Gardening by the moon may seem like an arcane concept, but this age-old practice has stood the test of time for good reason. Rooted in various cultures and civilisations, lunar gardening takes into account the moon’s phases and gravitational pull to optimise the growth and harvest of plants. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the principles of lunar gardening tailored specifically for UK gardeners.
Why Lunar Gardening?
The moon significantly impacts Earth’s natural cycles—most notably the tides. The gravitational pull between the Earth and the moon affects water bodies and can have subtle effects on soil moisture and plant growth. This gravitational influence, along with the changing light during different moon phases, can help gardeners decide when to sow, transplant, and harvest for maximum yields and quality.
Here’s a breakdown of the moon’s phases and when it’s believed to be the best time to plant garlic:
- New Moon to First Quarter (Waxing Crescent):
- This phase is considered beneficial for plants that bear their crops above ground. The gravitational pull is lower, and moonlight increases, which is believed to promote balanced root and leaf growth.
- However, garlic is a root crop (the bulb grows underground), so this phase isn’t typically recommended for planting garlic.
- First Quarter to Full Moon (Waxing Gibbous):
- As the moonlight continues to increase but the gravitational pull becomes stronger, plants that bear their fruits above ground, like tomatoes or beans, are often planted during this time.
- Full Moon to Last Quarter (Waning Gibbous):
- During this phase, the gravitational pull is high, and moonlight is decreasing. This is the preferred time for planting root crops, including garlic. The theory is that the increased gravitational pull encourages root growth, while the waning moonlight helps the plant focus its energy below the soil.
- Therefore, if you’re following lunar gardening principles, this is the optimal time to plant garlic.
- Last Quarter to New Moon (Waning Crescent):
- It’s generally believed that this is a resting period, where neither planting nor harvesting is recommended. The gravitational pull and moonlight are both low, making it a time of dormancy and recuperation for plants.
- Traditional Timing: While moon phase gardening provides guidelines, traditional planting times based on seasons and local climate conditions should not be ignored. For instance, garlic is typically planted in the autumn or early spring, depending on the variety and local climate.
- Scientific Basis: It’s worth noting that while many gardeners swear by lunar gardening, scientific evidence on its effectiveness is limited. Many factors can influence plant growth, including soil quality, water, sunlight, and temperature.
Seasonal Considerations for the UK
Spring in the UK is the prime time for starting seeds, especially during the New and First Quarter moon phases. Cool-weather crops like lettuce, radishes, and peas can be sown directly into the soil.
For UK gardeners, summer is perfect for planting herbs, fruits, and warm-season vegetables. Keep an eye on the lunar calendar to decide the best days for planting and pruning.
Root vegetables thrive when planted during the Full Moon phase in early autumn. Late-season herbs and leafy greens can also benefit from lunar gardening principles.
In the UK, winter isn’t generally a planting season, but it’s an excellent time for planning and preparation. Consult the lunar calendar to find the best days for ordering seeds, cleaning tools, and preparing your garden beds for the upcoming spring.
Tips for Lunar Gardening Success
- Start Simple: If you’re new to lunar gardening, start with a few plants and observe the results before adapting the technique for your entire garden.
- Keep a Journal: Make a note of when you perform various gardening tasks according to the lunar phases and track the results.
- Combine Methods: Lunar gardening is not mutually exclusive with other gardening practices. Organic, biodynamic, or conventional methods can all benefit from the timing suggested by lunar phases.
If you want to align your gardening with the moon’s phases, aim to plant garlic during the Full Moon to Last Quarter phase. However, always consider local climate conditions, soil readiness, and other factors that traditionally influence planting decisions. Whether or not lunar gardening enhances your garden’s yield, many find it a fulfilling way to connect with nature’s rhythms.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!