Ask the Steward


By Dan Ernst



Full moons have always fascinated me.  What full moons are coming up this spring?


Full moons have marked the seasons throughout the ages and names of full moons vary by region of the world and cultures.  In the Midwest names are commonly those given by Native Americans and later on by European settlers.  Upcoming spring moons are the Worm moon on March 27th to usher in the softening ground, earthworm emergence and return of spring birds feeding on them. It’s also known as the Sap moon referring to spring sap flow and maple syrup season.

On April 25th the Egg moon or Sprouting Grass moon shines and brings the season of new grass, early flowers and egg laying in the new year’s nests.

May 25th will bring the Flower moon also known as the Corn moon or Milk moon.  April showers bring May flowers.  Corn planting season is well underway- or nearly done on today’s farms.

Perhaps most anticipated will be on June 23rd when the moon reaches perigee (its closet visit to Earth in 2013 at 221,824 miles).  This moon, known as the Strawberry moon will be the largest full moon of the year and will appear to be 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the smallest full moon.  It’s prime strawberry season too. 


How do moon phases differ from full moons?


Moon phases references the percent of illumination visible on the face of the moon as the earth and moon orbit the sun together.  The Full Moon is one of 8 major named phases of the moon.  At this phase the moon is 180 degrees away from the sun and earth and has almost full illumination by the sun.  If in full alignment the earth blocks all or part of the sun’s rays causing a lunar eclipse as the earth’s shadow crosses the face of the moon.  Some claim that fishing is best during the full moon phase.

Other phases include the New Moon when the moon is between the Earth and sun and is illuminated by the sun’s reflection off the Earth, appearing like a dimly lit full moon.  If the moon is directly in line with the sun a solar eclipse occurs.

Waning moon phases (crescent and gibbous) refer to periods when decreasing amounts of the moon are illuminated by sunlight.  Some gardeners take moon phases very seriously and avoid planting seeds during a waning moon phase- except for root crops.

Waxing phases (crescent and gibbous) are periods when increasing amounts of the moon are illuminated by sunlight.

1st Quarter moons are 90 degrees away from the sun in the sky and half-illuminated when viewed from Earth.  At this point the moon has traveled about a quarter of the way around Earth since the new moon.

Last quarter moons have moved three quarters of the way around Earth and the other half of the visible face of the moon is illuminated when compared to the 1st quarter moon.

In addition to anglers and gardeners, moon phases are also looked to for optimal times for deer hunting, tree pruning, cutting hair, weddings and a surprising list of other things.    Does it work for morel mushroom hunting?


Dan Ernst is an Assistant State Forester with the Indiana Division of Forestry. He oversees the state forests in Indiana and has authored the “Ask the Steward” column for years.  Have a question for the column? Email Dan at