Moon phases

Did you make a new year's resolution to try something new this year in your garden? How about gardening by the moon? Science tells us how tides are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon: they are highest when the sun and moon are lined up with the earth at the time of the new and the full moon. Likewise, the moon is thought to affect the moisture level in the soil and plants during that same lunar cycle, making it more advantageous to engage in certain garden chores throughout the month. Moon gardening is simply believing in that concept and timing your gardening activities accordingly.

Swiss chard
Swiss chard

If you're game, here are a few things to keep in mind:

The lunar month starts with the crescent shaped new moon, which in the northern hemisphere is that sliver on the right side of the moon in the night sky. It grows in size to the first quarter and then to the full moon, getting brighter along the way. These are the waxing phases of increasing light and moisture: the time to sow seeds of things which grow above ground, e.g., leafy veggies like Swiss chard. This is also the time to fertilize, plant trees and shrubs and work on houseplants.

Apricot parrot tulip
Tulip Apricot Parrot

The moon then decreases in light as it shrinks to the third quarter and finally to the other crescent of the fourth quarter on its way to another new moon. These last two waning phases are when moisture ebbs and when energy is directed to the ground so it's the right time to plant, harvest, and transplant root vegetables like beets and plant bulbs - think tulips and daffodils, even garlic. This is considered a dormant time when sap is less likely to flow making it a good time to prune and weed, and also to cut grass so it won't be stimulated to grow more rapidly.

An internet search will reveal much more information including calendars and glowing anecdotal information from gardeners around the world who enthusiastically embrace this gardening style. Maybe it's for you in 2017.

by Lorraine Ballato, Garden Writer, Author