiful rhythm to plan out our month (and in fact, our year!). We can look at a calendar and plot out what we need to be planting, on what day, for months in advance. We can plan our holidays and busy periods around the monthly moon cycle and it means we tend to group similar jobs together, which from a practicality point of view is really efficient - no torches required!

Tell me, do you plant by the moon? Ever thought it was just something for crazies?

Resources

Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting by Lyn Bagnall

2015 Permaculture Calendar with Moon Planting Guide  {Pip Australian Permaculture Magazine also have a great subscription pack, where you receive the calendar with your subscription - here}

The July/August ABC Organic Gardener Magazine also has a great article on Moon Planting, and a little guide on what to plant when.