by Dianne Bruner, Guernsey County Master Gardener

Planting by the signs is a fairly straight-forward operation. You plant aboveground crops such as lettuce, peas, tomatoes, etc. when the moon is waxing (growing) from New to Full Moon.  Underground crops (beets, radishes, carrots, potatoes, etc.) are planted when the moon is waning from Full to New Moon.  However, true gardening by the signs is a little more complicated.

The lunar month is divided into four phases or quarters. The light of the moon is the 14 day period (first and second quarters) when the moon is growing from the New Moon to the Full Moon.  The dark of the moon (third and fourth quarters) is the following 14 days – from the full moon to the next New Moon.

On its 29-day journey around the earth, the moon passes through all twelve signs of the zodiac.  These signs are divided into four broad elemental groups: either Water, Earth, Air, or Fire.  These signs classified as Water or Earth signs are generally considered optimal for planting and pruning for growth.  Air and Fire signs are classified as barren signs and are generally suitable for weeding, tilling the soil, and pruning for control of growth. 

Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University performed research over a ten year period.  His findings were plants absorbed more water at the time of the Full Moon.  He conducted his experiments in a laboratory without direct contact with the moon, yet he still found that the plants were influenced by the phase.  A relationship has been established between elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire that correspond to specific parts of the plants.  Earth corresponds to root, Water to leaf growth, Fire to seed production, and Air to flowers.

So what are these phases and signs used for?  And how do you use them?  There are many rules and much information available.  Following lists a few of these.  Prepare the soil and cultivate during barren signs.  Always fertilize during a fruitful sign.  Plant crops that produce aboveground in the light of the moon.  Plant crops that produce underground, such as potatoes, by the dark of the moon.

Farming and gardening by the signs, or phases of the moon go back to the days of early man, the practice still continues because many believe it works. Much information is available on the subject.