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Using the force ... the biodynamic way.

Standing amidst ten-foot high blueberry bushes loaded with fruit, I push my garden fork into the ground, lifting dark rich soil teeming with life: earthworms, deep roots, beneficial fungi, microbes, and insects. Using the biodynamic method of growing on my family's blueberry farm, we have transformed a few inches of decent soil and poor subsoil into over twelve inches of friable, humus enriched, life-filled earth.

Biodynamic farming and gardening originated in 1924 when Rudolf Steiner presented a series of lectures to European farmers who asked him for advice and help after seeing the degradation of plants, seeds, and land caused by artificial fertilizers. These lectures are now known as the Agriculture Course and published as the Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture. Steiner (1861-1925), born in Austria, was a philosopher, author, and founded the Anthroposophical society, Waldorf education, and much more.

The biodynamic method today is practiced worldwide with millions of acres under BD cultivation. Several key concepts are unique to biodynamic agriculture. The idea of farm individuality is central to biodynamic practices. Every farm locality has a different story, including its history, soils, climate, plants, animals, and humans. Each parcel of land has unique needs for its optimal health. Biodynamic growers strive to create a self-sufficient farm, growing our own food and animal feed, saving seeds, and so on. Other tenets are growing the right number and kinds of plants and animals, producing enough manure and compost to spread back on the fields, and creating a closed loop of fertility. This helps form a self-contained organism, or individuality.

In conventional agriculture, plant growth is promoted by using artificial sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Organic growers use natural sources of the same elements. Biodynamic growers not only use all natural substances, but we also use special preparations that work with the active forces behind plant growth. The forces of gravity and magnetism cannot be seen, but their effects can be observed. likewise, the forces that biodynamic preparations carry may not be seen, but the effects of these forces are quite evident in the health of plants, high nutritional content of produce. and--most importantly--taste.

Biodynamic growers use nine medicinal herbal, compost, and mineral preparations to enliven the soil and stimulate plant growth. The biodynamic preparations (BD preps) are all used in small, almost homeopathic quantities. A handful of carefully made BD preparation, stirred into three gallons of water can treat a whole acre. All of the BD preps are easy to use and are inexpensive. With a few hours work, all nine BD preparations can be applied to your garden. The preps can be sent to you in the mail, and a quick phone call can help answer your questions (see resources). Following is a brief outline of the nine preparations (BD preps #500-508) used on biodynamic farms and gardens.

BD#500 Horn Manure, made from specially prepared cow manure, increases health, fertility, and life of soils by stimulating humus formation, increasing microbial life. earthworm activity, and promoting root growth. BD #500 is stirred into water and applied by spraying over ground cover or recently worked soil. This is usually done during the late afternoon or early evening.

BD #501 Horn Silica, made from potentized crushed quartz. works like an atmospheric fertilizer, stimulating all plant life above ground by increasing photosynthesis and plant metabolism. Horn silica harnesses the sun's energy to allow plants to better assimilate and use sunlight. Results of spraying horn silica include better taste, color, aroma, nutritional and keeping qualities in fruits and vegetables.

BD compost preparations are used to treat compost piles, enhancing the breakdown, fermentation, and decomposition of raw compost materials, and help the rebuilding of refuse into stable humus, full of life. The compost preps prevent the escape of valuable nutrients like nitrogen while assisting in the formation and stabilization of new elements. It is amazing how flies and foul smells disappear when you place a little of each of the compost preps in the heap. Some horse farms in my area were astounded when the huge piles of stable bedding decomposed in weeks instead of years after being treated with BD compost preps. The six biodynamic compost preps (BD #502-507) are made with medicinal flowers of yarrow, chamomile, dandelion, and valerian, as well as bark of white oak, and the stinging nettle plant. The biodynamic compost preps are all very specially prepared and undergo a lengthy fermentation process, resulting in a highly concentrated compost stimulant.

To use the BD compost preps, simply insert a small quantity of the finished prep (see resources) into a compost pile of up to fifteen tons. Rudolf Steiner emphasized the importance of always staying within the living realm in all our agricultural activities. An example of this concept would be obtaining calcium from the outer bark of a white oak tree rather than using high-calcium lime that mostly leaches into the subsoil and becomes unavailable for plant use. All of the BD compost preps are made by processes that stay in the living realm as opposed to the mineral realm.

An easy method to get the influence of these compost preps on your garden is to use barrel compost, a specially prepared compost made from cow manure, eggshells, basalt, and the BD compost preparations (BD preps #502-507). These ingredients undergo a fermentation process and are transformed into a dark, rich, earthy-smelling, and powerfully potent product. To use barrel compost, dilute a small handful and stir into water for twenty minutes, then spray on plants and soft. This treatment is very beneficial for transplants, weak, insect or disease-infected plants, or as an overall tonic for a healthy garden.

BD #508 Horsetail Herb, Equisetum tea is used to prevent fungus, blight, mildew etc. The Equisetum arvense plant is brewed by lightly boiling in water for an hour to create a potent tea. This tea is used fresh on plants or fermented for a few weeks in an earthenware container for an even stronger brew. This tea is diluted and stirred in water for at least twenty minutes and sprayed on plants and soft.

Using BD Field Spray or BD Compost Starter is the easiest way to get your garden growing, the biodynamic way. The BD Field Spray and Compost Starter are highly concentrated, containing most of the biodynamic preparations as weft as beneficial microbes, bacteria, fungi, and enzymes. When you activate the field spray and compost starter in lukewarm water overnight, all the previously dormant bacteria and microbes grow by the millions. Then, when you go to spray this onto your compost pile and/or garden all this multitude of beneficial life can go right to work, quickly decomposing organic material, fixing nitrogen and available plant nutrients, stimulating and improving soft structure, preventing leaching and much more. The field spray and compost starter require no stirring, so they are very easy to use. Compost teas can be made with great results using the Phieffer field spray, BD #500, and fermented equisetum tea.

Biodynamic growers strive to work in harmony with the rhythms and influences of the moon and stars when doing earthly chores in the garden. The movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars all affect plant growth. When we work in harmony with these celestial rhythms, our agricultural activities can greatly benefit. The North American biodynamic planting calendar, Stella Natura, shows favorable times to work with specific parts of plants. Also, unfavorable times to work on plants are shown, such as when the moon is leaving one constellation and entering another, or when there is an eclipse. In working with the stars biodynamically, we use the astronomical signs zodiac, where the stars actually are today, as opposed to the astrological zodiac.

Eating fresh blueberries, I can taste the sweet fruits of our biodynamic labors. Getting started in biodynamics can be easy. It is also a practical and inexpensive way to improve your land. Growing the biodynamic way ultimately benefits the health and vitality of our plants, earth, and ourselves.

Biodynamic Growing Resources

For biodynamic preparations, BD Compost Starter and BD Field Spray, BD books and planting calendar: Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics-(JPI) P.O. Box 133 Woolwine VA 24185, 1-276-930-2463

For more information on biodynamics: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 25844 Butler Road, Junction City, OR 97448 888-516-7797, fax 541-9980106

Recommended reading:

The Biodynamic Treatment of Fruit Trees, Berries, and Shrubs by Ehrienffied Pheiffer

Gardening for Life the Biodynamic Way by Maria Thun

Culture and Horticulture by Wolf Stod

Grasp the Nettle by Peter Proctor

Stella Natura, Biodynamic planting calendar

Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture by Rudolf Steiner

Biodynamic Agriculture Introductory Lectures, Vol 1, 2, & 3 by Alex Podolinsky

Lloyd Nelson, builder, artist and grower, has a degree in horticulture, owns a BD spray service, teaches BD workshops and serves on the board of directors of the J.P. Institute for Applied Biodynamics. He works on his family farm, Blueberry Hill, in Zirconia, NC: He can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:going organic
Author:Nelson, Lloyd
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Previous Article:Commercialization of organics: how much do you love your food?
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