Farming by the Moon

When to Plant, Wean, Castrate, Build Fences, Harvest

By Martha White
January 21, 2009
Full Moon with Ram

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.

Moon Folklore

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.


The 1994 Old Farmer's Almanac


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Canning Turnip Kraut

What are good days to can Turnip Kraut in October? And what sign would this be?

Driveway Gravel

Is there a certain time that is better than another for laying gravel in our driveway. I have heard that if it is put down at the wrong time it will not stay on the driveway. Thank you.

best days to spread gravel

The Editors's picture

As far as we could determine, some advise putting down gravel during the light of the Moon, especially the full Moon. It also helps to do so when the Moon is in the astrological sign of Taurus, Leo, or Aquarius (the fixed signs). The full Moon is today, August 15 (2019), with the sign in Aquarius. If today is too late, then you might wait until the Moon begins to wax again (new to full). For example, within the range of Aug 30-Sept 14 (new to full), the next best times might be when the Moon is in Aquarius on Sept 10 and 11 (2019). (The Moon’s place in Taurus and Leo do not occur within that range of dates.) Hope this helps!

So when is the best time in October/2019 or November/2019?

I am establishing a new driveway. So when is the best time to do this now?

Cutting thistles with sickle bar

My grandpa always said to cut thistles at a certain time of the month so they would bleed to death and not grow back. My dad can't remember and is asking. Thank you

When to Cut Thistles

The Editors's picture

There are a few traditions about when to cut thistles.

One old rhyme says:

Cut thistles in May, they’ll grow again some day.
Cut thistles in June, that will be too soon.
Cut thistles in July, they’ll lay down and die.

Or this one:

Cut your thistles before St. John (June 24),
And you will have two instead of one.

Another tradition says that if you cut thistles in August when the Moon is in the sign of the heart (Leo), they will not return. If the Moon is also at full or waning (dark of the Moon), all the better. For August 2019, the Moon will be in Leo on Aug. 1, 28, 29. During Aug. 1, the Moon is waxing (just after new); for August 28 and 29, the Moon will be waning (just before new).

Hope this helps!

Pasture rotation

When is the best phase to rotate pastures for my sheep. I have 3 pastures they can rotate through.

Installing a roof

Do you put a new roof on in the light of the moon or the dark of the moon? I know it affects the screws. I'm not sure how. In cant remember it. Thanks!

When are the Best Days to mow

When are the Best Days to mow one's lawn to discourage growth?

Please see our Best Days

The Editors's picture

Please see our Best Days timetable and look at the dates for "Prune to Discourage Growth"  --

My grass is over a foot tall

My grass is over a foot tall in some places...I need help!

When is the best time (phase

When is the best time (phase of the moon) to plant tree seedlings? Would you consider them an above ground crop, or a below ground crop?

Tree seedlings should be

The Editors's picture

Tree seedlings should be planted when the Moon is waxing, in the light of the Moon. Now is a good time before the next full Moon on Feb. 3.

Thank you for the info. We

Thank you for the info. We live in the Texas Panhandle, I'm still concerned about freezing weather, not unusual here to have below freezing weather until late March, which normally is several days. Still plant now?
Seedlings were brought to us from Mississippi. Thanks again

Plant the seedlings in the

The Editors's picture

Plant the seedlings in the ground and cover with mulch or plant them in containers that you can move into shelter if freezing temps. are predicted.

I'm a homebrewer, and I'm

I'm a homebrewer, and I'm wondering if there are particularly good times to brew beer and mead according to the phases of the moon. Thank you for your time!

About 40 years ago I read an

About 40 years ago I read an article in Yankee Magazine about cutting brush by the phases of the moon. A supposed skeptic of doing things by moon phases responded that he tried it and it worked! I also am a skeptic, unless someone can explain a scientific rationale for it. However I have had great success in getting rid of hybrid poplar by cutting it shortly before leaf fall, which was the approximate time suggested by the article. I have had less success with other trees/brush, and wonder if someone can help refine this process from experience and not just theory.


I've heard that if a tree is

I've heard that if a tree is cut down in one moon, the stump will rot and if cut down in the other it will petrify. Does anyone know the specifics of that?

We would like to know the

We would like to know the best sign to cut hay and store it. We are searching the foxfire books on folklore of hay storing. My father says that in a certain sign the hay will not catch fire and will keep longer. If you can help we would greatly appreciate it.
Thank You,
B. Maddox

Yes, there are best days for

The Editors's picture

Yes, there are best days for cutting hay. See our chart below. If it works for you, try to cut hay on these days:

My mom did not want her hair

My mom did not want her hair cut on the growing of the moon! She said it grows too fast if this happens. I tried to reason with her that her hair grows from the roots, not by the tips of her hair! Any of you readers ever hear this tale?

My dad was a farmer, and he planted his crops by the moon.

Your mother is not alone!

The Editors's picture

Your mother is not alone! Many people swear by this age-old practice of cutting hair by the Moon's sign based on a belief that the Moon influences energy. Here's a timetable that includes growing hair:

I am planning to bushog my

I am planning to bushog my fields for weed control. When is the best time to kill weeds in our cow pasters?

mowing to kill weeds and brush

I am 63 years old. I always heard my dad, and other older farmers say to kill unwanted weeds and sprouts and such, to skin the bark on trees and mow fields on EMBER DAYS. THEY fall on SEPT. 19, 20, AND 21 as for the rest of this year. I too am going to bushhog my farm on these days to try to get rid of unwanted sprouts and weeds. I cannot prove this works but I've heard this since I was a boy, and older than me men still say it. that's as much as I know about this. good luck to both of us.

Can the almanac be used in

Can the almanac be used in the southern hemi? I'm in Rio de Janeiro.

Is there any difference in

Is there any difference in the amount of damage done by freezing temperatures in the light of the moon verses the dark of the moon????

The old wives tales came from

The old wives tales came from very wise old wives. Some may seem absurd by today's hi-tec standards but I trust the ancient knowledge. As far as the moons affects on water pressures on earth trust the almanac. Seeds sprout sooner planted during the waining moon. Just think about gravity and the high and low tides it all begins to make sense. Old wives paid close attention to detail and passed their knowledge down, I trust it.
A Renaissance of common sense , how refreshing ,happy living.

my grandfather was a firm

my grandfather was a firm bliever on planting by the phases of the moon. there must have been somthing to it because pap pap as he was called had the best garden around. noone could top his vegatables for size and i do mean noone. one carrot or potato was all that was needed for a large pos of soup or beef stew.

I thought you should plant

I thought you should plant seeds on a waxing moon unless they are root crops. I should plant on waining moon? Now I'm confused :)