Planting and living by the signs and phases of the moon

By Philip Case, Published:

As spring approaches anticipation builds for those of us who enjoy gardening, whether that “garden” is a few tomato plants out by the porch, acres for the Farmers Market or flowers to brighten the table. And for those of you planting your garden by the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac – or thinking about giving it a try – here’s an overview of my favorite garden enhancement technique.

This is essentially the same information I’ve run every February for a long, long time now so for some of you it will be a review, for others new information – and for others something to flip by on your journey through the rest of today’s Spectrum!

As you regular “phases and signs” readers know, I now have a blog, a Facebook page and I’m on Twitter. See the information about how to “link up” elsewhere here as well as other ways to be in touch with your questions or comments.

And I promise to make every effort to utilize all these social media tools this year. I’ll admit I came slowly into the world of email a number of years ago but don’t know how I’d function without it now! That said, Twitter, Facebook and a blog are all at my disposal now and it’s time for Ol’ Phil to step up and use ’em!

I’m trying every way to make myself available to you for questions short of moving into your home!

Now, on with it.


It’s almost time to start if you’re planning to put out any cool-weather crops – those that enjoy cool air and soil temperatures. And if you possibly can I encourage you to plant your garden utilizing the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac. Harnessing these natural forces only help make your good garden even better.

I’ll be right here on the pages of Your Hometown Newspaper with the information about what you can plant and when. Also, at the beginning of each month I’ll continue to offer an overview of the month. For those plotting out the entire month I hear this has proved helpful.

If you’re interested in different varieties and have special gardening questions other than about the phases or signs, I encourage you to discuss these with a specialist at one of our fine local nurseries or contact Kim Cowherd or Keenan Bishop at the Franklin County Extension Office, 695-9035.

While I am a certified, card-carrying Extension Master Gardener, I make no claims to be a specialist with regard to plant types, fertilizer needs, pest control, and the like. I know – or can find – the answers to lots of questions and if I can’t then I’ll turn to the experts to help.

What I do know something about is planting by the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac and other related topics, so feel free to contact me. Contact information is elsewhere here and I offer a variety of opportunities.


Break out those seed catalogs or go online, get your garden plot plowed or spaded, and start planning to plant whatever it is you’re going to plant in your plot this summer. While it’s too early for most things, it’s never too early for planning.

Spring doesn’t officially arrive until 7:02 a.m. EDT, March 20 – and while that’s just a bit over a month away it shouldn’t keep you from getting your garden spot ready, and when it’s ready even putting out some cold weather crops.

Let me assure you there’s nothing mystical or magical about phases and signs, and it’s not to be feared. It merely combines natural forces with good gardening practices.

We’re all familiar with our horoscopes, found in this newspaper, online, in magazines and elsewhere. While there’s no way to prove or disprove them, horoscope writers claim the moon and stars have certain effects on our behavior; that our personality traits are influenced by the zodiac sign under which we were born.

In our scientific world we’ve come to want proof of everything before we’ll give our endorsement. Explaining planting by the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac is as difficult as trying to explain your horoscope, but I’m going to give it a whirl. If you’ll try it in your garden – along with following good gardening practices like watering, cultivating and such – I can almost guarantee it will work for you.


Perhaps like you, I’d heard of light and dark moon. I knew the moon’s gravitational pull affected the tides on earth – and beyond that I knew little else.

Then, in the early 1970s, I met a gentleman here by the name of Buford Van Meter, now deceased. Visiting with him and his late wife, Stella, one summer’s day I noticed their garden was doing a lot better than mine.

I asked him how he did it and he said by following the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac. Being a young, just-out-of-college lad then, I laughed. But he didn’t.

And I don’t now!

The VanMeters lived on the spot where Sonic is at the corner of US 60 and – as you may have noticed – Buford VanMeter Way. Anyone remember the old State Oil service station? That was beside the VanMeters’ Bedford stone home.

The tree behind Sonic was at the edge of their garden and they spent many a warm summer’s afternoon sitting under that tree breaking beans, shucking corn – or just sitting

Mr. VanMeter – I could never pull myself to call him “Buford” – offered to explain it to me, show me in my own garden and help me learn. After the next summer’s garden, I was a believer where before I’d been a skeptic, having said like many others that “I plant in the ground, not in the moon.”

I did some reading, asked more questions, got a copy of the Farmers’ Almanac and, well, continued to work with learning more about planting by the phases and signs. And, lo and behold, it worked: With little additional effort other than picking the days on which I planted what, based on the Almanac, my garden flourished and produced beyond expectations.

Since then I’ve been sharing the information with all who’re open minded enough to give it a try. That’s all I can ask: Just try it in your garden; just follow what I’m going to tell you each week and see what happens. Then if you don’t see improved yields, you’re welcome to forget it.

Of course you still have to water, fertilize, cultivate, etc. – all normally good garden practices. It doesn’t matter what phase or sign you plant in, if you don’t take care of your garden it won’t return you much but a bunch of weeds!


If you’ve heard about nothing else, likely as not you’ve heard about light and dark moon. Allow me to define the terms:

Light moon: From the time of the new moon – or no moon visible in the sky – to the full moon; the period while the moon is “growing” or “waxing.”

During the period of the “light moon,” those crops that produce above the ground should be planted. These are things like beans, tomatoes, corn, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – anything where what you eat grows above the ground.

But, please, don’t start planting those vegetables now – it’s still too cold for the first four and a bit chilly for the last three that actually enjoy cool weather.

This month: The “light moon” is in force now until the full moon on Feb. 25. Were you planting, it would be above-ground producers.

Dark moon: From the time of the full moon until the next new moon, the period while the moon is getting smaller or “waning.” Thus the dark moon begins on the day when the most moon is visible and ends when there’s no moon showing.

When the dark moon is in force plant only those crops which produce beneath the ground should be planted, things like onions, radishes, beets, potatoes – anything where what you eat grows beneath the ground, also known as root crops.

The light moon and the dark moon each lasts 14 days, thus making “one moon,” 28 days. Our primarily 30- and 31-day calendar is not a “moon-based” calendar.

Each week I’ll tell you what moon phase is in force and when it’s expected to change. Purists who follow this system say no planting should occur on the days when the moon’s changing because you can’t be certain of the exact hour and minute.

Many calendars, all almanacs, most newspapers, and some television stations tell you which phase the moon is in. It’s easy to follow, non-threatening, and just taps the natural forces of the universe to aid your garden.

But remember you need to consult some “source” to determine exactly what phase the moon is in. That cannot be determined by just “looking up at the sky” on a clear night!


The other aspect is the signs of the zodiac.

There are 12 signs of the zodiac each in force for at least two days every month, and sometimes three for fill out the 30 or 31-day months other than February.

The signs start at the head (Aries) and work their way down the body to the feet (Pisces) and then start over again in a continuous cycle – and remember it adds up to 28 days so the signs don’t fall on the same day each month so one month may end with Aries (the head) ruling and the next one begin with Pisces (the feet) in force.

Each sign “governs” a part of the body, and each of us was born under a particular sign, which, according to the writers of horoscopes, predisposes us to certain personality traits. Our “birth sign” lasts for an entire month – like my sign is Gemini (the arms) that is in force roughly from May 21-June 21 each year.

I realized a few years back that this is confusing. If you need or want further explanation, be in touch. I won’t try to explain it here beyond what’s above.

Through research – both from books and in the garden – I’ve discovered there are four signs particularly suited for all kinds of planting: Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, and Cancer. You can remember the four with the acronym: Signs Plant Thick Crops.

Believers say vegetables planted under the influence of these signs, in the proper phase of the moon, will produce abundantly.


Combining the phases of the moon with the proper sign is the most productive scenario. But if you can only do one, follow the moon and plant above-ground producers in the light of the moon and below-ground producers in the dark of the moon.


Here are a few interesting notes about The System:

>As I wrote above, each sign governs a specific part of the body. I’ll tell you which part of the body the sign governs in parenthesis each week. For example, Gemini (the arms). The parts of the body governed by a sign are supposedly more sensitive when the moon is in that sign.

>Beans and peas should be planted in Gemini during the light of the moon. The sign rules the arms and beans are supposed to grow “as long as your arms.” Believe me, they may not grow that long but they produce much more abundantly.

>Aries (the head) and Leo (the heart) are killing signs. No planting should occur on days falling under the influence of these signs, they should be reserved for killing, deadening or cultivating.

>Virgo (the bowels) and Libra (the forearms or reins) are flowering signs. If you want to plant flowers for the blooms, do it when these signs are in force. Avoid planting vegetables in Virgo or Libra since they spend more time blooming than setting fruit, unless it’s the blooms you’re eating.

>If you’re planning to wean small animals or children, castrate animals, have elective surgery, stop bad or begin good habits, try to begin when the moon is in the dark phase and the signs are in the thighs (Sagittarius) and moving out of the body in this order: Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

I’ll tell you each month when this is going to happen or don’t hesitate to write or call. Information regarding this is an oft-asked question, especially from folks trying to stop smoking or scheduling surgery. (That’s right Medical World: They call and ask!)

>It’s best if you’re planning some sort of elective surgery (not an emergency!) to have it done when the sign is in some area of the body that doesn’t function – like the legs, knees, arms, and feet. Try to avoid surgery when the sign is in Leo (the heart) or Aries (the head).

I could go on and on. Again, if you have a specific question, please call: If I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find out.

One last word – or two

Even at the expense of repeating myself, let me say again that phases and signs do not – and make no pretense to – replace good gardening practices. You still must pay attention to weather reports, soil temperatures and moisture levels, days to maturity on packages, last and first frost dates.

If you follow phases and signs judiciously, say, and don’t cultivate your garden, it will be a failure. Each plant or seed has an air and soil temperature it loves. Find that out and plant accordingly – in the right phase and sign – and with proper care you (or the deer!) will be richly rewarded!

If you’d like to read more on the subject, get a copy of the very first in the series of Foxfire books, edited by Eliot Wigginton. The whole series is excellent and the first book has an entire chapter on planting by the phases and signs.


Here’s the information about the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac this week. If you need to be in touch with me, see my contact information elsewhere here.

The moon is in the light phase now and will remain there until 3:26 p.m. Feb. 25 when the full moon comes to rule. Until then be proceeding with only above-ground producer planting if you’re planting in a green house, cold frame – or peas in your early garden.

The signs

With the light moon in force for the next two weeks, we find some fine planting days – and some it would be best to stay in the house!

Today (Sunday) and Monday find the fertile sign Taurus (the neck) in force. These Taurus days are great ones for planting.

Then Tuesday and Wednesday with the moon still in the light phase we find two Gemini (the arms) days. If you want to give the “peas before Washington’s birthday” theory a spin, and if your ground is ready and it’s dry enough, you won’t find two finer days for planting peas.

That outstanding opportunity continues Thursday and Friday when the sign moves to Cancer (the breast), another of the four most fertile signs.

All planting and dealing with things you’re wanting to thrive should cease Saturday and next Sunday as the sign moves to Leo (the heart), one of the killing signs.

The month concludes with the flowering signs Virgo (the bowels) and Libra (the reins) ruling, Feb. 25-28.


Here’s how to be in touch, get instant information, ask questions, make comments or visit a platform for discussion. You can even call and check if I’m “in residence” at the newspaper and stop by for a chat.

>Email or

>Call or text (502) 682-5995 or call The State Journal at (502) 227-4556.

>My Twitter account is @plantingbysigns. You can also visit and join in more detailed discussion on my blog found there.

>And now I’m on Facebook so “drop by” and join me. My page is “Planting By Signs” and it’s devoted to general gardening with an emphasis on utilizing the phases of the moon and signs of the zodiac.

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