The age-old practice of performing farm chores by the Moon stems from the simple belief that the Moon governs moisture.
Pliny the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist, stated in his Natural History that the Moon “replenishes the earth; when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when she recedes, she empties them.”
The Moon's Phases
The Moon's phases guided many a farmer and gardener in the past, and still do today:
- Moonrise occurring in the evening brings fair weather, says one proverb, harking back to the belief that the waning Moon (full and last quarter, which rise in the evening) is dry.
- The New Moon and first quarter, or waxing phases, are considered fertile and wet.
- The new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.
- From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.
- The time just before the full Moon is considered particularly wet, and is best for planting during drought conditions.
To garden by the Moon in your area, see our “Best Planting Dates” guide on the main gardening page.
Folklore is rich among farmers, given their close ties to Earth and her natural rhythms.
- Rail fences cut during the dry, waning Moon will stay straighter.
- Wooden shingles and shakes will lie flatter if cut during the dark of the Moon.
- Fence posts should be set in the dark of the Moon to resist rotting. Ozark lore says that fence posts should always be set as the tree grew. To set the root end upward makes a short-lived fence.
- Don't begin weaning when the Moon is waning.
- Castrate and dehorn animals when the Moon is waning for less bleeding.
- Slaughter when the Moon is waxing for juicier meat.
- Crabbing, shrimping, and clamming are best when the Moon is full.
- Best days for fishing are between the new and full Moon. See our best fishing dates for the year.
- Dig your horseradish in the full Moon for the best flavor.
- Set eggs to hatch on the Moon's increase, but not if a south wind blows.