The Planting by the Moon Myth
January 2, 2017
This article by Judd Stone is republished from Issue 6 of Garden Culture Magazine. It originally appeared under the title, Planting by the Moon.
Many a modern gardener scoffs at the idea of planting by the moon. Surely, that’s just superstition, a silly wive’s tale from the misty past. But is it? How do you know if it’s a myth or a reality? Just because a practice is old doesn’t necessarily make it useless. What if planting by the moon is actually the newest thing to make your garden better? Maybe it’s an edge on greater garden efficiency that costs you nothing at all.
Indoor hydroponic gardening is still not a mainstream idea, although most people eat hydroponic lettuce regularly. Many even have a traditional outdoor garden, yet the idea of growing food or medicine in their basements has never really crossed their minds. For the most part, food and medicine are something you buy in a store, or your doctor prescribes it.
Not you, a reader of Garden Culture, you not only know about indoor agriculture, but you’re also hungry to learn more. You want to know what’s next. What is the newest thing that is going to make your garden better? The answer is anything you are willing to observe. Participating in garden forums and discussions with other gardeners has been a treasure trove of thought-provoking information for me. Yes, there are tons of bogus claims out there, lots of misinformation, but buried in countless posts there are rare gems of information.
I have to admit, I’m not much of a gardener of faith. I rely on scientific facts – tried and true methods to shape my gardening expectations. How my different plants will progress through their seasonal cycles is completely predictable, and 100% in my hands. The tenure of experience built is what leads to irrefutable knowledge of what one can expect… at least that’s what I thought.
About a year ago, I was participating in a discussion online about cutting edge urban farming concepts. Again, being the cause and effect gardener that I am, I scoffed at someone’s assertion that the moon had some effect on her ability to root clones. This seemed to carry a level of mysticism that was enough for me to almost totally discredit the concept. Almost. But curiosity got the better of me – I needed to know more. Maybe there was something about the gravitational pull having a bio-stimulating effect on the plant, making it easier to grow during certain moon phases. You know, some scientific facts to help connect the dots.
So, I did my regular Google searches, asked my peers what they knew on the subject. I couldn’t find even one scientific study that proved that planting by the moon had any effect on germination. I did find several less scientific articles filled more with anecdotal evidence than research that believed in the moon’s powers. I wasn’t satisfied.
I started making my own observations on my seeding and cloning of plants throughout the following year. My results were less than coincidental, and I’d support the original claims that woman on the thread had tried to relay to me. Over the span of several months, I started dozens of clones and seeds. I observed, when taking clones between 10 to upwards of 20 days before the full moon in a controlled environment, regardless of lead time, they seemed to hang up, or readily root by, or around the full moon. I honestly was hoping to find the opposite results, and go back to my science loving ways. But no, the fairy tale proved itself not a myth, but a reality via observation. The concept now deserves a little credit.
Planting crops according to the moon’s phases is almost older than dirt – a concept older than the Farmer’s Almanac itself. Recordings of planting by the moon phases go back as far as early civilization. It’s not just a metaphysical idea, there is some underlying practicality.
They used the full moon for its most simple, and obvious purpose… light. The full moon lit the fields for the advantageous farmer of old, to enable working into the night planting the crops needed to sustain the village. Obviously, this early in the season, daylight hours are short, and dry days are usually less likely than wet ones. So a nice dry day around the full moon at the beginning of the season affords the opportunity to get everything planted at once.
Fast forward to today, and there are further observations being made about the advantages of planting and cloning with the moon cycle. Is there something to it? Hard to say at this point beyond my own observations. There are very few scholarly articles that so much as take a look at it, but some are found in the Oxford Journals. For the most part, they are inconclusive, yet admit, that more is known today than when the practice took root. Based on that knowledge, and modern understanding of the moon, answers to some of these questions are closer than ever before, because the moon’s effects are predictable day-to-day, and all that’s required now is a scientific and studious observation. Naturally, this takes a lot of time, and a lot of trials based on eliminating other factors that may take effect on the outcome of observation.
We are well on our way to legitimizing lunar effect research as we continue to ponder all the unknown forces that affect all life on this planet. I gained a great lesson from this. Science does help me define why, and how certain inputs will affect plant growth. But, science can only answer a question that it chooses to, and sometimes it simply cannot, or will not. Keep an open mind. Earth remains full of countless unknowns – mysteries that beg investigation.
Top image courtesy of Diana Faria.