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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Moon

In addition to the "Zodiac Man", the almanac calendar also provides us with the Moon phases.  Since the beginning of agriculture, people have used the Moon phases as an aide/guide in planting.  What some may see as folklore, the idea of gardening by Moon phases is grounded in science. 

As most of us learn sometime during our schooling, the Moon influences the earth's gravitational field.  It is most evident when we go to the beach and experience the ocean's high and low tides.  That same effect happens in the soil.  It is not as evident as the tides, but the Moon also pulls the moisture in the soil. 

The Moon's four phases/quarters and how they relate to gardening:

First Quarter starts with the New Moon (the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight) and continues with the Waxing Crescent (Moon is partly illuminated by direct sunlight...but less than half).  The New Moon creates an increased gravitational pull, which pulls moisture closer to the surface.  This combined with the increasing moonlight, makes this a good time to plant above ground annual crops that produce seeds outside the fruit.  Examples:  lettuce, spinach, cabbage, grains.

Second Quarter starts when one-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight and continues with the Waxing Gibbous (the Moon is more than one-half, but not fully, illuminated by direct sunlight...and continues to gain illumination over the nights to come).  The Moon's gravitational pull is lessening but there is increased moonlight.  This is good for strong leaf growth.  It is still a good time for planting (supposedly two days before the full Moon is an especially good time).  Plants that prefer the second quarter planting are above ground annual crops that produce seeds within their fruit.  Examples:  okra, tomatoes, beans, squash. 

Third Quarter starts with the Full Moon and continues with the Waning Gibbous (the Moon is less than full and is decreasing in illumination).  After the Full Moon, the moonlight and gravitational pull begins to decrease.  At the beginning of this process the gravitational pull is still high, so the moisture level is still at a higher point.  This is a good time to plant root crops.  Examples: potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots.

Fourth Quarter starts when on-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight and continues with the Waning Crescent  (the Moon is more than one-half, but not fully, illuminated by direct sunlight...and continues to lose illumination over the nights to come).  There is much less gravitational pull and moonlight during this phase.  This is considered the resting period.   Not a good time for planting, however it is considered a good time to harvest, transplant, or prune.

In addition to Moon phases, the almanac calendar or Farmer's Almanac takes into account how the signs of Zodiac influences gardening by the moon.  That will be addressed in a future blog.

This week's almanac calendar:


The Full Moon was on the 15th, so we are progressing to the Waning Gibbous.  The signs start the week off in the Waterman (the legs) and then progresses to the Fishes (the feet) before ending with the Ram/Bull (head/neck).

17th & 18th Good days for killing weeds, briars, etc.  Poor for planting.
19th & 20th Good days to plant root crops or transplanting.
21st & 23rd Resting period.  Not good for planting.



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