How to Plan the Best Garden using the Moon

When we dream of a great garden, all too often, we are thinking of Grandma and Grandpa, not the Moon, nor its phases and signs.

We all dream of having a garden like Grandpa’s. Lush. Green. Loaded with fresh vegetables. Our memories take us back to visions of Grandma snapping beans on the porch. And we ask ourselves, “How did they do it?”

One way is they more than likely used compost. Chemical fertilizer wasn’t available until the late 40’s, and then it was primarily used by monocrop farmers. So Grandpa used what he had on hand. Another way was constant care. The Country Boy tells of his grandmother keeping a hat and a hoe by the back door. Every morning, she grabbed both and headed to the garden.

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But they also had another tool, even if it was one they could not hold in their hands. That tool was the Moon.

Moon Phase Gardening

Using the Moon Phases and Signs for Gardening

Planting by the Moon phase and signs is as old as creation. Our ancestors didn’t have an Almanac, so they just looked up. Each phase of the moon dictated what they would plant or do.

To plant using the moon phases and signs, you first need to have at least a basic understanding of what that means.

We all know the moon circles the earth. One complete ‘circle’ equals a full cycle, and takes 29-1/2 days to complete. The cycle begins with the New Moon, and ends the day before the next New Moon.

Between the New Moons, the cycle is broken down into phases, also considered quarters – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Each quarter affects plant growth differently.

As the moon moves through its cycle, its position in space affects the earth’s water. The most common example of this is oceanic tides.

Moon Phases

Planting leafy greens by the moon phases

First Quarter – the gravitational pull of the moon is greatest during the first quarter. This is the time to plant leafy greens, grains, and other crops that produce seeds outside the plant.

Second Quarter – there is still a strong gravitational pull. This is the optimal time to plant crops that produce seeds inside the plant, such as tomatoes, squash and peppers.

An exception to this rule is broccoli. Although broccoli produces its seeds outside the plant, it is best to plant it during the second quarter.

planting root vegetables by the moon phases

Third Quarter – Although still strong, the gravitational pull is beginning to wane, which makes it a great time to plant root crops.

Fourth Quarter – This quarter works the same as the third quarter.

To make it a bit easier to remember, I think of the first and second quarters as ‘Lift Off’ – plants and seeds begin to grow ‘up’. The third and fourth quarter I remember as ‘Settle Down’, or better for root crops.

Moon Signs

During each cycle, the moon also moves through the 12 astronomical signs. Each sign lasts for approximately 2-1/2 days. The signs offer advantages, as well as disadvantages to gardening.

For instance, Taurus is considered a fruitful sign, and a good time to plant. Virgo, on the other hand, is considered barren. It is better to do other gardening chores in a barren sign, such as pruning.

Each sign relates back to a part of the body it is said to ‘rule’. This chart lists all the signs, the portion of the body it rules, the type and element:

Moon Signs Chart

AriesRamHead/FaceM - BarrenFire
VirgoVirginBowels/BellyF- BarrenEarth
ScorpioScorpionReproductive OrgansF-FruitfulWater
AquariusWater BearerLegsM-BarrenAir

Masculine signs are all considered barren, with the exception of Libra. Libra is considered semi-fruitful. Considering it rules the loins, it makes sense.

Feminine signs are considered fruitful, with the exception of Virgo, which rules the bowels. I don’t think I have to explain that one!

Each sign is also attributed to one of the four elements of Nature: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. It stands to reason that planting in a fire or air sign may not be your best option.

Considering fire can destroy anything in its path, and air tends to dry things out, neither one will help your garden to grow by leaps and bounds, either.

Water and earth signs, however, all are considered fruitful, which stands to reason. There is one exception to that rule, and that is Libra. Libra is only a semi-fruitful sign. With the part of the body it rules, it makes sense.

Putting the Phases and Signs Together

Once you understand the concept of the phases and signs, you can begin to put together the best and worst times to plant.

Planting in the first quarter when the moon is in Scorpio will likely result in better seed germination and plant growth. Planting in the fourth quarter during Aquarius won’t be very beneficial to your tomatoes.

Pruning on Barren Days

Barren Days

The days marked as ‘Barren’ are most useful when cultivating, pruning, getting rid of pests, and other gardening maintenance. It is the least beneficial for planting, so use these days to tackle other chores.

Thoughts & A Bit of History of Moon Phase & Sign Gardening

Gardening by the Moon phases and signs isn’t considered a ‘scientific’ way of gardening in some circles. There is quite a bit of controversy on whether or not it really works. However, this type of gardening has been in effect since early days.

Many farmers swear by it, and will not start their gardens until they consult an almanac or Moon phase and sign calendar. They also consult it when doing other farming and household chores.

Planting, cultivation and harvesting of gardens using the Moon phases and signs has been around since ancient times. Historical documents appear to mention farmers in the Nile and Euphrates regions to depend on the celestial bodies to help them produce the best crops possible. Still, some folks do not believe the evidence today is conclusive enough to claim it actually works.

To Plant, or Not to Plant?

Just because planting by the Moon seems to improve your garden, that doesn’t mean it is the only time you can plant. Depending on your climate and weather, you may just have to get the plants in the ground, regardless of the phase or sign.

If we have a forecast of rain on the best days to plant, I have no problem throwing caution to the wind and digging in the dirt on an ‘off’ day. I know the size of my harvest might be a bit smaller, but I would rather have food to eat rather than none at all!

Even though planting by the Moon phases and signs is definitely a viable plan, you still have to consider your Gardening Zone. Although the calendar may list the best planting date for February, it only will work for a small segment of the population.

Others may have to chip ice off the ground and use a pick axe as a shovel. Consider you planting zone first, and then consult the Moon. Not sure what your zone is? You can easily find out HERE.

Also keep in mind:  The calendars refer to the best days to plant leafy greens, above ground crops, etc. This doesn’t just mean putting the actual plants in the garden. 

You can also use this guide to start your seeds in the greenhouse.  If it is a ‘best day’ for tomatoes, then use this time to get your tomato plants started.

Scientific or Folklore?

It may not be a scientific fact, but there is at least some evidence that the Moon phases and signs benefit your garden. Just take a look back and Grandma and Grandpa’s vegetable patch.

Unless there was severe drought or flooding, there was always more than enough to eat fresh, with plenty left over to preserve for the winter.

(And it makes you wonder if there is a good chance it was your grandmother who started the tradition of leaving a box of zucchini on a neighbor’s porch in the dead of night because of it!)

Planting by the Moon Phases & Signs

Are you Ready?

If you are looking to improve your garden, try using the Moon phases and sign. It isn’t difficult at all, it just takes a little bit of knowledge and understanding of how it works. Hopefully, this post prepared you with that. Ready to take it a step further? Let me help you get started.

First – be sure to print out this FREE Moon Phase Gardening Worksheet. Add it to your gardening notebook. Use it to make notations of when you start your seeds or put plants in the ground.

Fill in which phase and sign the moon is in when you do. Then make any notes you need that will help you out in years to come. Make plenty of copies, so you can use them from year to year.

Second – I also introduce new products to my subscribers first, and periodically offer Subscriber Only information, freebies and discounts on products in my Shop.

Third – Are you interested in knowing the Moon phases and signs, but don’t want to take the time to write them all out on your own calendar? I have you covered. You can find a Moon Phase & Sign Calendar in my Shop, already done for you! This calendar runs from April 2020 to March 2021, so you can be sure it covers your personal Gardening Zone.

Other Resources

If you still aren’t sure about gardening using the Moon phases and signs, or want to read more about it, let me offer some recommendations.

First, consult an Almanac. I have used several in the past, but my favorite is The Farmers’ Almanac. Not only does the book itself offer great information, but the Farmers’ Almanac website takes it a few steps further.

Next, I recommend two books on the subject. The first is Raising with the Moon, by Jack Pyle and Taylor Reese. These authors offer detailed information on how to use the Moon phases and signs for gardening and how it works.

It also gives information on how using these celestial bodies can work in other aspects of life, from fishing and working with livestock, to cutting hair, baking and canning and preserving that great harvest.

The second book is You and the Man in the Moon, also by Jack R. Pyle and Taylor Reese. This book covers all aspects of how to use an almanac effectively. Not sure what all those symbols and squiggles are in the almanac?

Don’t worry. This book covers those Symbols, Drawings & Terms, as well as Weather Forecasts, Moon Phases & Signs, Gardening Guides and so much more.

I have both of these books, and refer to them frequently. They are the best ones I have read, and give detailed information on how Moon phase and sign gardening works. Both are perfect for any gardener’s personal library!

Get Your Seeds Ready!

Ready to Garden? Keep me posted and let me know how gardening with the Moon phases and signs works for you. If you need it, we can also compare notes and help each other grow the most productive gardens ever!

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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