Words: B-Lumen and Caren Catterall
Old roots are often the healing new wave of the future. Regardless of the fact that most of us are out of touch with our true calling to be one with nature, this knowledge is a must for any gardener, patient or farmer.
How does lunar planting work?
Isaac Newton postulated the laws of gravity, which prove that tides are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon. The pull of the moon is stronger than the sun because, even though the sun is larger, the moon is closer to the earth. The strongest effect is felt when the moon and sun pull from opposite sides of the earth, at the full moon phase, although the pull creates high tides when they are on the same side, at the new moon phase, as well.
“The gravitation of the passing moon pulls the nearest body of water a little away from the solid mass of earth beneath it, and at the same time pulls the earth a little away from the water on the farthest side. In this manner, the moon sets up two tidal bulges on opposite sides of the earth.” (Louise Riotte, 1)
These same forces affect the water content of the soil, creating more moisture in the soil at the time of the new and full moons. This increased moisture encourages the seeds to sprout and grow.
Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University performed research over a ten-year period, keeping meticulous records of his results. He found that plants absorbed more water at the time of the full moon. He conducted his experiments in a laboratory without direct contact from the moon and yet, he found that they were still influenced by it. (2)
Rudolf Steiner was the founder of the anthroposophical movement, which sees a correlation between science, nature, universal laws and spiritual concerns. Out of this movement, the biodynamic methods of planting were developed. He established a relationship between the elements of earth, air, fire and water that corresponded to specific parts of plants. Earth corresponds to roots, water to leaf growth, fire to seed production and air to flowers. Hence, when planting crops for their fleshy roots, you would plant them in an earth sign, and so forth.
Biodynamic methods are based on the heliocentric or astronomical position of the moon. This system is more complicated and also takes into consideration eclipses, trine, apogee and perigee, as well as descending and ascending moons. (The Gardening by the Moon calendar is based on the geocentric and astrological calculations.)
John Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables, adds the influence of the increasing or decreasing moonlight on the growth of plants. When the moon is in its waxing phases the “increasing amount of moonlight stimulates leaf growth,” and “as the moonlight decreases the above-ground leaf growth slows down. The root is stimulated again.”
The healing power of plants: marijuana, medicinal herbs and the moon
Many people are growing herbs for their health benefits, whether to use in the kitchen or to make their own teas, salves and tinctures. It stands to reason that you would want to grow the healthiest plants to pass along their therapeutic vitality. Planting and harvesting by the moon will work with nature, and the natural rise and fall of vital forces, to make sure your herbs are getting optimum growing conditions. The influence of the astrological signs gives an added benefit for working in a sign associated with aromatic herbs and the flowering part of the plant. Certainly, you would want to use organic gardening techniques and not use any chemicals on your healing garden.
The best astrological sign for planting herbs and aromatic and beautiful flowers is the air sign of Libra. This sign can be used to encourage growth in plants that are harvested for their blooms. Virgo rules and benefits the growth of all medicinal plants. Plant seeds in the first or second quarter, when the moon is growing. The moon changes sign every two to three days and while some signs are fertile, others are barren and dry. Choose a Libra moon or the other fertile water signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. If the roots are the desired parts, they should be planted in the third quarter when root growth is encouraged.
Harvest in the air signs when the moon is waning
Harvesting at the correct time will help retain the most nutrition, essential oils, aromas and healing qualities of the plant. Cut flowering herbs when they just begin to open, waiting until late morning, after the dew has dried. The best time to harvest is just after the full moon, when the sap is high but the energy has just turned downwards. At this time, the fluids are drawing down into the roots, taking the moisture from the plants and making them easier to dry. You can harvest in the third or fourth quarter, as the moon is waning, in an air or fire sign (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Sagittarius or Aquarius). Harvest seeds in an air sign when they turn brown. Hang bunches of herbs in a warm dark room with ventilation or in brown paper bags with holes punched in them. Process and dry quickly to retain vital oils and store in a dark jar with an airtight lid in a cool place.
Medicinal herbs work by purging toxins, building immunity or strengthening an organ or system to promote healing. Herbs can have side effects and contraindications and this article just touches the surface, so become informed and work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Generally they are safe, gentle and effective in promoting balanced, whole body healing. It is easy to make your own medicine at home from your homegrown, organic, moon-potent herbs.
Growing medicinal herbs in your garden
Here is a list of some medicinal herbs that you might consider growing in your garden. Many of them are easy to grow and beautiful flowers too, doubling their value in your garden.
Marijuana: Medicinal marijuana (cannabis) treats many conditions of chronic pain, arthritis, glaucoma, asthma, anxiety and premenstrual syndrome. It is valuable to AIDS patients or those undergoing chemotherapy as it counteracts the side effects of nausea, lack of appetite and unintended weight loss. Harvest the flowering buds in an air sign in the third or fourth quarter. It can be inhaled (preferably with a vaporizer) or consumed as an extract in foods or capsules. Take cuttings for clones in the third quarter of Capricorn. Note: Marijuana is only legal to grow in states with medical marijuana laws and with a physician’s approval.
One very important thing to understand is the method and the reason for performing these specific tasks; there are several different methods so it is crucial you use the right method to orchestrate your schedule. We’re going to look at the method developed by Louise Riotte. Remember, biodynamic timing is totally different than the method discussed here. We are using tropical timing.
The moon moves through the signs of the zodiac in the heavens every couple of days. Different signs are associated with an element of earth, air, fire or water. When the moon is in a water sign, it is the most fertile time for planting. Different types of plants have favorite signs too. For example, leafy plants prefer the water signs. The fertile water signs are Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio, and are best for planting aboveground leafy annuals.
Planting by the signs
The earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) are also very fertile and good for planting. The root is the part of the plant associated with earth signs, so it is especially good for planting root crops, or for transplanting to encourage root development.
Air signs work well for some plants, but are generally barren and dry. Libra is an exception to that rule and is semi-fertile and good for blooming flowers and herbs. Flowers are the part of the plant associated with air signs. Melons like Gemini, and onions respond well in Aquarius. When the Moon is in an air sign it is a good time to harvest and cultivate.
The fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are very barren and dry, but may be used for crops grown for their seeds. Because it is barren, Leo is a good sign for weeding and cultivation, so seeds won’t sprout. It is also good to harvest during a fire sign.
Some plants have better results with a certain sign or element. Other garden chores have preferences for signs also, such as pruning in Scorpio and weeding in Leo. Harvesting in the dry air and fire signs in the fourth quarter helps preserve fruits and vegetables for storage. Between signs, the moon is void, of course, which is a good time to take a break and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor!
Note: The astrological signs used for planting should not be confused with the astronomical constellations that the moon travels through.
Aries- A fire sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests.
Taurus- An earth sign. Productive and moist. Second best for planting and transplanting. Good for root crops and potatoes, especially when hardiness is important. Also a good sign for leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach.
Gemini- An air sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Melon seeds respond well in this sign.
Cancer- A water sign. Very fruitful and moist. The best sign for all planting and transplanting. Also good for grafting and irrigation.
Leo- A fire sign. Very barren and dry. Cultivate, harvest root and fruit for storage. An excellent time to destroy weeds and pests in the fourth quarter.
Virgo- An earth sign. Barren and moist. Some flowers and vines are favored by it. Cultivate and destroy weeds and pests.
Libra- An air signs. Semi-fruitful and moist. Best sign for planting beautiful and fragrant flowers, vines and herbs. Good for planting pulpy stems like kohlrabi and root crops.
Scorpio- A water sign. Very fruitful and moist. Best planting sign for sturdy plants and vines. Tomatoes like to be transplanted in Scorpio, and it is a good sign for corn and squash. Graft or prune in the third or fourth quarter to retard growth and promote better fruit. A good sign for irrigation and transplanting.
Sagittarius- A fire sign. Barren and dry. Harvest roots and onions for storage, and plant onion sets and fruit trees. A good sign in which to cultivate the soil.
Capricorn- An earth sign. Productive and dry. Good for planting potatoes and other root crops, and for encouraging strong hardy growth. Good for grafting and pruning to promote healing, and for applying organic fertilizer.
Aquarius- An air sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Good for planting onion sets.
Pisces- A water sign. Very productive and moist. Second best sign for planting and transplanting. Especially good for root growth and irrigation.
For the most complete lunar gardening info, I recommend Caren Catterall. Info used with permission of the author. Check her out at GardeningByTheMoon.com
Moon phases and the natural growth cycle of plants: the complete sequence of moon phases in a lunar month
The moon rotates through a complete phase sequence every 29 days and this constitutes a lunar month. For moon gardening purposes, this cycle is divided into four quarters, or phases, with each phase affecting plant growth in a positive or negative way. This method of agriculture has been handed down through the ages as an effective way to plan your garden chores.
The lunar month
The term “moon phase” refers to the moon’s shape as it is viewed from earth during the lunar month. Planting by the phases of the moon is an ancient method of planting, working and harvesting the garden in tune with nature. (See below.) Full Moon – Third Quarter Moon – New Moon
Gardening during a full moon
The full moon stands for illumination and completion. Harvesting is best performed during a full moon. At this time, plants, especially herbs, are at their peak of flavor and nutrition (i.e. medical herbs gathered under a full moon are said to have great powers). So if your crops have fully matured, use this moon phase as a time for reaping the bounties of nature.
Soil amendments are often applied during this time. Fertilizers seem to work best when applied during a full moon or new moon. Prepare the planting beds for your root crops now and they will be ready for action as the full moon begins to wane.
The Harvest Moon
The harvest moon is not a normal full moon. It rises and falls differently than at other times of the year. Normally the moon rises about 50 minutes later each 24 hours. At the autumnal equinox, the day-to-day difference in the local time of moonrise is only 30 minutes. This means that the harvest moon rises at sunset during the autumnal equinox.
Waxing phases of the moon
Increasing Light: New Moon – Second Quarter Moon – Full Moon
Garden chores to do during these phases of the moon:
NOTE: These are general guidelines
- Sow seeds of plants that grow aboveground
- Repot and groom houseplants
- Graft fruit trees
- Plant evergreen and deciduous trees
Waning Phases of the Moon
Decreasing Light: Full Moon – Third Quarter Moon – New Moon
Garden chores to do by these phases of the moon:
NOTE: These are general guidelines.
– Plant crops that grow below the ground, such as potatoes and carrots
– Plant bulbs
– Cultivate weeds
– Plant biennials and perennials because they need strong roots
– Eliminate slugs
– Prune shrubs