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Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon

Jim Dixon 29 Oct 06 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Jim Martin 29 Oct 06 - 01:58 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 29 Oct 06 - 09:02 PM
Gurney 29 Oct 06 - 09:26 PM
Goose Gander 29 Oct 06 - 09:32 PM
Liz the Squeak 30 Oct 06 - 02:51 AM
Liz the Squeak 30 Oct 06 - 02:55 AM
Wolfgang 31 Oct 06 - 10:46 AM
leeneia 31 Oct 06 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,Russ 31 Oct 06 - 01:55 PM
The Sandman 31 Oct 06 - 07:44 PM
Bobert 31 Oct 06 - 07:59 PM
Liz the Squeak 01 Nov 06 - 12:49 PM
Mrs Scarecrow 01 Nov 06 - 02:24 PM
GUEST 01 Nov 06 - 02:46 PM
Jim Dixon 01 Nov 06 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Darowyn 02 Nov 06 - 10:58 AM
IanC 02 Nov 06 - 11:27 AM
Kaleea 02 Nov 06 - 12:09 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Nov 06 - 09:32 AM
Bee 07 Nov 06 - 04:25 PM
GUEST,Richie 07 Nov 06 - 09:09 PM
ThreeSheds 08 Nov 06 - 04:33 AM
Jim Dixon 07 Nov 11 - 07:56 AM
Janie 07 Nov 11 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM
Paul Burke 07 Nov 11 - 11:19 AM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 07 Nov 11 - 12:17 PM
The Sandman 08 Nov 11 - 09:53 AM
Jim Dixon 08 Nov 11 - 12:13 PM
Jim Dixon 08 Nov 11 - 04:18 PM
olddude 08 Nov 11 - 04:41 PM
Janie 08 Nov 11 - 11:29 PM
Phil Edwards 09 Nov 11 - 03:50 AM
Janie 09 Nov 11 - 07:24 PM
Paul Burke 09 Nov 11 - 07:44 PM
Janie 09 Nov 11 - 07:45 PM
Janie 09 Nov 11 - 07:49 PM
Janie 09 Nov 11 - 08:21 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 12:25 PM

Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon

My father (who was born on a farm in Kentucky in 1899, and grew up there, but lived most of his adult life in the city) believed in planting by the phases of the moon.

To the best of my recollection, here is how he explained it: For most plants, you want to plant during the waxing phase of the moon (but I don't think he used that term; he probably said, "while the moon is getting bigger"). That is, from the new moon to the full moon. But the opposite is true for root crops, such as potatoes, beets, and peanuts. If you planted those during the waxing phase, you'd get lots of growth in the leaves and stalks, but very poor roots. So you planted root crops during the waning phase, from the full moon to the new moon.

I don't even know whether he bothered to follow his own advice when he planted our little garden in the city. It probably didn't matter, because, whatever he did, we often ended up with more tomatoes than we could eat.

I assume this folklore has been debunked, since I can't find anything about it at The University of Minnesota Extension Service.

It seems plausible that the light of the moon might have some effect on plants, but the effect must be minuscule compared to the sun. I haven't done the math, but I'd guess that the sun being behind a cloud for an hour has more effect than a full moon could have during a whole clear night.

What do you think? Was any such folklore passed down in your family? How seriously did people take it? Do any serious (as opposed to hobby) farmers take it seriously now?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 01:58 PM

There's an interesting little book "The Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar 2006" by Maria & Matthias Thun (published by Floris Books ISSN 1478-1573) which I found at Irish Seed Savers, Scariff, Co. Clare, Ireland.

"The original biodynamic sowing and planting calendar, showing optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting various plant-crops, as well as for beekeeping.
Maria Thun and her son, Matthius, base this calendar on over forty years of research and experience."

Well worth getting hold of!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 09:02 PM

Thank you Mr. Dixon. Nice Thread Topic!

My family has several agricultural admonitions but they are buried deep beneath layers of citification...perhaps, your thread may dislodge a few...in the meantime.

Foxfire � Book One � 1972 has a great section on �Planting by the Signs� full of stories from the older, eastern, USA

To confirm your father�s wisdom� Foxfire�s chapter opens with, To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: a time to be born, and time to die; a time to plant, and time to pluck up that which is planted. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.

Included in the chapter are:
�Cut timber in the old of the moon. It will dry better and not become worm-eaten.�
�Set fence posts in the old of the moon to prevent loosening.�
�Purge with pills in Pisces and liquids in Sagittarius.�
�Don�t nail shingles or boards on the growing side of the moon.�

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Gurney
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 09:26 PM

I was reading something about this recently. The author was dismissive about the phases being important in planting, but pointed out that, since in the past working people worked dawn-to-dusk, then the only time they had in the busy seasons was at night, then much garden digging was done by moonlight, that being the only unemployed time that they had. It wouldn't be hard to see how a custom could grow from this, s/he said, as "My Dad always planted as the full moon was waning" is an obvious conclusion to draw.

Sorry, can't remember where I read it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Goose Gander
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 09:32 PM

Here's an article from National Geographic magazine about planting by phases of the moon


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 02:51 AM

My grandmother always had her gladioli planted at a new moon... she said it made more flowers. Don't remember her insisting any other planting was done by the moon phases but then, after 45 years in the same house, her garden was pretty well established by the time I was taking an interest, the glads were the only plant she took up and replanted each year. I only remember this because at the age of 5 or so, I helped her plant them as she was getting too ill and weak to dig the holes.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 02:55 AM

Buumocks... another half post vanished under a too hasty delete button!

She had a rhyme for planting in pots - always 4 seeds, 'one for the angels, one for the crow, one for the devil and one to grow'. Such was my granny's talent that they all grew.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Wolfgang
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 10:46 AM

In Germany, all the followers of anthroposophy follow the calendar of Aussaattage (planting/sowing days; I love the German word, for it is one of our extremely rare words with three double letters in immediate succession).

I consider the theory behind it nonsense, but I love the meat they produce, for it is produced in a healthy way and not in the standard way.

There are other producers of organic food, but most of them don't kill and eat animals, but the anthroposophist (...sophers?) do.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: leeneia
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 12:45 PM

I have grown many kinds of flowers and vegetables in my small garden. My advice is to ignore the moon and pay attention to the soil. Don't dig when the soil is too wet, or it will be hard as a rock when it dries. Don't put seeds and roots into soil which is too cold or too warm for them. The seed packet should tell you what you need to know.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 01:55 PM

Abstraction Alert!!

In the beginning is the act.
Later comes the explanation.

Avoid conflating the two.

Once open a time recurring celestial events were the only options for marking "long" time intervals.

A farmer in a place with seasons (as opposed to a farmer at the equator) needs to know two things before he does his farmerly thing.
What time of the year - month (zodiac)
what time of the month - phase of the moon


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:44 PM

I think that soil conditions are important, as are also phases of the moon.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Bobert
Date: 31 Oct 06 - 07:59 PM

Well, since movin' to an agricultural county here in the Luray Valley of Virginia I've learned that if you get 10 farmers together you will get 10 different opinions and clearly half of them will in private bad-mouth the other 9...

Yeah, I'm sure there's something (but probably not much) in the moon phases... Bottom line, the success of planting depends more on moisture and the heat of the soil...

Now, as for getting the most outta yer crops??? That's about fertilizer, proper mulch, more moisture and keeping the danged bugs off 'um...

Not to be braggin' but all these farmers gave up on their tomatoes over a month ago and I just pulled up my plants (still in cages) and have the cages (plants and all) turned upside down and leanin' against the fence and with any luck at all will get a few more ripe ones over the next week...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 12:49 PM

I suspect that's why my granfer was a dairy farmer, rather than an arable farmer....

Cows don't care about the moooooon.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Mrs Scarecrow
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 02:24 PM

I am sure that I recall seeing in the kitchen Garden magazine or possibly the organic garden magazine some time last xmas an advert for a book abbout companion planting I think which came with a free planting by the phases of the moon calender. Of course a quick look through my back issues has not revealed which issue but I can undertake a more extensive search if anyone wants me to.
The one folk rule that springs to my mind is that you should not plant runner beans outside until you can do so naked! I'm sure that could lead to some interesting sights throughout the countries gardens and allotments !


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 02:46 PM

My old grandad used to moon when he was out in the garden planting. We put it down to ill fitting trousers but the neighbours reported him to the police and he received a caution.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Nov 06 - 02:48 PM

Gives a whole new meaning to "planting by the moon."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,Darowyn
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 10:58 AM

I have heard a tradition that says that the test for whether the soil is warm enough or planting is to sit on it bare .... (having removed nether garments)
The mooning thing is not as silly as you might think.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: IanC
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 11:27 AM

I can't find the reference just at the moment, but the superstition was so well established in England that some horticultural researchers did some experimnets in the 1960s.

Basically, they sowed a fixed number of seeds at different days during the lunar cycle. To their surprise, germination was far greater when they were sown a little after a new moon, with the moon waxing.

They tried the same, with the seeds in a cellar, to achieve darkness and found no pattern.

I believe they put it down to a pattern of polarised light emanating from an increasing light source, but I don't know if they confirmed it artificially.

:-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Kaleea
Date: 02 Nov 06 - 12:09 PM

I recall once seeing on TV some Dr of whatever who said he had researched the business of tides & the phases of the moon & he said that all living things on earth are connected to the phases of our moon. This was probably at least 20 odd years ago, & boy have they been odd! Maybe I'm doing everything in the incorrect phases of the moon.    Maybe we should do a Mudcat experiment where half of us all go out & get the Farmer's Almanac & follow their suggestions as to when to do what. Then later we could compare to see if the moon made a difference. The Almanac lists all the specific days of the month & year to get haircuts, go fishing, buy real estate, castrate pigs, & etc. hmmm. I wonder if Lorena Bobbit read the date in a Farmer's Almanac or not?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 09:32 AM

Now that you mention it, I recall my Dad did say the rule applied to haircuts as well!

He said if you got your hair cut during the waxing phase of the moon, your hair would grow faster afterwards! It was best to wait till the waning phase, and then you could go longer before you needed a haircut again!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Bee
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 04:25 PM

Father in Law was a great gardener. His only moon rules related to frost - don't plant tender stuff until after the full moon in June. Harvest same before the full moon in September. And it was he that taught me to ripen my last tomatos by uprooting the whole plant and hanging it upside down in a sunny porch. Every last tomato ripens and no rot sets in. Of course, your porch looks and smells very earthy, but I kinda like that.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 07 Nov 06 - 09:09 PM

Hi Jim,

Nice topic. You're very helpful and have good information to share. I appreciate the work you do here. Thanks.

I'm as believer in the unseen powers of the universe. When I go bass fishing I sometime consult a moon chart. These charts are included in most bass mags and I'd say most fishermen believe in them.

There's a cycle for all things.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: ThreeSheds
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 04:33 AM

I thought the gardening at night arose from the fact the aristocracy didnt want to see the menials spoiling the view in the daytime


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 07:56 AM

I notice that seed packets always say "Sow after danger of frost has passed." Obviously, the seed companies don't endorse planting by the phase of the moon, or they'd say so, wouldn't they?

But how do you know when the danger of frost has passed? That would require keeping careful records of previous years' weather and subjecting them to statistical analysis—something that was beyond the abilities of the average farmer. That's probably why almanacs were so popular. Almanacs could easily create the impression of having done scientific analysis of the data—whether they actually did or not is highly doubtful.

I think my father liked to collect and repeat advice he had heard, and he pretended to believe it, because he thought it made him appear wise. (He did the same thing with the Bible, by the way.) But he didn't necessarily practice what he preached. In reality, planting, like everything else, was more a matter of convenience and intuition than following rules.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 08:57 AM

You are not giving the average farmer enough credit, Jim. Doesn't require statistical analysis. Does require observation, and that is what farmers do - observe climate and soil conditions over time. And keep in mind you are talking about the observations of a community and across generations. This is an area where local knowledge and lore does pay off.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM

"I have heard a tradition that says that the test for whether the soil is warm enough or planting is to sit on it bare..."

I'd be worried that by the time the soil is that warm, two things will happen:

    1. The remaining growing season will be too short for most crops
    2. Spring has turned to summer, and there will not be enough
       rain for germination.

As a gardener, I think the temperature and moisture of the soil matter far, far more than the state of the moon.

People, now, are a different story. I used to work retail, and store managers were sure the nuts came out when the moon was full. I don't mean pecans and walnuts, I mean nutty people.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Paul Burke
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 11:19 AM

"Plant before the full moon in June" and "Harvest before the full moon in September" are probably less than totally useful, as this could occur on any date between 1st and the 29th. In fact you may as well just say the month. There is a similar saying about planting your potatoes before Good Friday- this can fall any time between March 19th and April 23rd if you're a Western Christian.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 07 Nov 11 - 12:17 PM

The science behind companion planting, permaculture et al is now well established, and I believe will play an increasing role in how we feed ourselves without massive oil-based inputs in future.

There could, I suppose, potentially be something unexpected in this moon business (an open mind is always advisable), but as yet science has had little to say of merit, and the instinctive reaction will be to call it nonsense.

For that reason only it's real a shame that moon-planting is often bracketed with the likes of permaculture (books dealing with both for example), as the lack of science behind one dilutes the excellent and essential science behind the other.

TB


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 11 - 09:53 AM

i have a book called companion plants , if anyone wants any info out of it let me know.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Nov 11 - 12:13 PM

Janie: Maybe you're right, I don't give the average farmer enough credit. I have gotten myself into trouble before by assuming all farmers were like my father and his brothers. I can't imagine my father ever keeping records of frost dates and the like, and he never mentioned that anyone else in his family did.

In my lifetime, he was living in a city 200 miles north of the farm where he grew up, so I don't suppose the local knowledge he had accumulated would have done him much good. On the farm, he had raised corn and tobacco; in the city, he raised tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes. I don't remember anything else.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Nov 11 - 04:18 PM

Another reason just dawned on me why planting by phases of the moon must be bogus. All parts of the earth experience a full moon (or any other phase) at exactly the same time! Should farmers in Florida be planting at the same time as those in Norway?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: olddude
Date: 08 Nov 11 - 04:41 PM

my grandpa was insistent on following the moon cycle for planting .. he would say things like can't plant full moon etc ...

well his garden looked like the garden of Eden so who am I to question it


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 08 Nov 11 - 11:29 PM

My grandfather also advocated planting by the phases of the moon - as long as good gardening practices otherwise permitted. He might lament the soil being too wet to work to plant potatoes at the new moon, and fret about what it might mean for yields if soil conditions and moon phases didn't agree with one another, but he wasn't about to ruin the tilth of the soil by working it when too wet.

I suspect the same is true for any experienced gardener, even those who subscribe to planting by moon phases. I've never known a good gardener to eschew planting when the soil and season are right but the moon is not.

If both moon phase and soil conditions are right, there is no harm done in planting by moon phase, and in terms of planning and hopeful expectation, thinking about upcoming moon phases probably psychologically prepares the farmer or gardener for the approaching season. I haven't really looked at this and may be wrong, but I am of the impression that most crops that are associated with planting by the phases of the moon are crops that are usually planted from late winter to early or mid-early spring, when soil and climate conditions are most capricious and iffy. Gardening is part planning and part stoicism. In the winter planning phase, thinking about all the crops that need to get sown or set in the ground in a relatively brief window of time, usually a climatological window of 4-6 weeks, thinking in terms of moon phases can give one the hope of a schedule that the climatological and soil conditions will permit.

And mother nature can and usually will throw a few curve balls.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 03:50 AM

We've heard a few stories about really dedicated, conscientious, hard-working lifelong gardeners who planted by the phases of the moon and had glorious gardens. I suspect that if the moon phases had any effect at all it was psychological, as a reinforcement to good working habits - "can't take tonight off because I've still got three nights' worth of potatoes to plant, and if I only start tomorrow the moon will be new before I get finished".

What would be interesting would be if anyone had stories of idle hippies who did their planting any old how (a month early, a month late, hey, what is 'time' anyway?) and still got brilliant results, because they planted by the phases of the moon. (They used to say something like this about Findhorn - which I'm willing to bet was the inspiration for Summerisle in the Wicker Man.)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 07:24 PM

Several people have indicated an understanding that planting by the phases of the moon means planting at night.   

That doesn't make sense to me, and is not what the older people I knew who planted by moon phases did. You have to be able to see what you are doing, and there ain't much seein' to be had in a field in the country under the dark of the moon.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Paul Burke
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 07:44 PM

there is no harm done in planting by moon phase

Depends how close you have to match the moon phase. If it's just "don't plant at full moon", that could mean take one day off - probably no harm, in fact good- or take a whole week off, which if the weather is unreliable could be disastrous.

The lead smelters in Derbyshire smelted lead ore at the equinoxes for hundreds of years. This was related to the method of smelting- an utterly primitive and wasteful (but traditional) technology which required great bonfires on hilltops burning for days, and poisoning the downwind landscape. Whole areas (bellands) are still waste as a result.

Less damage is done by traditional agriculture, though they do wear out the land now and again. Perhaps the biggest damage is in discrediting alternatives to industrial agriculture.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 07:45 PM

Found an interesting UK site that mentions some differences in American and European traditions around lunar planting.

lunar gardening

Apparently, astrology figures more into the European tradition- i.e. it is not so much about the phase of the moon as it is about in which the constellation the moon is. Apparently some constellations are "seed" constellations, etc.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 07:49 PM

And that same site also talks about beliefs that planting at moonrise or moonset make a difference. So it apparently does make "sense" to some people to go out and plant at night.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Planting by phases of the moon
From: Janie
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 08:21 PM

Actually, that site has all kinds of stuff regarding lunar gardening, though much of it appears to be modern derivatives rather than historical reference.

Went looking for references or information about oriental planting traditions based on the moon. Maybe I just haven't found the right search terms, but so far, have not turned up anything.

Thinking back to my grandfather, and also other "old timers" who were good gardeners, they may have thought of themselves as planting by the moon phase, but since good gardening practices always trumped moon phase, it seems it would be more accurate to say that when it happened that soil and weather conditions and the "proper" moon phase coincided, they saw that as a sign for auspicious hope for the yield of that season's crop.


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