The phases of the moon are intertwined with folklore, ritual and tradition. In the world of herbalism, creating altars, setting out vessels of water to charge under the full moon and medicine making are just some of those monthly rituals and traditions. But what about planting and harvesting our herbs following this lunar cycle? As someone who likes to plan according to the moon’s cycle I was naturally curious as to how I could expand this into my garden. If the moon’s gravitational pull can affect something as large as the earth’s oceans and create tides, what impact could it have, if any, on seed germination, plant growth and medicinal quality of a plant. Lunar gardening is a practice that has been used for centuries but is it based in science or folklore? Here is a quick run down of how it all works:
The moons cycle is divided into 4 phases; new moon, second quarter, (the waxing moon) and the full moon and fourth quarter (the waning moon). The basic premise is the gravitational pull and the amount of light the moon provides during its different phases impacts plant growth in different areas. Just as the tides are at their highest during the new and full moons, the gravitational pull at this time also affects smaller bodies of water, including the water in the earth. The gravitational pull draws up this moisture in the earth to near to the soils surface encouraging seed germination and plant growth.
When harvesting herbs, including roots, leaves and bark, to tincture or to dry for teas and infused oils, consider harvesting during the waning moon. Due to the decreasing gravitational pull after the full moon the water content of the plant material is lower and will retain maximum potency and dry quicker. However, if you are harvesting a plant to create essential oils, consider harvesting during the waxing moon when oil concentration is at its highest. Other tasks for the waxing moon include; taking cuttings and propagation, grafting, watering your compost pile, and harvesting grapes for wine. During the waning moon we should start our compost pile (as it aids in the decomposition of plant material), divide our perennials, and mulch our garden.
This form of gardening following the moons waxing and waning cycle, also called the synodic cycle, seems like it could be easily incorporated into a planting and harvesting schedule and will be something I will be trying out in my medicinal and vegetable garden this year. However, astrological agriculture doesn’t stop there. In part 2 of this article we will delve deeper into the world of lunar gardening and look at how the astrological signs affect our planting and harvesting. Have you tried lunar gardening? Please comment and tell me about your results!