March 2017 II: sowing by the phases of the moon

Sowing seeds according to lunar cycles is an ancient tradition many centuries old.

What is it about, what choices do you have and how important is it in reality?

The most obvious cycle is that of the moon waxing from new moon to full moon, then waning again to start the next cycle about 4 weeks (29.5 days) later.

Those who have examined this suggest that a very good date to germinate seeds is TWO DAYS before FULL MOON (see  for dates for 2017). Charles Dowding’s website ( ) can be searched to find evidence supporting this in trials with various vegetables. The feature image shows spinach plants sown 2 days before the February 2017 full moon.

If you wish to do this in 2017, that suggests sowing on the following dates:

March 10th; April 9th; May 8th; June 7th; July 7th; and August 5th.

However, if life realities prevent using such dates, sowing during the 14 or 15 days of the waxing moon is regarded as OK.

The second aspect of lunar cycles are called ascending and descending moons. Broadly, when the moon is found in the astronomical signs of capricorn to gemini, it is ascending, from cancer to sagittarius, it is descending.

Many suggest transplanting young seedlings during a descending moon. Others suggest sowing during a descending moon. The data sources showing trials to justify this are not that accessible through simple internet searches, it has to be said.

The third aspect of the moon is its distance from the earth during its elliptical orbit. When the moon is closest to earth it is at perigee, furthest away it is at apogee. Apart from sowing potatoes at apogee, many recommend avoiding the apogee and perigee dates for sowing.

The final aspect of the moon of interest to gardeners is the time of moonrise. Experiments in the 1970s suggested that the optimal time to sow seeds is within 1 hour of moonrise. Of course, only the most dedicated will adhere to that, but it is a fascinating observation nonetheless.

So a perfect sowing date would be 2 days before full moon, when the moon is descending, not during apogee or perigee, with the seeds sown at the hour of moonrise.

Clearly, crops will grow without rigid adherence to such timetables, but understanding how plants respond to the moon and the planets certainly cannot harm gardeners.

To learn more about the moon in gardening, two books are worth reading:

‘The Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar’, published annually. ISBN 978-178250-331-6

‘Gardening & Planting by the Moon’, Nick Kollerstrom, published annually. ISBN 978-0-572-04629-3

Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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