Planting herbs based on the phases of the moon is a practice that many ancient cultures and modern gardeners alike have followed. Each phase of the moon lasts approximately seven days and each phase exerts a slightly different effect on plants and the environment.
Several possible planting cycles exist. The synodic cycle bases planting on four quarters or phases of the moon. The biodynamic cycle factors in the effect of the zodiacal constellations within each moon phase. Finally, the sidereal cycle takes into consideration the effect of the orbit of the moon on the calculation of planting times.
During the period of the new moon, gravity increases the upward pull on water, drawing it toward the surface of the ground. This is considered the time to plant seeds. According to Vegetarian Times, one theory of gardening suggests timing the planting of seeds so that the plants emerge during the phase of best potential growth–the full moon. Gardeners should count back from the full moon and select the exact date to plant seeds according to the germination period listed for each herb. This is also a time of balanced growth between root and leaves, making it a good phase for herbs like thyme, where growth in both of these areas affects the quality of the harvested plant.
The first quarter, or waxing moon, covers the period of time when the light seen reflected from the moon is incrementally increasing. When the moon is in transition from new to full is the window of opportunity to establish leafy plants and plants that produce growth above ground. Basil and borage would be good examples.
Plants are producing at maximum during the full moon and harvest may be planned for any time just prior to the full moon through the third quarter. The full moon is also the best time for germinating plants to emerge to take advantage of the growth potential inherent in this phase of the lunar cycle.
Transition to Last Quarter
During the transition from the full moon to the last quarter (or waning moon), the moon gradually shows less light as it heads toward the next new moon phase. The moon is said to have a greater influence on moisture in the soil during this time, encouraging roots to reach deeper for access to water. This is the time to plant any items that produce growth below the ground, including root crops. Flowering bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers may also be planted at this time. Ginger and any herbs you hope to transplant should be planted during this phase, as the roots should establish themselves well. The last quarter is a resting phase, an optimal time for maintenance chores and preparation for the new cycle to come.
References and Resources
- Gardening by the Moon: The Phases of the Moon; http://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/phases.html
- “Vegetarian Times”; Herbs in Your Garden; Worden; May 1982; http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=eAgAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=extension+planting+herbs+by+the+moon&source=bl&ots=4h2QWoenu-&sig=WnEXlJVkOJX4CdKCCezATn4qI9s&hl=en&ei=LHQsTJDFH4Pu0wTxnsS6DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CDUQ6AEwCTgK#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Gardeners Calendar: Guide to Planting by the Moon; http://www.the-gardeners-calendar.co.uk/Moon_Planting.asp
- “Biological Agriculture and Horticulture”; Evidence for Lunar-Sidereal Rhythms in Crop Yield; Kollerstrom and Staudenmaier; August 2001 http://www.ballintemple.com/organic/Evidence%20for%20Lunar%20Sideral%20%20Rhythms%20in%20Crop%20Yield%20An%20overview.pdf
- Organic Guru: Lunar Planting Calendar; http://www.organic-guru.co.uk/theory/moon%20calendar%202005%20text.pdf
- Country Living & Farm Lifestyles: Planting by the Moon; http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/moon-planting.html
- PlanTea: Planting by the Moon; http://www.plantea.com/planting-moon-phases.htm
- Mother Earth News: What to Plant Now; http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/What-To-Plant-Now.aspx
- Mother Earth News: Lunar Nature; http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/Lunar-Nature.aspx
- Space.com: Moon Mechanics: What Really Makes Our World Go ‘Round; http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/moon_mechanics_0303018.html