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OUT IN THE YARD: Gardening by the moon — fact or fiction

By Melissa Starr

Lunar gardening is the oldest form of gardening known to man,” said RJ Harris, author of RJ Harris’ Moon Gardening.  Is gardening by the moon a myth or a rule to garden by?
I remember my grandparents and parents telling me that you only plant crops that produce fruit above ground on the grow, waxing phase, of the moon when the light is increasing, and you plant root crops on the waning phases of the moon when the light is decreasing.
It is said that the moon not only affects tides, but also the flow of water in the soil.  When the moon is waxing, “growing”, there should be more water near the surface of the soil and sap in plants is drawn up, so seeds and plants sown during this time grow more vigorously.  In addition, you should fertilize and graft fruit trees during the waxing phases.
When the moon is waning, decreasing, there should be less water near the surface and sap in plants is drawn down, so root crops fare better and soil is easier to till or turn over.  During this phase you are also supposed to prune shrubs and mow your lawn. Since there is less moisture, there should be less growth on the pruned shrubs and your lawn grows back slower.
Planting by the moon has been used by gardeners for many generations, but is there any scientific proof that it works?  I have searched, but I have not found any scientific studies that either prove or disprove this gardening method.
In 1995 researchers at the Agricultural Research Service’s National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, did research that showed weed seeds brought to the surface of the ground germinate slower in the total darkness such as what is seen during the new moon.  However, they did observe that any light source, not just the moon, will cause these seeds to germinate.
Other gardeners, such as R.J. Harris, do their own gardening experiments.  Harris plants one group of potatoes during the correct moon phase and another group during the incorrect moon phase.  He says that the potatoes planted during the correct moon phase are obviously growing better than those planted during the wrong phase of the moon.
I have planted my garden during the correct and incorrect phases of the moon, but I have not stopped to record which plants/seeds were sown at the correct time.
If you would like more information about moon gardening, you can Google “moon gardening” or look up planting dates in the Farmer’s Almanac.
Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener, Melissa Starr, at melynstarr@hotmail.com or call the AgriLife Ext. Office at (409)835-8461.