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Follow the moon for celestial vegetables

First quarter of the moon? Time to plant those leafy vegetables: broccoli, lettuce, celery.

Full moon? Better get in those potatoes, radishes, carrots and other root crops. If you've been thinking of putting in new shrubbery or trees, this is the time of the month to do it.

If the garden's already in and you need to get out there and weed, or if you want to zap some insect invaders, wait until the moon is waning, in the week before the new moon. It'll work even better if you do your "destroying" when the moon is in one of the so-called barren signs -- Leo, Gemini, Virgo, Aquarius, Sagittarius or Aries.

These gardening "rules" are not the latest astrological fad; they come to us out of lore as old as, well, the moon.

"It goes back to antiquity," says Jack R. Pyle, co-author ofI Raising with the Moon,P a new book about the pseudoscience of planting and harvesting according to the signs of the moon. "The Sumerians and Babylonians practiced this."

For hundreds of years in this country, farmers used the almanac to chart the phases of the moon and help them choose the most auspicious times to cultivate, plant and harvest. They believed that the moon's position influenced natural cycles on earth, and thus the health and rate of growth of their crops.

Eventually, the practice was overtaken by modern agricultural methods, except in isolated pockets where people clinging to old traditions still raise by the moon to this day.

Pyle and his co-author, Taylor Reese, both grew up in families where the almanac was used to decide when to slaughter the hogs, when to can vegetables and when to go fishing. They didn't want to see the old-time practice die out.

"We decided this was something about to be lost. We wanted to write a book so the younger generation wouldn't forget about it," Reese said during a recent visit to St. Petersburg.

"The almanac is about the only place you can find this information anymore, and even in there, it's skimpy," Pyle said. "It just tells you which days are good days to do certain things. We wanted to explain why."

For three winters, the pair _ who split their time between a North Carolina mountain homestead and a home in Starke _ roamed the Southeast, interviewing farmers. "We asked them if they planted by the signs of the moon, and why," Reese said.

They found that specific systems of lunar-based agriculture differed with each farmer they asked. Pyle and Reese honored that diversity, including different theories even when they were conflicting.

"What you're doing is working with the cycles of nature," Pyle said.

Gardening is only one of many activities affected by phases of the moon, according to the authors. Raising with the Moon offers advice on how to figure out the best days of the month to get your hair cut, have your teeth worked on, buy an automobile or go fishing.

Pyle and Reese have used the technique to pick dates for elective surgery and to schedule trips. They even sent their book manuscript off to the publisher during a "fruitful" sign.

"Starting any new project is like putting seed into the ground. So any time that's good for planting is a good time to start something new," Reese explained.

Skeptics might scoff at such faith. But that doesn't bother Pyle.

"People will say, "Oh, I can't be bothered with that.' But just experiment and you'll be amazed," he said.

In the book, they quote a Tulane University researcher who found that seeds took up twice as much water (and thus, germinated faster) during the first quarter of the moon.

Still, they're careful not to claim scientific proof for every bit of advice inI Raising with the Moon.P

"We're not fanatics," Reese said. "You have to weave it into your life.

"But I will say that the past 16 years, we've planted a garden according to the almanac. Ninety percent of the time, we had success."

Raising with the Moon ($13.95 paperback) is published by Down Home Press. Locally, you can find it at Waldenbooks, B.

Dalton Booksellers, Haslam's and Bayboro Books in St. Petersburg, and Bookland in Port Richey.


First quarter (starts with new moon)



Brussels sprouts





2nd quarter (waxing)










3rd quarter (full moon)








4th quarter (waning)

No planting recommended. (You can plant underground crops during this quarter, but they won't be as productive as when planted in the third quarter.)

From: Raising with the Moon: The Complete Guide to Gardening and Living by the Signs of the Moon by Jack R. Pyle and Taylor Reese. (Down Home Press, 1993).