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

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Plant flowers and vegetables

The Editors's picture

Plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the light, or waxing, of the Moon: from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full.
Plant flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground during the dark, or waning, of the Moon: from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.
See our Planting by the Moon calendar:

OK got it. Thanks. I always

OK got it. Thanks. I always germinate everything except root crops on the first light of the moon or a few days before.

Need to put gravel down..when

Need to put gravel down..when is the best time to do this?

Thanks for your

The Editors's picture

Thanks for your question.
Put down gravel when the Moon's sign is in a fixed sign (Taurus, Leo, or Aquarius). This information is not on our Web site. See our annual chart in The Old Farmer's Almanac, or download the complete Moon Sign calendar (for a small fee) at

When is best time of the moon

When is best time of the moon to break a calf to lead

We're sorry, we don't have

The Editors's picture

We're sorry, we don't have information about that (anybody know?). You might try the same dates as weaning, astrologically speaking. For the best days for weaning for the next two months, see:

Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing

We want to lay bricks for a

We want to lay bricks for a patio edging. What phase of the moon will keep them from sinking?

Hmm. For excavation, laying

The Editors's picture

Hmm. For excavation, laying foundations, or pouring cement, one sometimes waits until the Moon is full and in Taurus, Leo, or Aquarius. Perhaps your task would fall under this category.

Does harvesting lumber during

Does harvesting lumber during a full moon provide stronger or harder wood than if harvested at other times?
I understand that before modern technology and present day demands this was the time when trees were felled for lumber.

According to one folklore

The Editors's picture

According to one folklore belief, the best time to cut timber is when the Moon is waning (dark of the Moon), between full and new (some variations refine this to last quarter), when the sap is thought to be lower in the tree. (In general, sap carries water and nutrients to many parts of a healthy tree, but the volume fluctuates in places due to a number of factors, and stem diameter can change slightly).

Other variations of this belief say to cut closest to the new Moon, or during the first and last quarters.

It was believed that at the time of the full Moon (due to the pull of the Moon's gravity), a larger volume of sap was present in higher sections of the tree, making the wood softer. If one cut timber at this time, it would tend to split, bleed more, and encourage wood-boring insects and rot. As it dried, it would shrink more.

Has anyone done both, moon

Has anyone done both, moon cycle and not, and recorded the results like an experiment? All I hear is it works great by the people who haven't done it any other way. I'm new at this, I know nothing, I believe the moon is powerful, and I usually do stuff when I have time, not sure how the moon phases fall on my free time. I would like to know what difference it makes. Can anyone help?

i have much better luck with

i have much better luck with houseplants when i pay attention to sign of the moon. they never die. if i have to plant when not good sign, many times they die. not sure about garden plants,personally

We were wondering about the

We were wondering about the light of the moon and the dark of the moon, can someone explain this, and when is the best time to plow garden for next year, new to this

Somebody please reply, I'm

Somebody please reply, I'm definitely not a farmer but I'm confused by the new farmer's alamac (online), they have more days when I'm NOT to do simple trans/planting etc between the new and full moon when all I read and learned via books, online blogs says it's quite ok, even encouraged. Why is that ? Who do I believe ? The moon phase blogs/books or the Farmers Alamac ?

More details, common sense told me still go by the moon phase blogs/books I know, that the farmers alamac is really for huge farms and ranchers.

Please reply


Dear Terry: As we understand

The Editors's picture

Dear Terry:
As we understand it, basic lunar gardening deals just with two factors (a Moon phase’s moonlight and its gravitational pull on soil moisture) and their effect on plants. According to this method, a person plants aboveground crops between the new and full Moon phases (light of the Moon, or waxing). It’s best to plant belowground crops the day after full to day before new (dark of the Moon, or waning).
Some gardeners refine this basic rule in several ways. For example:
--You can subdivide tasks by quarter phases (new, first, full, last). Because light and gravitational pull is different between new and first quarter, and full and last quarter, some gardeners find that certain plants respond best, or gardening task results are best, when done during a certain quarter (one of the four phases), rather than just by the light or dark of the Moon, which each span two Moon phases.
--You can associate the Moon’s phases with the Moon’s astrological place. Gardeners who use astrology find that certain gardening tasks results are better, or specific plants respond better, when performed/planted according to when the Moon is in a certain astrological sign as well as according to its phase. For example, certain astrological signs are barren and dry, others are wet and fertile, and even more are in between. This influences the types of tasks that should be done when the Moon is in a particular sign.
It’s a personal choice as to which method you’d like to use.
As to our Best Planting Dates charts for seeds or transplants, these work with a region’s frost dates to determine recommended planting times for certain crops. The “Moon Favorable” column takes those recommended times and further refines them to match those dates that are also good for basic lunar gardening (planting by the light or dark of the Moon). It does not incorporate the Moon’s astrological place.
Hope this helps!

what a wonderful explanation.

what a wonderful explanation. my dad used this gardening method for over 30 years and had successful flower and vegetable gardens. 40 years later I now grasp what he was doing. It worked for him, so we are trying it this year.

Disabled an need help

Disabled an need help planing
Events. I buy the Farmers Almanac book every year but I like the apps. explain more to me about Farmers Almanac on my phone . thank you very much God bless.

I had a 90 year old man tell

I had a 90 year old man tell me that if I planted by the almanac that my garden would always be successful. That was 30 years and many successful gardens later. I buy a new one each year and look online here too. Best Wishes and Happy Gardening!

I believe in planting by the

I believe in planting by the moon phases lol, I just look up in the sky or consult my trusted current calendar and weather guides. I never even heard of Farmers Alamac (online) although I seen books and my small personal garden and houseplants are all healthy and wonderful. I've been a personal gardener for all 20 plus years of my life from my father who taught us kids about recycling for the black gold (compost) which helps tremendously in all gardening we do by the moon phases. Just saying.

Everything i'm reading here

Everything i'm reading here is absolutely fascinating to me.

I think God's handy work is

I think God's handy work is amazing!!!

I like the old farmer almanac

I like the old farmer almanac

I have always liked the old

I have always liked the old Farmers Almanac.