Planting by the Moonlight

by David Schulze

Let's talk about planting by the moonlight. We'll share what to plant during the phases of the moon also known as lunar phases.

The lunar phase or phase of the Moon is the shape of the directly sunlit portion of the Moon as viewed from Earth. The lunar phases gradually change over the period of a synodic month (about 29.53 days), as the orbital positions of the Moon around Earth and of Earth around the Sun shift.

The Moon's rotation is tidally locked by Earth's gravity; therefore, most of the same lunar side always faces Earth. This near side is variously sunlit, depending on the position of the Moon in its orbit. Thus, the sunlit portion of this face can vary from 0% (at new moon) to 100% (at full moon). The lunar terminator is the boundary between the illuminated and darkened hemispheres.

Each of the four "intermediate" lunar phases is around 7.4 days, but this varies slightly due to the elliptical shape of the Moon's orbit. Aside from some craters near the lunar poles, such as Shoemaker, all parts of the Moon see around 14.77 days of daylight, followed by 14.77 days of "night".

We see the moon and think to ourselves, "How pretty it is, especially when it is full or there is a blood moon." When I was in Afghanistan, the moon seemed really close, as if I could reach out and touch it.

But did you know that for years many cultures and farmers have used to moon the plant by?

There are two factors that have an impact on gardening. The first is the effect of lunar gravity. It is believed that lunar gravity has an effect on how much moisture is in the soil. The second one is the moonlight. It is believed that moonlight increases leaf growth.

What are the Phases for Planting by the Moonlight?

Before I begin planning, I need to first figure out what our last frost date is. It is the 7th of March. Today is the 4th of March. It is not expected to freeze here in the 78065 zip code area for the rest of March or April. There are no guarantees. But I am going to chance it and get a few things going. 

One of the things we are fighting here is the temperature. By the middle of June it will be above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and many things do not produce well in these high temps.

There are four main phases for planting by the moonlight:

  • New Moon
  • 1st Quarter Moon
  • Full Moon 
  • 4th Quarter

The New Moon is believed to help with seed germination. This is the time to direct sow above ground vegetables and fruits that produce their seeds outside such as lettuce, cauliflower, strawberries, broccoli, spinach and most greens like kale, Swiss chard, pac choi aka bok choy, and so on.

For 2020, this will be the 24 of March and the 22 of April. 

During the first quarter, which is when the moon goes to about a half moon over a week or so, it is time to  plant annuals with above-ground fruit. This includes leafy plants that produce seed outside of the fruit including greens, asparagus, cabbage, celery, endive, and spinach.

For 2020, this will be 2 of March and the 29 of April.

During the Full Moon, it is believed that this is the best time to plant above ground fruits and vegetables which produce the seeds inside. With the increase in light comes more leaf growth.This includes tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, oranges, and others.

For 2020 this will be the 9th of March and the 7th of April.

During the 4th Quarter, it is the best time to mow the lawn and harvest your crops. This may not be very practical since for home gardeners, you will have stuff to harvest at least every other day. And in some places, the lawn will need to be mowed everyday.

For 2020 this is March 16th and April 14.

During the New Moon, plant root crops. This includes carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, onions and radishes. It is also the time to plant out your transplants. 

For 2020 this is March 24 and April 22nd.

One thing that I did notice is the difference in what people called the quarters.  The names may not be exactly the same but the dates are and what to plant is as well.

If you are serious about planting by the moon, I would get the Farmers Almanac.  It seems to have the best information.

I have not found anything on growing hydroponically by the moonlight. Since gardening by the moonlight is based on lunar gravity, I do not think that it has an effect on the plants grown in water vs soil. But I will continue my research.

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