Seasonal Gardening: Almanac Planting, Tomato Transplant Yields and Fennel's Beneficial Insects

The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening news briefs on the almanacs' planting based on lunar cycle, how tomato transplants have low fruit yields and fennel's ability to attract beneficial insects.

| May/June 1988

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    Does science support lunar folklore?

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The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening information and tips with MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. 

Planting by the Moon

Every year, all the almanacs tout the best times to plant, based on the moon's phase and location in the sky. In general, the guides say to sow aboveground-bearing crops during the waxing moon and belowground-bearing crops during the waning moon. The moon's astrological sign is supposed to make a difference, as well.

Does scientific research back such claims? Hard to say. In L. Kolisko's 1926-35 German trials, cabbage, lettuce, beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers sown two days before the full moon had better germination, more vigorous growth and higher yields than ones planted two days before the new moon. And after four years of work, Maria and Matthias Thun concluded that radishes sown when the moon was in the "earth" signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) showed the best root development, those sown in the "water" signs (Pisces, Scorpio and Cancer) had the most abundant leaf development, and those sown in "air" and "fire" signs tended to bolt and seed well.

Other researchers have come up empty-handed. A. Becker in 1937-38 found no significant differences in crops planted on "favorable" days versus ones sown on "non-favorable" days. And K. Mather and J. Newell sowed various fruits and roots two days before each moon quarter and also found no correlation between plant growth and moon phase.

Why the contradiction? The problem may come from the fact that no research (that we know of) has correlated both moon phase and moon position with plant growth, in accordance with the claims of the almanacs. In short, the field seems quite unsettled. Perhaps we can organize an amateur experimental group to help settle the issue of "lunacy in horticulture." Feel free to write us and join in.

Seasonal Gardening Research Briefs

Don't buy precocious tomatoes. Ohio State University scientists demonstrated that tomato seedlings that are already fruiting when transplanted yield poorly—even if the cute little fruits are removed.

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