Planting by the Signs: Part Two

In Part One of this series, we introduced the basic guidelines for Planting By the Signs. In this article, we’ll be exploring the science behind this system, the astrological vs the astronomical moon calendars and we will look at some basic characteristics of the 12 zodiac signs.

Folklore vs. Science

We refer to this method as a long practiced Appalachian tradition. Although some skeptics might refer to it as merely folk ritual or even superstition, there is some basic science behind it. We know that the moon’s gravitational pull affects the tides, so it follows that it also affects the water that’s in the ground. In part 1 of this series, we learned to plant above ground crops in the waxing moon. As the moon is waxing from new to full–the moisture levels in the soil are increasing. So it makes sense that if you’ve planted seeds for above ground crops, they’ll be well hydrated and will swell as the moonlight grows and they will be coaxed upwards towards germination. Conversely, as the moon light recedes in the waning period, the water recedes as well, helping root crops establish themselves deep in the ground without the excessive moisture that could cause rotting.

The Astrological vs. Astronomical Moon Calendars

There are two different kinds of moon calendars. Planting by the Signs follows the astrological calendar, which is slightly different from the astronomical calendar. So what’s the difference? The astrological moon calendar treats the 12 zodiac constellations as equal in length, while in the science of astronomy, they are in fact not exactly the same length, so the two calendars are not perfectly in sync. Depending on which resource or almanac you are using as a guide, you’ll need to confirm which one it’s referring to. For instance, in the Farmer’s Almanac, the monthly calendar reflects the astronomical position of the moon, but provides the astrological information on a separate page.

The 12 Zodiac Signs: Fruitful or Barren?

In the PBTS systems, six of the Zodiac signs are fruitful and the other six are considered barren. Knowing which is which will help you determine your gardening tasks on any given day.

The fruitful signs, good for planting, in order of their effectiveness are Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Capricorn and Libra. All of those are feminine signs, except for Libra.

The barren signs, good for weeding, destroying unwanted growth, cultivating the soil and general cleanup, again in order of their effectiveness, are Leo, Gemini, Virgo, Aquarius, Sagittarius and Aries. These are all masculine signs, except for Virgo.

Coming up!

Each of these signs has a symbol, such as Leo the Lion, etc., a rulership, or body part associated with it, and an element. We’ll go over those next time, and then after that we’ll be able to begin putting it all together in an understanding of how they each apply to gardening.

These are just the basics, as a starting point, but there are of course variables and exceptions within all of these. As with everything, though, you gotta know the rules in order to break them, so that’s where we are at this point.

For specific day -by-day guidelines for the month, we provide a monthly downloadable, printable “Planting By the Signs of the Moon” calendar inside our Good Dirt Supporter membership as a quick day-by-day guide.

If you’re not a member yet but you’re interested in becoming one, go to the link in the show notes to learn more.

Guidelines for September 2023

Learn the average “first frost” date for your growing zone and the “days to maturity” information for the specific crops you want to put in, and count backwards to determine what you have time to plant. Add a few more days to that number because seeds will be growing slightly slower as the daylight diminishes. Keep in mind that fall gardens are for cooler weather crops such as spinach, lettuce, chard, beets, carrots, leeks, turnips and collard greens.

Moon Phases for September:

  • Last quarter–September 6th
  • New Moon–September 14th
  • Second Quarter– September 22
  • Full Moon–September 29th

For the Waning Period
If you’re in a zone where it isn’t too late to plant, you can plant root crops on the 8th-9th in Cancer.

For the waxing period, plant above ground crops on:

  • 16th-17th in Libra (good for flowers, not the best for fruits or vegetables)
  • 18th-19th in Scorpio
  • 23-24th in Capricorn
  • 27-28th in Pisces

Planting By the Signs includes guidance for harvesting, pruning and weeding, and I’ve included some of those days on the printable calendar that’s available on through The Good Dirt Supporters Membership.

If you’re not a member yet but you’re interested in becoming one, click this link to learn more.