Friday, May 21, 2010

Folklife Fridays: Planting by the Moon

The moon is not just for romantic evenings.

For centuries, people have used the moon phases to determine when to plant their gardens and fields. Our generation is forgetting this; we have planting guides, whole books on gardening, and the weather channel.

When I was a child, not so long ago, my parents and their peers always had a Farmer's Almanac that showed the planting dates for different kinds of vegetation. Drug stores and feed stores gave away complimentary calendars at the beginning of the year, showing the proper planting dates at a glance, knowing their name would be prominently displayed all year long.

My mother would try to explain it to us; the 'sign' in the legs meant one thing, in the arms meant something else. I never understood it, but she knew it as well as we know our birthdays or Social Security numbers. She planted according to the Moon signs, unless a flood or some other catastrophe prevented it. My daddy, on the other hand, believed in planting when the soil was dry enough. Whatever the method, they grew enough food to raise a large family on little income.

Scientists have studied these ancient methods and decided there just might be something to it.

The 'Dark of the Moon' is traditionally the last three days of the Lunar cycle, immediately preceding the New Moon, and the time when the moon doesn't appear in the night sky. During this time, plants orient themselves toward their roots. With the sap rushing downward, it is said to be a favorable time for planting root crops, like potatoes and turnips, and for transplanting.

During the light phases of the moon, sap is said to flow upward, filling stems and leaves and favoring the planting of crops that mature above the ground.

Another theory is that the gravitational pull of the moon raises ground-water the same way it does tidewater. If this is true, it suggests how the moon might pull soluble nutrients upward toward the roots of a plant and stimulate growth.

If the gravitational pull of the moon affects the tides and groundwater, what does it do to humans, who are composed of from 55% to 78% water? That's a blog for another day.

My friend, Tipper, is very knowledgable about planting by the signs. Check out her blog at

I usually plant when Lowe's has a new shipment of plants, or when the seeds I sow are big enough to transpant. I have had multiple plant failures, so my method is probably not the best.

And God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and the days, and years.' Genesis 1:14 KJV