The term “planting by the signs” is a colloquial expression or folk term for the ancient practice of timing agricultural and gardening tasks by the moon’s lunar phase and astrological position in the zodiac. For our ancestors, the understanding and application of natural lunar cycles and rhythms to their lives was literally a matter of life and death. By applying the principles that had been passed on to them by each preceding generation, our forefathers and mothers managed to survive famine and disease. Unlike like us, they lived closer to the earth and didn’t have the benefit of 24-hour grocery stores, insecticides, antibiotics or electricity.
It wasn’t important to our forebears to understand the science of why something worked. What mattered to them was that it did work. Predictable lunar cycles and phases were a fact of life for them. It’s the reason why almanacs were so widespread and heavily used. And it’s the reason why next to the Bible, almanacs were the second most important book in nearly all Christian households.
UNSCIENTIFIC & PURE NONSENSE – or MAYBE NOT?
For those of you who may think that using the moon to garden or that“planting by the signs” is pure superstition, I would encourage you to suspend judgment and consider what generations before you accepted as self-evident. Experiment for yourself and engage in a closer scrutiny of the natural world. You may just be surprised.
Up until the modern scientific era and the Age of Enlightenment, most people around the world used the information that follows below for their own benefit. In fact most American farmers and gardeners routinely used moon sign planting practices well into the 1930s.
For those who consider agricultural astrology to be witchcraft or evil or un-Christian; well, at one time people thought the same thing about electricity, epilepsy, and anesthesia for childbirth. Please keep in mind that God created this world and the universe. The laws and principles that govern our world and universe are His laws and principles. It doesn’t really matter what you call it.
Moon sign gardening and agricultural astrology is an involved subject. It is impossible for me to do the topic justice in this short article. Instead my purpose here is to present a brief summary of the history and concept of moon sign planting, and to give a general overview of its use in the modern family garden. A simple “when to plant” gardening chart is included.
“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years.”
Every month the moon goes through a predictable cycle. It takes approximately 29.5 days for the moon to complete its full cycle. During the monthly lunar cycle the moon’s cycle is divided into 4 phases. Each phase or quarter lasts about 7 days.
The moon’s quarters divide two significant visual manifestations of the moon known as the New Moon and the Full Moon. The new moon is the interval of the lunar cycle when the moon is not visible in the night sky. The full moon is the period when the moon is completely round and illuminated.
NEW MOON → 1st Quarter → 2nd Quarter → FULL MOON →3rd Quarter → 4th Quarter →NEW MOON
The monthly lunar cycle begins with the new moon. This 7 day (+ or -) period of the lunar cycle begins in darkness. During the actual day of the new moon, the moon is not visible in the night sky. The day after the new moon traditionally begins the part of the lunar cycle known as the 1st Quarter.
During the 1st quarter the moon begins to increase its visibility and light. If you look up at the moon during this time you will notice that the moon is becoming more crescent-shaped each night. The crescent moon in the night sky is formed by a shadow from the sun. The tips of the crescent moon point to the sun. The top and bottom tips of the crescent moon are called “the horns of the moon”. The horns of the moon are an important concept in folklore and myth.
In the Northern Hemisphere the horns of the moon point to the left as the light of the moon increases. In the Southern Hemisphere the crescent direction is reversed and the horns point to the right. The increase in the light of the moon is known as a “waxing moon”.
As the moon begins to outgrow its crescent shape it moves into the 2nd Quarter of the lunar cycle. During the 2nd quarter, the moon is increasing in light and is soon become a round orb known as a full moon.
During the full moon the moon reaches its maximum light. The full moon marks the halfway point of the lunar cycle.
Beginning the day after the full moon the moon gradually begins to decrease in its light. This phase is known as a “waning moon” and signals a decrease of light. The day after the full moon traditionally begins the 3rd Quarter of the lunar cycle. Once again the moon will slowly begin to assume a crescent shape as it moves into the 4th Quarter. The 4th quarter is the time that the moon is returning to the new moon to begin the cycle once more.During this phase of the lunar cycle, the horns of the moon point to the right if you are located in the Northern Hemisphere; and point to the left if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
ORIGINS OF MOON SIGNS
Thousands of years ago ancient astronomers observed that many of the constellations that they studied were evenly spaced in an imaginary circular belt along the sun’s and moon’s apparent path in the sky. The always moving and seemingly changing constellations were a back drop in the sky for both the sun and the moon. Many of the constellations in the belt appeared to be in the shape of animals or mythical figures.
The circular belt that early astrologers perceived was divided evenly into 12 sections or “signs”. That belt is called the Zodiac. All the sections or signs of the zodiac are represented by living creatures except for one. The name zodiac is derived from the Greek and then Latin word for “circle of animals”.
Our forefathers believed that during the time when the sun and the moon passed through different sections of the zodiac, that life here on earth took on and reflected certain cosmic energies and qualities. The zodiac became an analogy for forces in nature that were not completely understood. Early man recognized that both the sun and the moon had a life altering effect for living creatures.
The sun brought the change of seasons, and controlled the cycle of life and death for the natural world. The moon on the other hand, also controlled the cycle of life and death, but in a much more subtle way.
Our ancestors understood that the moon was mysteriously connected to the movement of the ocean tides and to the weather. It influenced animal migrations and sleeping patterns. And what was most mystifying, was that the moon also influenced the menses cycle of women and childbirth. In fact the moon became associated with women and with fertility.
Primitive man knew that the moon has a profound effect on plant, animal and human life here on earth.
We moderns aren’t connected to the raw and primeval world of our ancestors. In fact most people aren’t connected to the natural world at all. Instead we are connected to digital devices. We sadly fail to comprehend what our ancestors instinctively knew about the lunar cycle and our world. We fail to notice what is literally going on over our heads in the nighttime sky.
HOW IT WORKS
Each year the sun passes through all the sections or signs of the zodiac. The sun spends about 30 days in each sign.
Every month the moon just like the sun also passes through all 12 signs of the zodiac. The moon spends just under 2 ½ days in each sign.
Each of the 12 zodiac signs is associated with a different quality or attribute.The zodiac as a circle begins in Aries and ends in Pisces.
THE ZODIAC SIGNS
Aries – The Ram
Taurus – The Bull
Gemini – The Twins
Cancer – The Crab
Leo – The Lion
Virgo – The Virgin
Libra – The Scales
Scorpio – The Scorpion
Sagittarius – The Archer
Capricorn – The Goat
Aquarius – The Water Bearer
Pisces – The Fishes
The 12 signs of the zodiac are sorted into 4 groups that correspond to the 4 ancient elements:
The elements assigned to the signs of the zodiac help to define and clarify the energies and traits that are associated with them.
The Water Signs are:
Water signs are said to be feminine, wet, productive, nutritive or fruitful.
The Fire Signs are:
Fire signs are said to be masculine, barren, unfruitful, harsh and dry.
The Earth Signs are:
Earth signs are said to be earthy, sturdy, stable, substantial and feminine.
The Air Signs are:
Air signs are said to be masculine, fickle, fluctuating, vacillating and airy.
The signs of the zodiac are further divided and grouped by their modes of action. The signs are split into three subdivisions containing four signs each. The three groups of zodiac signs are labeled as Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable signs.
Cardinal signs are those signs which generate, produce or begin a new condition. Hence Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are the signs which herald each new season. Cardinal signs correspond to the North, East, South and West points of the compass.
Fixed signs have a settled or stubborn quality to them. Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are fixed signs and are ascribed to the well-established seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Fixed signs are stable and committed. They are sometimes considered to be “earthquake signs” due to the belief that earthquakes occur shortly before or after a lunar eclipse when the moon was in a fixed sign.
Mutable signs are unstable and unpredictable. They are symbolic of the inevitability of change. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are the signs assigned to months before one season ends and transformations into the next season. Winter breaks with Pisces. Summer comes after Gemini. Autumn is heralded by Virgo. And Winter begins after Sagittarius. The Mutable signs are considered to be the reuniting, resolving and reconciling energies of the universe and cosmos.
WHEN & WHAT TO PLANT
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”
Knowing the correct sign to plant in is important.
But knowing what phase of the moon to plant in is even more important.
By combining good gardening practices with the fundamental principles of lunar timing; along with the moon’s current zodiac position; modern gardeners and farmers can use the wisdom of our ancestors to grow better food and more beautiful flowers.
In general terms, things tend to increase in the light of the moon; and then decrease in the dark of the moon.
Plants or vegetables that grow above ground should be planted during the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon. That is when the moon’s light is increasing. Broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and corn are all planted at this time.
Plants or vegetables that grow beneath the ground should be planted during the 3rd and 4th quarters of the moon. During the 3rd and 4th quarters the light of the moon is decreasing. Crops that are grown underground for their roots or tubers should be planted at that time. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beets are best planted during a waning moon up until the day of the new moon.
Plants, grains, herbs or flowers that have exterior seeds do best when planted in the 1st quarter. Corn, broccoli, wheat, marigolds, dill weed and chamomile are examples of plants that produce exterior seeds.
Plants, flowers, grains or herbs that have interior seeds are most often planted in the moon’s 2nd quarter. Squash, watermelon, green peppers, tomatoes, green beans, poppies, pumpkins and peas are examples of plants that produce interior seeds. Cucumbers are the exception to the rule. They should be planted during the moon’s 1st quarter.
Bulbous flowers like tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are planted during the moon’s 3rd quarter. Best results are seen when underground crops or bulbous plants are planted in a fruitful sign and sometimes an earth sign.
Be aware that the closer the day is to the new moon all planting becomes somewhat less favorable. Traditionally no crops are planted on the day of new moon.
To destroy weeds and pests, gardening activities done during the 3rd and 4th quarters are more productive when timed to coincide with a dry or barren sign .
Keep the action and quality of the sign quadruplicities in mind when choosing a day to plant or when attending to gardening tasks. Cardinal sign days signal creative energies and new beginnings. Fixed sign days bring a steadiness to the day. And days that are in mutable signs can have an uncertain quality to them.
Aries is the first sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Ram or Head. It is a masculine, barren, dry fire sign. It is the cardinal fire sign and is associated with the planet Mars and the god of war. This is a good sign to destroy weeds and pests. It is a reliable sign to harvest fruit and root crops during the moon’s 3rd & 4th quarters.
Taurus is the second sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Bull or Neck. It is a moist, earthy and feminine sign. Taurus is the fixed earth sign and is associated the planet Venus and the goddess of beauty. Taurus is used to plant crops and flowers when hardiness, stoutness or firmness is an important factor. When the moon is in Taurus during the 1st and 2nd quarters, cabbage, lettuce, kale and other leafy vegetable are planted. Hay, beans, peach and pear trees can be planted in Taurus. During the 3rd and 4th quarters root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, radishes, beets and carrots are planted. Taurus is useful for planting all bulbous plants and flowers.
Gemini is the third sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Twins and rules the Arms and Chest. Gemini is the mutable air sign and is associated with the planet Mercury and the messenger god. Gemini is masculine, dry and barren. It is a good sign for cultivating and stirring up the soil to destroy weeds. Lawns can be mowed at this time to retard growth and root crops and fruit can be harvested in Gemini during the moon’s 3rd and 4th quarter. Gemini is never a good time for transplanting or planting. That said, some moon sign gardeners like to plant runner and pole beans in Gemini and have good success.
Cancer is the fourth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Crab and rules the Breast and Stomach. Cancer is the cardinal water sign and is associated with the moon and with women, motherhood and nurturing. Cancer is fruitful, moist and feminine. Of all the signs, Cancer is the most productive and is best used for all plantings. It is an advantageous sign for watering the garden or for irrigation. When the moon is in Cancer during the 1st and 2nd quarters it is an excellent time to graft fruit trees or begin potted stem cuttings. All root vegetables can be planted in Cancer when the moon is in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Alfalfa, melons, tomatoes, wheat, fruit trees and roses all do well when planted in this sign. Keep in mind that because Cancer is such a moist and watery sign, it is not a good time to harvest potatoes or to dry herbs, tomatoes or onions. Things have a tendency not to dry or cure properly in Cancer.
Leo is the fifth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Lion and rules the heart and the back. Leo is the fixed fire sign and is associated with the sun and with the concept of father. It is a masculine sign that is deemed to be barren, dry and fiery. In fact of all the signs, Leo is judged as the most barren. Like Aries it is considered to be a “killing sign”. Leo is principally employed to kill weeds, destroy roots and to girdle trees. Leo is also utilized to mow lawns to retard growth and is a good sign to harvest fruit and root crops. Herbs, garlic and onions dry the fastest when harvested in Leo.
Virgo is the sixth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Virgin and rules the bowels and intestines. Virgo is the mutable earth sign and is associated with the planet Mercury and youth. It is sometimes called the “flower lady” by country people. It is a feminine and moist sign but is considered barren. Virgo is not typically used for planting. Instead like Gemini, Virgo is useful for cultivation. That said, many old-timers believe that Virgo is a good sign to plant vines and for planting certain flowers.Honeysuckle, moon vine, morning glories; peonies and irises are sometimes planted in Virgo.But flowers planted in Virgo produce little seed. Shade trees can be planted in Virgo and will make some leafy growth.
Libra is the seventh sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Scales and rules the kidneys. Old-timers call it the sign of the “Reins”. Libra is the cardinal air sign and is associated with the planet Venus. It is a masculine sign that is moist and semi-fruitful. Interestingly, Libra is the only sign of the zodiac that is not a living creature. Libra is used for planting crops where fleshy growth and spreading roots are desirable. Barley, corn, wheat, rice, oats, millet, spelt and rye can all be seeded and planted in the 1st and 2nd quarter of Libra. Grain planted in Libra will produce a reasonable but not a heavy harvest. Libra is the best sign for planting all vines and is especially useful for fragrant and beautiful flowers.
Scorpio is the eighth sign of the western zodiac. It is the sign of the Scorpion and rules the reproductive system and genitals. Scorpio is a feminine sign and is fruitful, moist, and watery. It is the fixed water sign that is associated with the planet Mars. Next to Cancer, Scorpio is considered to be almost as fertile. When a Cancer day cannot be used to plant or prune for growth a Scorpio day works almost just as well. Scorpio days during the 1st and 2nd quarter of the moon is used to plant beans, peas, eggplant, cucumbers, asparagus, parsnips, carrots, pumpkins gourds and all types of melons. As with Cancer, do not harvest potatoes or other roots crops because they will not keep in storage.Medicinal herbs are often quite potent when planted or started in Scorpio.
Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the western zodiac. Sagittarius is the sign of the Archer and rules the hips, thighs and buttocks. Sagittarius is a dry, barren and masculine sign. It is the mutable fire sign and is associated with the planet Jupiter. Sagittarius is used like other fire signs to destroy weeds and pests. It can be a good sign for planting garlic and onions during the moon’s 3rd quarter.
Capricorn is the tenth sign of the western zodiac. Capricorn is the sign of the Goat and rules the knees, bones, hair, teeth and skin. Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign and is associated with the planet Saturn and time. It is a practical and earthy feminine sign that is a little drier than Taurus. During the 3rd and 4th quarter of the moon, Capricorn is useful for planting potatoes, root crops and bulbous plants and flowers. Evergreen trees, shrubs, hedges and living fences can be planted in Capricorn during the 1st and 2nd quarter of the moon. Plants that are used for their seeds, like buckwheat and sunflowers can also be planted in Capricorn.
Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the western zodiac. Aquarius is the sign of the Water Bearer and rules the legs, calves and ankles. In modern times Aquarius was traditionally ascribed to the planet Saturn. Aquarius is the fixed air sign. It is ruled to be dry, barren, airy and masculine. During the 3rd and 4th quarter of the moon Aquarius is good for harvesting fruits and root crops.It can be a good sign to harvest medicinal herbs.
Pisces is the twelfth sign of the western zodiac. Pisces is the sign of the Fishes and rules the feet and toes. In modern times Pisces is associated with the planet Neptune, but was traditionally assigned to the planet Jupiter. Pisces is the mutable water sign and is moist, feminine and very fruitful. Like Cancer and Scorpio, Pisces is one of the best signs to plant in. During the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon, all fruit and deciduous trees can be planted when the moon is in Pisces. Pisces is particularly good for all root growth; and for flowers and for seeding new lawns.
HERE’S A CHART
- God is in control. He is the Author of creation. The laws of the natural world are His alone.
- Plants that grow above the ground are planted in the increasing light of the moon (waxing)
- Plants that grow beneath the ground are planted in the decreasing light of the moon (waning)
- Plants that carry their seeds on the outer part of the plant are planted in the 1st quarter
- Plants that carry their seed inside the fruit or vegetable are planted in the 2nd quarter
- Try not to plant during a new moon or during a full moon
- Nothing takes the place of common sense. Don’t try to plant tomatoes when it’s snowing. Use your head.
- Plants will grow in every sign of the zodiac and during every phase of the moon. Some planting times are more favorable than other times.The entire point of planting by “the signs” or moon sign gardening is to work with nature and not against it.