Age-Old Moon Gardening Growing in Popularity

John Roach
for National Geographic News
July 10, 2003

More gardeners today are turning to the moon for sage advice on the best time to plant, prune, weed, and harvest. The practice, known as moon or lunar gardening, is cultivating a cult following.

"Lunar gardening is the oldest form of gardening known to man," said RJ Harris, the head gardener at a private estate near Cornwall, England, and author of a book on the subject.

The practice centers on the moon's gravitational effect on the flow of moisture in soil and plants and, to a lesser degree, the effect of moonlight on seed germination.

Harris has gardened in tune with the lunar cycle since the 1950s, a practice he learned from his father and grandfather.

"Ever since prehistoric times, long before man ever had a watch on his wrist or a calendar on his wall, everything was governed by the phases of the moon," said Harris.

He notes that the moon not only controls ocean tides but influences the groundwater tables beneath our feet. Understanding the latter effect, and timing gardening chores accordingly, is the basis of moon gardening.

Harris gives the example that the best time to turn over a garden is during the last quarter of the moon because that is when the water table has dropped to its lowest point. "It means less moisture is within the soil. It is far easier to turn soil over when there is less moisture in it," he said.

Moon Boom

Seeking to preserve knowledge about moon-gardening techniques before they were eclipsed entirely by modern gardening practices, Harris wrote RJ Harris' Moon Gardening with the help of journalist Will Summers.

But since the book's September 2002 publication, Harris said he learned he need not have worried.

Harris says he has heard from people in New Zealand, Austria, Germany, and the United States who use the lunar cycle as a guide for their gardening chores. And the Internet is sprouting with Web sites dedicated to the practice.

On her Web site Gardening by the Moon.com (www.gardeningbythemoon.com), Caren Catterall writes, "Plants respond to the same gravitational pull of tides that affect the oceans, which alternately stimulates root and leaf growth. Seeds sprout more quickly, plants grow vigorously and at an optimum rate, harvests are larger and they don't go to seed as fast."

Continued on Next Page >>


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