Gardening by the moon is an ancient method used by many gardeners around the world. I’m not sure if there’s any scholarly evidence to support these practices, but I have known many gardeners and farmers who have used these techniques with great success. When I was a child, older folks just considered these methods to be common knowledge.    

Lunar or moon gardening doesn’t mean planting your garden in the middle of the night. It’s simply a way of integrating garden practices with the rhythms of nature. It should not be confused with astrology. The moon exerts a profound gravitational effect on the earth. It causes the tides to rise and fall, and pulls on the moisture level in the soil. The amount of moonlight also effects the growth of plants.

The phases of the moon are divided into four quarters, each lasting about one week. The first two phases are referred to as waxing. The new moon begins when it is closest to the sun. It’s hardly visible at all. The lunar crescent becomes increasingly larger and brighter until it reaches full moon. The third and fourth quarters are referred to as waning. This is when the amount of light begins to decrease. The cycle repeats every 29.5 days. The rhythms of nature effect all life on earth. The earth spins on its axis, giving us night and day. The seasons change as the earth travels around the sun.

The waxing phase is considered to be a good time for plant growth. This is when the moon has its greatest gravitational effect on moisture in the soil. This is also thought to be the optimal time for seeds to germinate. Consider planting above ground crops such as leafy greens and grains. Increased moonlight during a waxing moon promotes leafy growth. Consider planting crops that produce their seeds inside their fruit at this time, such as tomatoes and peppers.

As the moon wanes, moonlight decreases. This is the ideal time to plant root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and onions. It’s also a good time for transplanting seedlings because of increased root growth. There is decreased gravitational force and moonlight during the fourth quarter. This is the period of least active growth and the best time to harvest or prune. This is also thought to be the best time to mow your lawn. Although Rachel and I have never used any of these practices in our own garden, we’re open to any ideas that might improve our productivity.

The moon’s path across the sky appears as an arc. Sometimes the arc is higher, sometimes lower. As the moon arcs across the sky it crosses the path of the sun. These crossing points are called lunar nodes. Eclipses can only occur near these lunar nodes. Eclipses are considered to have a negative effect on all horticultural activity that day. No work is performed during these rare events.  

The celestial event of a lifetime will occur Aug. 21. A total eclipse of the sun will occur along a 70-mile-wide path across the entire continental United States. Leavenworth will experience the totality of this eclipse starting at 1:07 p.m. Observers will experience this totality for approximately 91 seconds.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com