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Gardening by the Moon


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Stuart Merelie, landscaper, ecological researcher and permaculture fanatic, shares his passion for correct and sustainable landscaping in the Algarve and is The Resident’s permanent garden and landscaping correspondent. This is the eighth part in a series of 24, exploring permaculture and its importance and uses in today’s world.

IF YOU practise lunar agriculture, you don’t need a torch, I was told. This is not gardening at night (best summer hobby going, I reckon!) but the art of planting by the Moon.

For best results, it’s important to choose the correct phase of the Moon to plant, cultivate, weed, transplant or harvest. Here is a brief explanation of the four quarter phases of the Moon.

The period from the New Moon until First Quarter (when the Moon is a right handed semi-circle) is called the First Quarter Increasing.

The period from the First Quarter Moon until Full Moon is called the Second Quarter Increasing and the period from the Full Moon to Third Quarter Moon (left handed semi-circle) is called the Third Quarter Decreasing.

The period from Third Quarter until the New Moon (tiny sliver) is called the Fourth Quarter Decreasing. Each quarter phase has its own benefits in lunar agriculture.

The movement of the Moon has a connection not just with the rise and fall of the tides but all water.

As well as controlling the large and small bodies of water on the Earth, the Moon affects the water within it.

When water is rising during the increasing (or waxing) Moon, seeds sown and crops planted can more easily take up water than those sown in the Decreasing (or waning) phase.

As the Full Moon draws close in the phase of the Increasing Moon, fluids are drawn upwards and as the Moon starts to wane or decrease, fluids flow to the root systems.

In general, we plant after the New Moon in the First and Second Quarter Increasing for leafy crops with shallow root systems but during the Third Quarter Decreasing for root crops and bulbs, and those with well developed root systems such as trees.

The Fourth Quarter Decreasing is used for cultivation, soil preparation, weeding, extermination of pests and diseased growth and for starting compost heaps!

Zodiac gardening

To get more specialised still, you can also garden using the 12 zodiac signs that feature in every calendar month.

One of the signs of the zodiac dominates each day and each sign appears once a month for a period of approximately 2.5 days.

The signs are each ruled by a planet, each of which also contributes (in a lesser way than the Moon) to the rise and fall of water and lunar winds.

You can check exactly which zodiac sign is on which day free of charge at

Now here’s the best bit. Some people believe in lunar gardening, while many do not.

As a landscaper, I have to plant when the weather is right and I have to finish my work on time so I can’t always be exact on my timing but I now pay a lot more attention to the Moon.

I was advised by a friend not to lift some olive trees on the Saturday.

It was just after a new Moon bang on Aries and if you look at the zodiac table, it recommends doing nothing on this very day so I sent the JCB back home.

I ask you this one though. My pal is 70 years old and has never written a word in his life, let alone had access to calendars on the internet. How did he know?

Scientific research on lunar gardening is hard to come by.

I leave the last word to Ronald Harris, the head gardener at a private estate in Cornwall, who conducts his own experiments.

Each year, he cultivates a selection of crops in opposition to the best practices of the Moon. Crops planted according to the lunar cycle fare much better.

“I have a large area of potatoes. We have some planted at the right time of the Moon and some crops at the wrong time of the Moon. The difference is so obvious and there for everybody to see”, he said.

With 23 years experience in garden design and construction, Stuart is resident landscaper for QM Garden Centre and with his new company Merelie,The Landscapers is available for design and construction of all types of landscaping as well as consultations on Permaculture projects. Stuart lives near Estoi on his farm and spends his spare time recycling everyday rubbish into thermal mass lifestyle applications. For inquiries please contact Stuart on 917 814 261 or e mail on [email protected]