Dirt Therapy: Using the Farmers’ Almanac to Plant by the Moon’s Phases

Dirt Therapy is a regular column in the Capistrano Dispatch written by GNTG founder, Marianne Taylor

Want larger and tastier produce this summer? Then you better get a copy of this year’s Farmers’ Almanac, which provides free long-range astronomical and weather forecasts, along with home and garden advice.

Founded by Robert B. Thomas in 1792, the Farmers’ Almanac has been the guide for farmers and individuals from planting crops, to watching the tides for those living by the ocean, to the creation of recipes for the kitchen chef, and just plain everyday living.

The almanac has long been known for being fun and practical. Based on annual calendrical and astronomical data, the guide indicates the best days and cycles to plant based on sun/moon rise/set times, length of day, tide ties and celestial sightings. Every year the almanac accounts for the habits, trends, weather, spirit, mood and the arcane interest of the times for generations to glean from and appreciate.

Now that the planting season is upon us, according to the almanac, our vegetables will be larger and tastier if we plant seeds by the phases of the moon, which supposedly speeds up the germination process by working with the forces of nature. Plants sprout quicker and respond to the same gravitational pull that affects the ocean tides in a successive manner, stimulating root and leaf growth. This organic practice has been followed for hundreds of years without the use of chemicals in the soil.

According to the roughly 200-year-old almanac, there are two factors that influence lunar plantings: the measure of moisture in the soil and the astrological signs. During the new and full moon, the moisture levels in the soil are the highest. When the sun and moon are lined up with the earth, as the moon pulls the tides in the ocean, it also pulls upon the bodies of water in the earth, causing moisture to rise to the surface and encouraging seed germination and growth.

The second influence of lunar plantings is followed by the use of the zodiac signs corresponding with the elements of water, fire, earth and air. There are plant preferences for what elemental sign it is planted in—it’s best to plant seeds during the fertile water signs, root crops during earth signs and flowers during air signs. The moon sign changes often from new moon to second quarter moon to full moon to fourth quarter moon.

So what does this all mean? When, where and what do you plant with which moon? Here is a simple garden guide to help you along.

Since the new moon and full moon cause swelling of the seeds, it’s best to plant above-ground annual crops that will need more moisture for germination such as lettuce, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, cauliflower and grains.

The second quarter moon has less gravitational pull, which is a time that stimulates strong leaf growth. Crops to plant at this time are above-ground annuals like beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash and tomatoes.

As the full moon begins to wane, the gravitational pull and moisture level is high, and the moonlight is putting less energy into the roots. This is the best time to plant beets, potatoes, perennials, bulbs, carrots and onions.

The fourth quarter moon has decreased gravitational pull and moonlight and is considered the resting period—time to harvest, transplant and prune.

Whether you want to germinate seeds, plant annuals by the moonlight or harvest your crop, first check out what the Farmers’ Almanac suggests as the best days for doing such tasks.

You might find it rather humorous that also listed in the book are the best days for chopping wood, getting married and potty training. Such pearls of wisdom ring true to the almanac founder Robert Thomas’ motto: “Our main endeavor is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor.”