The first agricultural revolution was called the Neolithic Revolution, this is when most cultures on the planet transitioned from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement around 8000-5000 B.C. Since that time mankind has studied the science of optimizing our harvest using all methods and technologies available.
There are records of society tracking lunar cycles 5000 years ago in ancient Egypt to plan the best times for planting and harvesting. Because they lived an agrarian lifestyle the seasons were named after the significant events for farming.
In more modern times, the first farmers almanac was published in 1792 and continues to this day, and is known for using the time tested lunar timing methods, so it is surprising to me how most people are puzzled by the fact that the moon would have any bearing on the effectiveness of gardening. Within a couple generations of going to the supermarket for food instead of growing it, most people have not only lost all knowledge of this method of planting, some are outright skeptical that it even works. Let me assure you that it does. In my own experience I have see appoximately 30% difference in successful outcomes when I honor these principles from when I don't.
The basic tenants we are going to discuss may sound minor or very simple, but they really do make a difference. I would also note that one reason that old adages become old adages is because they are true, so take note of when you plant and you will see for yourself. The modern non-professional farmer can still benefit by producing better yields and lower mortality rates in backyard gardens by just honoring a few simple tips.
First some basic definitions. While there are smaller phases to the moons complete cycle, you can get great results by just honoring the fundamentals of using the 4 quarters of the moon as a guide, which are the most commonly notated phases on calendars and easily available to anyone who wants to know where we are in the cycle. I will make reference of the 12 signs of the zodiac in this writing to refer to the actual position of the moon at a given time. This information is also readily available online or from numerous printed works.
To look at the processes of gardening we will keep it to preparation, planting, transplanting and pruning. The time period from the New moon to the Full Moon, while the moon appears to be growing in size, is referred to as the Waxing Phase. The period from the Full moon to the New moon while the moon appears to be getting smaller, is the Waning phase.
One important rule for you to keep in mind that the new moon is totally black and GROWS in light to the Full Moon. This waxing cycle provides us the best time for starting new plants that have primarily above the ground yields. Part of the reason for this is that the earth will hold moisture better at this time. This is good for planting from seed, germinating seed, cloning or even transplanting potting plants into soil. Think expansion.
The Full Moon recedes until it becomes total black again. This waxing cycle is primarily for harvesting crops and weeding, with the exception of the planting of some primarily underground crops such as potatoes and beets. Again, it is thought to be a time when the earth drys out quicker. Think contraction.
We know that the moon reflects the light from the sun back to the earth. We also know that the earths rotation on it's axis gives us night and day here on earth and the moons rotation around the earth creates the lunar cycle that our months are based on.
So we have approximately 2 weeks of waxing and 2 weeks of waning moon every month. The moon changes signs every 2 ½ days so it travels through 6 signs of the zodiac during each cycle. For growth and maintenance activities of above ground crops, we try to work on the days when the moon is in water signs.
It is understood that with busy schedules and unpredictable weather we do not always have the opportunity for ideal timing. You can still have success in less than optimal times and there are many other variables that will influence your success as well. Gardening using these tips can give you some idea as to the best times to pick when you have the ability to choose, and tilt the odds in your favor.
The Fruitful and best signs for the moon to be in for germinating, seeding, transplanting, cloning and planting for above ground crops in order of preference are :
Cancer – A water sign, using this during a waxing moon is your best option for planting.
Scorpio – A water sign, the 2nd best for planting above ground plants, works fine when you can't plant in cancer. Favors vines and hardy growth.
Pisces - A water sign, also good for root growth.
Semi-Fruitful signs for the moon to be in when water signs are not available are:
Taurus – An Earth Sign, promotes hardiness and root growth.
Capricorn – An Earth Sign, good for structure of stalks and pulp
Libra – The best air sign for planting, good for flowers
For Destroying – During a waning moon the 4th quarter is best for removing unwanted plants. In order of destructive force. The barren signs are:
Leo – The harshest fire sign for gardening. Never plant during a Leo Moon. This is the best sign for destruction of unwanted growth.
Gemini – An Air sign. Good for weeding and plowing. Better then a Leo Moon, and some people plant beans and cucumbers under a Gemini moon, but it is not recommended.
Virgo – The only earth sign not good for planting. Good for the removal of trees and shrubs and unwanted weeds.
These signs are the second choice for permanent removal of unwanted plants and shrubs.
Aquarius – An air sign, not recommended for planting.
Sagittarius – A Fire Sign, better than Aquarius but not a planting sign. Good from Pruning or trimming desirable plants.
Aries – A Fire Sign, while not as strong as the others in this list not recommended for any planting. Good for pruning or trimming desirable plants.
To fine tune our efforts we will identify the best signs within the waxing or waning cycle to perform the various gardening tasks.
Preparation – this includes tilling, plowing and raking. 1st or 2nd quarter is preferred with a Barren sign to eliminate unwanted growth, Leo, Gemini or Virgo are the best picks.
Planting – The water signs are the best, in the order given above. In the 1st or 2nd quarter, with the exception of underground crops which can be planted in the 3rd quarter. Underground crops can be planted in the 4th quarter only if you cannot plant them in the 3rd. Taurus, Capricorn and Libra can also work but not as well.
Transplanting – The same as planting, use the signs in the order given as available.
Pruning – For ornamental or producing plants trim or prune in the waning phase with a fruitful moon sign. To discourage growth or for unwanted plants use the waxing moon in one of the less potent barren signs.