Planting By The Signs of the Moon

As we look back 40 years ago to the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, our thoughts turn to gardening, as they always do.

I remember where I was when Neil Armstrong first stepped onto that plant-less moon, do you?

I was in the family room at home watching it all on a 19-inch black and white television set, all ready to take pictures of the television to capture the moment on film. We obviously had no VCR’s back then. And no You-Tube, either. No siree bob! We had never even heard or imagined of something that could record television shows like that, let alone the Internet. But we had read something in the newspaper about how to take pictures of the television with our cameras while the broadcast took place, so we set up TV trays in front of the TV to help us hold our little Kodak Instamatic cameras real still and clicked away.

We probably took just one or two pictures each, my sisters and brother and I. I’d love to have those pictures now but have no idea where they are, if any of my siblings have some of them or if they got tossed away at some point in time.

At the time of the moon landing, our kitchen counters were probably loaded down with cucumbers, green beans and peppers from the garden, just like mine are now. And we probably had more than one or two ripe tomatoes at that time, too, because my Dad always did manage to harvest his tomatoes much earlier than I ever have. I’m still not sure exactly how he managed that, but I have a pretty good idea that it took way more time and effort than I am willing to put forth. He sowed the seeds very early and up-potted them several times before that last frost. Then he hauled them outside on any day warm enough for them, and hauled them back inside in the event of a frost warning, until finally it warmed up enough that he could plant them outside for good. By that time the plants were probably two feet tall and flowering.

I also wonder if he didn’t secretly check the moon phase and sow his seeds on a day that was supposedly the best day to sow seedlings for plants that were grown to produce a fruit like that.

Does anyone plant strictly according to the signs of the moon and does it make a difference?

I always mean to. I even have a couple of books that go into some detail explaining how to plant by the moon. I’ve looked through them but they make it seem a tad bit complicated, though I suspect if I really dug into it, I’d find it isn’t that difficult to follow. Basically, you plant above ground crops in the light of the moon (from new moon to full moon) and plant below ground crops in the dark of the moon (from full moon to new moon). (Right? I think that's right.)

Every year, I also buy an almanac that has tables listing all the vegetables I would grow and when the moon is favorable for planting. But then spring comes and I generally plant when I can, regardless of the moon.

By the way, my almanac says that the moon is favorable tomorrow for planting late beans. I think I’ll sow some and see what it happens. It also says that the moon wasn’t favorable when I planted my first beans, so I’m not sure how to explain the five pounds of beans still in the refrigerator. Just how good a crop would I have had, had I waited until the moon was favorable to plant those?

There is also a “best days” chart in the almanac that is based on the moon’s signs. According to that chart, today and tomorrow are good days to end projects; plant below ground crops; graft or pollinate; and can, pickle, or make sauerkraut. I’m not sure how that works with the other chart about planting beans tomorrow but who am I to disagree?

I just know that 40 years ago today, we put a man on the moon, and today it has made me think more about how the moon affects my garden. Next year, maybe I really will finally plant by the signs of the moon…


  1. I vaguely remember watching it on TV. I can't even remember what time of day it was & whether my dad was home to watch it with us. Of course I was very young at the time. I don't worry about what the moon is doing when it comes to planting, but then I'm not a serious veggie gardener either.
    BTW, the word verification is "demetrat" which reminds me of the goddess of the harvest, Demeter.

  2. I remember watching it. I seem to remember it was late at night and we got special dispensation to stay up and watch it. However, I have absolutely no idea what size television screen we had, and I missed the instructions on how to take a still pic of the screen. Of course you only took one or two pictures each. You had to buy the film, and then pay to have the film developed, and that could easily eat up your allowance.

  3. I do not remember it. Please don't hold that against me!

  4. Wow, thanks for the reminder... Sometimes we forgot how some things have changed. My parents used to buy film in a 12-roll, and then it would take years for them to finally finish off the roll (but was always a fun surprise to finally develop, and find out what was on that roll). Now I have a digital camera which holds more than 1000 photos!

    On the other hand, human nature hasn't changed much if at all. Same sorts of issues now, as we can read throughout history.

  5. Yes, things have really changed a lot since that day, haven't they? And yet, some things haven't really changed at all, like the simple joy of gardening.
    Plant Lady

  6. I was still a couple of years from existence in 1969 but my mom, freshly married and starting her new life, remembers it vividly and loves to tell about it. I often regret missing the 1960s... what an incredible time it was.

  7. I do remember watching it on tv, or have I seen reruns so often that I think I did??? I remember wondering why everyone was so excited about someone on the moon. I don't plant by the moon. I plant when it is convenient. I do think the moon affects plantings and how one feels. Sometimes more so than other times.

  8. What a lovely way to recall the moon landing ... I too remember where I was. Now if we can just put that kind of creative effort into curbing our impact on our beloved planet. Though I have not been planting along with the phases of the moon, I do so enjoy its magic cast in the night garden. Digging in the dirt does make us all similar to explorers ... of couse nothing like those that conquer unknown territories, but it does connect us to peoples throughout time and you never know what you might dig up.

  9. Biointensive agriculture/gardening, as well as permaculture are "branches" of gardening that strongly incorporate planting and harvesting by the lunar phases. I had a student that did a project involving lunar phases and produce yield; she determined that there is much merit to following lunar phases!

  10. Oh, yes, I remember watching the moon landing. Much like you, I watched it on a small B&W set with the family. For some strange reason, I seem to recall my mother vacuuming in the background. I think she was always vacuuming thoug. Isn't it weird the things we remember (and repeat).

    Cleaning Nut

  11. It was the summer before I left for college and I was totally consumed with saying goodbye to friends! I do remember watching the TV coverage, but like Lisa it's hard for me to recall if it was the actual coverage or the videos! gail

  12. I'm not old enough to remember when Armstrong landed on the moon. What a shame :( My mom sent me this link so that I could read about people taking pictures of the television. I've never thought about how the every day citizen would document something like the moon landing. You have given me something to ponder; I appreciate that :) I have taken pics of our tv - an exercise in creativity. Some really odd photos result. You should definitely try it sometime!

  13. I know we must have watched it because we lived fairly close to the Space Center and visited it a couple of times a year. I don't remember watching, though.

    I think my grandmother planted by the moon cycles. I've always wanted to try it but I'm not that organized a gardener!


Post a Comment

Comments are to a blog what flowers are to a garden. Sow your thoughts here and may all your comments multiply as blooms in your garden.

Though there is never enough time to respond to each comment individually these days, please know that I do read and love each one and will try to reciprocate on your blog.

By the way, if you are leaving a comment just so you can include a link to your business site, the garden fairies will find it and compost it!