Moon gardening or lunar gardening, as it is sometimes called, is one of the oldest gardening practices, dating back to the Babylonian era. The premise is that the earth is a large gravitational field, influenced by the sun and the moon. The tides are at their highest during a waxing moon when the sun and moon align with the earth. Just as the tides are pulled by the moon, so is water within the earth which encourages plant growth in this moon phase as well.
There are four phases to the moon, each lasting seven days, with the moon passing through a complete cycle every twenty-nine days. A waxing moon refers to the first two quarters, between the new and the full moon when light is increasing. In this phase, the moon will show itself as a right-handed crescent approaching a full moon. This period is a good time to graft fruit trees, plant evergreen, and deciduous trees, fertilise and sow the seeds of plants that grow above the ground. A waning moon refers to the last two quarters after the full moon when light is decreasing. A left-handed crescent is evidence of these phases as it approaches a new moon. Eliminating slugs, cultivating weeds, pruning, and planting, because of active root growth at this time, are advisable during this phase.
Lunar gravity pulls water up from the earth on a new moon, the first quarter. Combined with increasing moonlight this is a good time for balanced root and leaf growth. Annual crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit are best planted now. These crops include celery, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, grain crops, and cucumber (although this is an exception to the rule).
The gravitational pull on the earth is lessened in the second quarter, as it approaches a full moon but moonlight is still strong encouraging strong leaf growth. Two days before the full moon is a good time to plant crops whose seeds form inside the fruit and grow above the ground such as beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, squash, and melons. Seeds absorb the most water from the earth during this quarter as well. Mowing lawns at this time encourages lawn growth.
As the moon wanes, in the third quarter, energy lessens. The gravitational pull is still high but moonlight decreases putting energy into the roots of plants, an opportune time therefore to plant root crops. Planting perennials, biennials, and bulbs, or transplanting seedlings will also be beneficial at this time because of the active root growth. Pruning is typically done in this quarter, in the sign of Scorpio.
The fourth quarter of the moon is considered a resting period. There is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight and subsequently, it is the best time to cultivate, harvest, transplant and prune. To retard lawn growth, lawns should be mown in the third or fourth quarter. Happy gardening!