How to Plant Your Garden According to the Moon Signs
You may scoff at astrology, but there are plenty of gardeners who swear by planting by the moon signs.
Old-time publishers like Llewellyn’s and the Farmer’s Almanac used astrology as a basis for their calendars on when to plant and harvest certain crops. These resources are still popular today (and you can purchase a copy of Llewellyn’s 2024 Moon Sign Book here).
So what does it mean to plant your garden by the signs? Keep reading to find out.
The science behind lunar gravity
What does the moon have to do with gardening? Perhaps a lot more than you think.
Science proves that lunar gravity has a profound effect on the oceans, most easily seen in the movements of the tide, which are highest at the new and full moon when the moon is closest to the earth.
Heather Kropp and Angela Halasey, biologists at Arizona State University, found that plants are made of up to 95% water. Brittanica reports that saltwater is 96.5% water, 2.5% salt, and 1 percent other materials. Essentially, plants are miniature oceans!
The moon has an obvious influence over large bodies of water, so it stands to reason that smaller bodies of water (aka every living organism!) would also be affected by the moon’s movements.
The origin of planting by the signs
Agricultural astrology, as it is also called, is as old as agriculture itself. Rooted in cultural beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals, planting by the signs has been the standard practice for many communities throughout history.
“Planting by the signs,” can be interpreted a few different ways. It could refer to planting by the moon phases or according to the signs of the Zodiac, but more often than not the phrase means some combination of both astronomy and astrology.
Astronomical moon phases
In grade school, you might have studied the eight moon phases:
- New moon
- Waxing crescent
- First quarter
- Waxing gibbous
- Full moon
- Waning gibbous
- Last quarter
- Waning crescent
The role of moon phases in gardening
Some speculate that as the moon waxes from new to full, water is pulled up into the topsoil, much like the tides swell during these times. As the new moon waxes to full, soil moisture and moonlight increase, creating an ideal time for seeds to germinate.
The moon’s increasing gravitational pull during the new moon provides ideal conditions for seed germination. Plant above-ground groups that set seeds outside (think lettuce, spinach, brassicas, and annual flowers).
As the moon moves into the first quarter, the gravitational pull decreases. Moonlight increases, encouraging plants to grow stronger root systems and more robust leaf growth. Some folks swear that the ideal time to plant is two days before the full moon. Plant above-ground crops that produce fruit with seeds inside, like melons, squash, tomatoes, beans, and peas.
When the moon is full, lunar gravity increases and moisture is pulled again to the soil’s surface. This is the best time to plant root crops, including potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions. After the full moon, you can also begin pruning.
The last quarter means less lunar gravity and less moonlight, so avoid planting anything during this time. This is an ideal time for weeding, tilling, pruning, and harvesting.
Astrological “best days”
The moon goes through phases each month, and it also moves through the signs of the zodiac. Some interpretations of “planting by the signs,” rely more heavily on the moon’s placement in the zodiac than the moon phases. These are commonly called “best days” for planting.
Signs of the Zodiac
In case you need a brief refresher on the signs of the zodiac: there are twelve signs in total, and each is ruled by a different element—fire, earth, air, or water.
- Fire signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
- Earth signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Air signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
- Water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
The sun is in each sign for roughly 30 days, but the moon passes through all of the twelve signs each month.
Best days for planting
As you can probably guess, earth-ruled Taurus is best for planting and transplanting above-ground vegetables. But the water signs (Cancer in particular, but also Scorpio and Pisces) are also considered good signs for planting.
The fire signs and air signs (excluding Libra) are thought to be barren, so it’s best to avoid planting when the moon is in these signs. Instead, focus on weeding and pruning during these less fertile times of the month. It’s a commonly held belief that weeds pulled up by the root when the moon is in Leo are unlikely to come back.
The air sign Libra is considered fertile and a good time to plant annual flowers, vines, and tubers. It’s advised to prune fruit trees during a fire sign so that the cuts will callous; harvest when the last quarter moon is in a fire sign for produce with the longest shelf life. Root crops grow best planted in Capricorn.
“Best days” don’t just apply to gardening, either—there’s an ideal day for everything from fixing fences to breeding animals and you can find the full list of 2024 Best Days here.
Signs of the body
There’s another way to read the zodiac signs, and in this approach, each of the twelve signs of the zodiac also corresponds with a body part:
- Aries: head
- Taurus: neck/throat
- Gemini: arms/chest
- Cancer: breast/stomach
- Leo: heart/back
- Virgo: bowels
- Libra: kidneys
- Scorpio: loins
- Sagittarius: thighs
- Capricorn: knees
- Aquarius: legs/ankles
- Pisces: feet
According to this reading of the signs, the most fruitful planting times are the days ruled by the neck, breast, loins, and feet. Days ruled by the arms, kidneys, thighs, knees, and legs are also acceptable for planting, but days ruled by the head and heart (says ruled by fire signs) are not.
Some old-time growers swear by only planting in the signs that are “below the waist,” so that crops will grow shorter but produce more abundantly. This adage contradicts traditional advice to plant in Taurus and Cancer. Despite the conflicting planting advice, all growers seem to agree that you should never plant when the moon is in the bowels (a Virgo-ruled day) or you’ll lose your whole harvest.
It’s also advised to avoid planting on Sundays- not only is this considered a fiery, and therefore barren, day (the first day of the week is ruled by the Sun, after all) but traditional Christian practice dictates that Sundays are a day of rest.
If that’s too much to digest, consider this the golden rule of planting by the signs: plant when the moon is waxing and in a fertile (earth or water) sign. Cultivate, prune, and harvest when the moon is waning and in a barren (air or fire) sign.
Intrigued? If you’re pondering diving into this age-old practice of planting by the signs, you’ll probably want to check out Llewellyn’s 2024 Moon Sign Book,
How the zodiac signs affect plant growth is more a deep-seated belief than a scientific fact, but plenty of old-timers (and new-timers, too) swear by it. At best, planting by the signs could result in your most productive garden yet. At worst, you might lose a couple of days of the growing season waiting for the right time to plant. Even so, it’s not likely to do any harm, so why not give this planting method a go this spring?