Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
March, 2009
Regional Report

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When using the lunar method of planting, add tomatoes during the second quarter of the moon when moisture is ebbing but moonlight is increasing.

Garden by the Light of the Silvery Moon

At the risk of sounding looney, I believe there is wisdom to be found in the calendar. Not just in observing first and last average frost dates, but also in gardening by the phases of the moon.

Skeptics say lunar gardening is quaint folklore or even hogwash, but scientific study has established its value -- planting by the phases of the moon can help plants grow.

The method is based on two lunar affects: the first is gravitational pull and the second is varying light.

Issac Newton's laws of gravity explain how tides are produced by the gravitational attraction of the moon and the sun. Even though the sun is much larger, the pull of the moon is stronger because it is closer to the Earth. Tides are highest when the moon and sun pull from opposite sides of the Earth, at the full moon, and also when they pull from the same side of the Earth, at the new moon.

The forces that influence tides also affect water content of soil and plants, increasing moisture during the full and new moon phases, encouraging seeds to germinate and sprouts to grow.

Lunar light also plays a part in the moon planting schedule. The moon cycle is divided into four quarters, each measuring a little more than 7 days: the new moon, the second quarter, the full moon, and the fourth quarter. During the new moon and the second quarter the amount of lunar light increases (called the waxing moon), while during the full moon and the fourth quarter the amount of lunar light decreases (called the waning moon.)

The simplest rule for moon planting says to plant crops that produce above ground during the increasing light of the moon, and to plant crops that produce below ground during the decreasing light of the moon.

The method gets more complicated if you consider each phase of the moon individually.

During the new moon, moisture is up and lunar light is increasing which creates balanced root and leaf growth. This is the best time to plant above ground crops, especially leafy plants which produce their seed outside the fruit, such as cabbage, celery, spinach, asparagus, and grains.

During the second quarter, moisture ebbs but lunar light is still increasing which creates strong leaf growth. Plant above-ground crops that produce their seed inside the fruit, such as beans, tomatoes, beans, peppers, and squash.

During the full moon, moisture is up but lunar light is decreasing which creates strong root growth. During this phase, add root crops such as carrots, onions, potatoes, beets, and peanuts. If you grow ornamental plants, this is also the best time to plant trees, shrubs, flower bulbs, perennials, and biennials.

During the fourth quarter, moisture and light decrease, creating a period of rest. As such, it is the best time cultivate, weed, harvest, prune, and to treat plants for pests and diseases.

Of course, planting dates are not the only key to success. Healthy seeds and plants, site selection, soil prep, and careful maintenance are equally, if not more, important. But if you're willing to give it a try, lunar gardening can be a fun and interesting way to enhance your experience in the garden.

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