Farming by the Moon

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

Martha White
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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.

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Comments

Becky J Johnson (not verified)

2 years 5 months ago

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

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!

Amy (not verified)

2 years 10 months ago

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

Melissa (not verified)

3 years 8 months ago

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!

ceroley (not verified)

6 years 7 months ago

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