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The UK Gardening Seasons

Early Spring: March
Mid Spring: April
Late Spring: May

Early Autumn: September
Mid Autumn: October
Late Autumn: November

The lists above and below are the expected time of year of the seasons for lowland middle England, and act as a base-line we can use as a guide when estimating the arrival of the seasons for the gardener. According to how near or far you are to the base-line, use the lists to estimate season arrival in your area:

Starting from the most southerly point of the British Isles, deduct four weeks for spring and add four weeks for the arrival of autumn. At the most northerly point of the British Isles use the opposite calculation; add four weeks for the arrival of spring and deduct four weeks to the arrival of autumn. Use the same method to subsequent months.

As you move towards and away from the base-line, adjust accordingly for your area. For example; Essex could expect to see spring arrive by mid-February - a week or so earlier, but could expect autumn to start a week or so later in mid-October.

Get to know the weather patterns in your area, and keep an eye on the weather reports!

Early Summer: June
Mid Summer: July
Late Summer: August

As a rule Summer and Winter has arrived to lowland England during the months opposite. Remember to adjust for your area. These seasons are normally hostile to a plant, either too hot and dry, or too cold and wet

Early Winter: December
Mid Winter: January Late Winter: February

The onset of spring, or warmer temperatures, starts officially on March 21st but as far as the plants in your garden are concerned it depends on your location. The RHS for example, base the arrival of spring on an average daytime temperature of 6°C. Why that temperature? Because of it’s significance for the gardener; as that is the temperature that enables plant growth! The other temperature that is of some concern is of course 0°C, as that’s when we can expect a frost. And that’s it; if you like gardening, it’s those two temperatures that dictate your year in the garden!

Oh, there is one more temperature, 21º C. That’s the ceiling for optimum growth. Above 21º C, and a plant may become stressed’… a bit like the gardener!

It has to be said that that our seasons have tended to merge over recent years and have become much drier, particularly in East Anglia. In many ways that has brought about a re-thinking of the ‘Gardening Rule Book’. However, one thing that has stayed constant, is that tender plants will still not tolerate a frost!

Lunar 'Seasons'

It is widely acknowledged by most gardeners that the seasons throughout the year influences plant growth. The ratio of daylight hours to the hours of darkness, falling and rising temperatures and water availability are all deciding factors when it comes to what we do in the garden and when we do it. However, timing our seed-sowing, planting and other gardening tasks entirely on the seasons is a relatively recent practice.

There is lots of evidence that organized farming took place as far back as 10,000 years ago and it’s a fair bet that the Phases of the Moon would have been highly significant. Farmers and food growers would have looked up to the sky, noticed the changing shape and position of the moon and wondered what influence it may have on the Earth. This connection continued to develop and establish over the decades and through the centuries.

As farming became more mechanized, along with vastly improved technical innovations the practice of using the moons’ influence began to go out of favour.

There are still devotees to the affects on plant growth of the moons cycle, in fact it is regarded by many vegetable growers just as significant as the seasons regarding when gardening tasks should take place. There are many calendars and handbooks available with planting and work guides based on phases of the moon.

What we know for sure is that a plant gains energy to sustain their growth from the Sun. As the gravitational pull of the moon controls tides and influences the groundwater table, it seems fair to assume that it could also affect the movement of fluids within a plant. It's interesting to note that as two thirds of our own body is water, there is also a theory that the moon affects our own emotions and energy levels as well.

Let’s look at the Principals involved:

We need to first remind ourselves of a little basic Astronomy! Here on Earth, we notice the Moon in the night sky by the amount of light from the Sun that’s reflected back to us from the Moons surface. The Moon is illuminated by the Sun all the time but the amount of moon-light we notice is dependant on the location of the Moon relative to the Sun and the Earth.

The moons cycle begins while the moon is directly in line with the Sun and Earth and is called a ‘New Moon’. At the time of the New moon, no light is reflected back to us here on Earth as the side facing Earth is in shadow. The Moon then begins it’s orbit around Earth to reappear as a New Moon again approximately one month later.

Half way through this sequence is a Full Moon

The First Phase is the New Moon. As can be seen in the illustration to the right, the moon is directly in line with the Sun and Earth

Mid way through the Moon orbiting Earth is the Fifth Phase and the Moon is then called a Full Moon.

As the Moon orbits Earth and crescents around the night sky, each month there are eight different phases. The New Moon is first, or number 1 in our diagram opposite, then...

Number 2; New Crescent
Number 3; First Quarter
Number 4; New Gibbous
Number 5; Full Moon
Number 6; Old Gibbous
Number 7; Last Quarter
Number 8; Old Crescent

During phases 2, 3 and 4 it is said that the moon is Waxing and the Earth is ‘exhaling’ or breathing out. During phases 6, 7, and 8 the moon is said to be Waning and the Earth is ‘inhaling’ or breathing in. There is a short lull and change of direction of the moons' energies during a new moon and a full moon. Each phase lasts in the region of 2½ to 3 days. As far as gardening by the phases of the moon is concerned the moon’s position between the Earth and the Sun is the key factor. Basically speaking the theory is…

A New Moon is the start of the Waxing Phase and we should prepare to sow seeds.

When the moon is Waxing a plants’ growing energies are drawn into the Upper Plant and as such it is the right time to sow or plant anything grown for it’s leaves, shoots, flowers of fruits. As the moon approaches and during it’s first quarter, the soil has a high moisture level.

A Full Moon signals the end of the Waxing period and the beginning of the Waning period. It is the best time to dig the soil and carry out any pruning.
When the moon is Waning growing energy is pulled into the Lower Plant and it is therefore the time to sow or plant anything grown for it’s roots, bulbs, tubers or rhizomes. The moisture content of the soil becomes low during the Waning Moon phase.

That’s a brief outline of the principles involved ...there are many books and website's that cover gardening by the phases of the moon far more comprehensively than I have here. I am not qualified to pass judgment on whether or not it’s all just folklore and superstition. I do feel however, we should always keep an open-mind. If you do try it and it works for you then what does it matter! One thing I do know is, as I live by a river I notice the power of the moon every time I walk the dog!

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