Some believe that certain phases of the moon are more beneficial for planting a garden, but is there any science to support this idea? The meteorologist Alex Calamia explains.
COLUMBIA, SC – Do you think a full moon can do the worst in humans? Well, there are some gardeners who believe that the moon can affect plants too.
The idea is called lunar phase gardening and the belief is that the gravity of the moon can affect the way plants process water and nutrients. A little research and you might think the practice is based on solid science, but it isn’t!
Here are some of the rules for moon phase gardening and the science that says this gardening trend should not be taken too seriously.
Myth 1: Plant certain plants during certain phases of the moon.
The moon is our closest neighbor in the sky, and maybe that’s how the idea behind moon gardening came about. The folklore of the moon garden goes back to the Mayans. There is a belief that the position of the moon in the sky affects living things.
Moon phases affect some aspects of our world, particularly the ocean tides. The highest tides and the lowest tides occur during the new and full moon phases because the moon and sun are in a row. During these two phases of the moon, the gravity of the moon is not lowered by the gravity of the sun, but increased by it! Oceans make up more than 70% of the earth’s surface and are large in surface area, so even something as small as the moon’s gravity can bulge the ocean’s surface upward.
Gardeners who use gardening during the moon phase can explain that the moon’s gravity can also affect the flow of water in plants. That’s why people who plant based on moon phases say they plant leafy vegetables when the moon is growing (closer to the full moon), root crops when the moon is fading (out of the full moon phase), or leafy vegetables during the Plant the new moon. This idea is flawed because water does not passively drain and drain in plants as it does in the ocean.
“If that were true, you would have moved the sap up and down on plants twice a day. That would only destroy their system, ”explains Clemson consultant Jackie Jordan.
In contrast to the ocean, plants constantly defy even the strong gravity of the earth. Every plant contains hormones that instruct the seed to sprout roots and shoot upwards with the help of gravitational forces. As plants grow, they develop a network of structures called a xylem and a phloem. The xylem carries water upwards and the phloem carries nutrients from photosynthesis through the plant. If these structures don’t do their job effectively (like hot and humid days or after a noxious frost), plants wither. No change is observed depending on the phases of the moon, and the gravity of the moon is so insignificant to a plant that the phases of the moon cannot affect plants in this way.
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Myth 2: A full moon helps plants grow faster
It is true that plants get an extra boost when the days are longer or lighter. Alaska is known for producing mega-large plants every summer as the sunlight is almost endless and some plants can live on the fluorescent lights in an office building for years. The light in both cases is far more significant than even the brightest full moon, which, according to Jackie Jordan, is 400,000 times darker than full sunlight. Compared to a street lamp, the full moon doesn’t have enough light to noticeably affect plants, but Jordan mentions that artificial light affects plants that take shorter days to bloom – like chrysanthemums and poinsettias.
Full moons play an important role in gardens historically as farmers rely on these brighter nights to work in the fields. For this reason, the last full moon of summer is known as the “harvest moon,” and many other full moon phases have names that come from agriculture.
The right planting at the right time is important
When it comes to gardening in the moon phase, experts agree, “It may be fun, but I would say you’re better off paying attention to the things that are really important, temperature, humidity,” explains Jackie Jordan. Gardening in the moon phase limits gardeners to just a few days a month to plant and harvest certain plants. This is disadvantageous for plants that have to be harvested almost daily. Peas have to be harvested constantly, otherwise the pods will become hard and inedible and the plant will stop producing new pods because it has already served its purpose – reproduction.
Make no mistake, timing is everything, but instead of focusing on phases of the moon, gardeners should pay close attention to the weather and climatic needs an individual plant needs to be successful. The Clemson Extension has a great resource on their website for gardeners in South Carolina who need advice on when to grow certain plants to avoid harmful weather or insects. The weather can change instantly. If the timing is right, take some time to start planting!