How does gardening by the moon phase work?

Just as the gravitational forces of the moon pull the tides of the ocean, they also affect the more subtle bodies of water - the moisture level in the soil, and all living matter. Lunar Gardening mostly relates to the ebb and flow of the moisture levels in the soil and plants.
In the lunar cycle, the moon moves through the zodiac in approximately twenty nine days. (The same cycle the sun completes in one year). The moon travels through each zodiac sign in approximately two and a half days, before entering the next sign. Each zodiac sign relates to one of the four elements: fire, earth, air and water.
Over many generations, lunar observers and gardeners noted that different parts of plants seemed to relate to (or in sympathy with) these natural elements. Loosely and generally speaking:

Root system relates to the Earth element
- Leaves to Water
- Flowers to Air
- Fruit/seeds to Fire

The approximate 29 day Lunar Cycle, measured from New Moon to the next New Moon, consists of four main phases, each around 7 days. There are two ‘waxing’ or increasing in light phases from New to Full, and two ‘waning’ or shrinking phases, after Full Moon to the next New Moon.

The general principles of lunar gardening by moon phases were determined by the first crop growing farmers mostly in the Northern hemisphere with their short growing season and noted by observation, experience, success and failure.

 Quick Guide for Gardening by Moon Phase.
• From new moon (visible sliver) to 1st quarter - plant leaf varieties, both edible and grown specifically for their leaves.
• 1st Quarter to Full Moon - sow/plant fruit and flower crops varieties with internal seeds that produce fruit above ground; e.g. marrows, melons, tomatoes, beans, deciduous fruits.
• Full Moon to Last Quarter - plant root crops and bulbs, divide bulbs and corms, plant and transplant trees/shrubs with wide root systems.
• Last Quarter is ideal for composting, fertilising, irrigation on fertile days and removing undergrowth, weeds, pests and general garden cleanup.

 

1st Phase

New moon day1 waxing/growing/increasing in light to 1st quarter

As observed from the Earth, the Moon and the Sun appear next to each other and are in the same zodiac sign. The Moon is not visible for a day or two (known as the Dark Moon) and this is considered a growth pause period, for a day or two. Yet, it’s considered as a good seed sowing time as seeds easily absorb moisture, and germinate quickly. Once the first sliver of the moon appears) and for the next 5 - 6 days to the 1st quarter phase, seed germination and leaf growth is rapid and  promoted, as the earth ‘exhales’ and the moisture levels in all living matter rises. This is therefore the optimum time for sowing leaf vegetables seeds and/or to plant seedlings like lettuce in all the varieties, cabbage, spinach and all annual herbs.

2nd Phase

First quarter moon/half-moon approx day 7 to full moon

During this increasing in light phase of the moon, plants/seedlings easily take up moisture in the soil, therefore their ability to grow flowers and fruit increases. The seeds sown at the 1st crescent moon phase have swelled and germinated and push through their first two leaves. During this phase it’s advised to sow /plant or transplant seedlings to beds the varieties of vegetables and fruit that produce their seeds inside. E.g. tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash varieties, legumes. Other recommended activities are: trim, pinch back, prune and mow to encourage growth.

Note that the 2-3days before full phase is often an excellent time for planting; especially perennials, shrubs, bushes and deciduous trees, (depending on the element of the sign and some exceptions). Other recommended activities are: Mow lawns, prune and trim before the exact full moon phase to encourage healthy growth. Harvest herbs and other produce to enjoy within a few days, as these will be especially tasty, juicy and nutritious now. Don’t harvest to store, as quick rotting is a risk.

3rd Phase

Full moon approx day 14 then waning/decreasing to last quarter

At Full Moon when the Sun and Moon are exactly opposite each other, in opposite zodiac signs, the impulse changes to waning. The upward pull of the gravitational forces of the Moon releases and moisture is pulled back down into the earth and towards the roots, the earth begins to 'inhale'. The next two weeks (phases) is when irrigation and fertilizing is effective and long lasting. This period promotes a healthy active root system. Plant root vegetables, tubers, bulbs and corms; also transplant trees, plant perennial shrubs and bushes for sturdy strong roots.

4th Phase

Last quarter approx day21,(Also known as third quarter) to new moon

The gravitational forces continue to pull inward and the moon decreases from the shape of a letter D to waning crescent, then ‘disappears’ by the light of the sun, until the next New Moon. This ending phase of the current moon cycle is the best period to harvest produce for storage or drying, also to can, freeze or bottle. Mow to tame and reduce thick lawns, hedges and rampant bushes; prune or cut back trees to retard growth, remove undergrowth and tree stumps. Irrigate and fertilise on water or earth sign days. Pest and weed control is particularly effective now.