The phases of the moon and their impact on terrestrial life cycles has long been considered a prominent factor for the informed creation of planting schedules.  This practice remains relevant today. Indeed, an increasing number of agriculturalists utilize lunar rhythms as a tool for navigating planting periods and harvest dates (Roach, 2003). This method for guiding planting and harvesting, known as lunar farming, is supported by outcomes from investigations into the effects of lunar phase cycles on biologically pertinent processes. For example, the moon appears to exhibit tidal effects on ground water tables (Harris & Summers, 2002), germination rate (Maw, 1967), and plant metabolism (Endres & Schad, 1997). The influence of lunar gravitation on terrestrial organisms is also made apparent by work showing that fluctuations in the diameter in tree trunks is highly correlated with the timing and strength of tidal cycles (Zuercher et al., 1998).


Biological Dependence on Lunar Rhythms

The notion that shifts in lunar gravitational forces are reflected in biological activities is not surprising bearing in mind that every fraction of the earth is subject to measurable earth tides that result from interactions between the positions of the earth, moon, and sun. Plants are no exception. Trees, for example, show changes in initial growth, and states of germination, that arise in response to phases of the moon (Zurcher, 1992; Zurcher, 1993). This effect extends into a diverse variety of plants, as shown in a review highlighting the effects of lunar synodical rhythm on: root growth in sunflowers and beans; respiration in potatoes, sunflowers, and carrots; water uptake in beans; and changes in growth rate and nutrient absorption in a variety of plants (Endres & Schad, 1997).  


How Lunar Farming Works

As gravitational forces from the moon pull on every molecule on earth, it results in the swelling and creation of two tidal bulges on opposite sides of the earth, with the side of the earth closest to the moon swelled by gravity and the opposite side swelled through inertia. This same force generates greater water content in the soil, leading to enhanced seed sprouting and growth.  This idea is supported by the work of Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University, which argued that plants absorb more water during times of full and new moons. He also suggested that some plants, such as potatoes and carrots, absorb more oxygen at the time of the new moon, potentially because of changes in barometric pressure.


Tips for Lunar Farming

For the first phase of the moon, lunar gravitation is exerting a force on water opposite to that of earth’s gravity. The tides are high and the moon pulls upon every aspect of the earth. This time-period is considered to be fertile and wet. Consequently, the first phase of the moon is said to assist with seed germination and is thought to be an optimal time for planting above ground, leafy crops. As the moon continues to wax into the second quarter, a pulling force is still exerted and this time is said to be an optimal period for planting plants with enclosed seeds, such as beans, tomatoes, and peas. Essentially, both these waxing phases are suitable for transplanting and sowing any short-lived plants, and are believed to be desirable time periods for planting plants wherein one intends to harvest flowers, leaves, seeds, or fruits.

As the moon enters its third and fourth cycles it begins to wane, and thus exerts less gravitation pull with consequently decreased tides, drier soil, and an increase in downward flowing sap. For the third cycle, the effects of earth’s gravity become focused in a root-ward direction, and it is best to plant longer lived crops such as perennials, and root crops such as potatoes and carrots. At the fourth quarter lunar gravity is at its weakest; this time-period is thought to be best for harvesting, transplanting, and pruning.  Moreover, the soil is drier and is therefore easier to work with, therefore the fourth quarter is a good time to focus on soil improving activities such as soil turning, weeding, and adding compost teas.

If seeking to avoid weed germination it may help to till soil in a dark setting, particularly under the lack of light a new moon offers. This could help to reduce weed light exposure and lessen the germination of weed seeds, subsequently forming less weeds in garden soil. This argument is based off preliminary research out of Europe demonstrating remarkable reductions in weed populations if tilling is performed at night. Such work was corroborated by American experiments through findings showing up to 80% reductions in weed emergence when tillage is applied in absolute darkness (Becker, 1995). Of course, tilling in absolute darkness may be difficult, and night-vision goggles are a solution, though it is recommended to use lights pointing out above the soil instead of directly on the soil, as even tractor lights shined upon the soil could trigger soil germination.


Value of Lunar Farming

The value of accounting for lunar cycles in farming practices has carried over from traditional wisdom into empirically validated science stemming from biological and horticultural research. The critical importance of this knowledge becomes clear when we are reminded of the impacts on the environment, demands on energy consumption, and vital provisions, from medicine to clothing to food, that agriculture is responsible for. If we hope to be responsible stewards of the land, and shrewd in its development as a potential resource, then it follows to engage in farming practices that lead to more efficient use of soil and related hydrological processes. Being mindful of the effects of lunar farming can help to achieve a more efficient timing of farming practices, and can thus help to maximize yield and minimize impact.


Further Reading:

Crawford, E. A. The Lunar Garden: Planting by the Moon Phases. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989.Harris, Richard John, and Will

Summers. RJ Harris's Moon Gardening: The A-to-Z of the Cornish Head Gardener's Way of Producing Common Soft Fruits and

Vegetables...: for Beginners at Gardening: for Beginners at Moon Gardening. Really Useful Books, 2002.



Becker, Hank. "Nightmare in tilling fields--A horror for weed pests." Agricultural Research 43.12 (1995): 10.

Endres, K. P., W. Schad, and G. Hildebrandt. "Biologie des Mondes. Mondperiodik und Lebensrhythmen." Biological Rhythm Research 29.1 (1998): 118.

Harris, Richard John, and Will Summers. RJ Harris's Moon Gardening: The A-to-Z of the Cornish Head Gardener's Way of Producing Common Soft Fruits and Vegetables...: for Beginners at Gardening: for Beginners at Moon Gardening. Really Useful Books, 2002.


Roach, John. "Age-old moon gardening growing in popularity." National Geographic, July 10 (2003).

Zürcher, E. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Forstwesen / Journal Forestier Suisse 143, 951–966 (1992).

Zürcher, E. in L'Arbre, Biologie et Développement. Troisième Colloque International. Montpellier, 11-15 Sept. 1995 (ed. Edelin, C.) 150-164 (Naturalia Monspenliensia, Montpellier, 1995).

Zürcher, Ernst, et al. "Tree stem diameters fluctuate with tide." Nature 392.6677 (1998): 665.