Biodynamic farm and garden design – in permaculture there is a very organised approach to design using “zone and sector planning”. Is this also relevant in Biodynamic gardening and farming?
The Biodynamic approach to farm and garden design is somewhat different – in searching for a farm or garden individuality, the factors of distance from dwelling, efficient use of time and resources, sun, wind exposure, fire exposure, use of gradient in regard to efficient water storage and use – all these factors – are naturally taken into account, arise naturally from an enlivened consideration of the property as a whole. The solutions to many of these problems simply present themselves complete to the conscious mind. Setting out with the intellect to make a design for a property, using such guidelines as “zone and sector planning” can lead to many errors.
One must wait, sense thoroughly into the property over a period of time, gradually understand it intimately. This takes time, and one must be patient. One must know the property for at least one year, one complete cycle of seasons. How does each paddock drain in a wet winter and spring, where do the winds come from, where is there good shelter, what is the soil profile in each area? These and many other factors can only become known over a long period of time. As one’s knowledge of the property grows, the form of the property’s “living identity” becomes clearer. This is a true, living awareness arising from the meshing into oneness of two factors: your perceptions of the natural environment of your farm or garden; and your agricultural knowledge and experience. The former is dependent on your powers of observation and is enriched by a capacity for “active viewing” (see Active Perception by Alex Podolinsky). The latter is dependent on the quality of your agricultural training and experience. BD training enables you to work with realness in nature.
The meshing into oneness of these two halves (the direct perception of the situation on your property and your BD training and experience) is referred to by Alex Podolinsky as “knowing-recognising” and is philosophically termed “monism”. Monism is a true knowing, not a fixed one.
If the agricultural model used is flawed, dualism results, and incorrect decisions are made. If fixed rules are applied inappropriately for the present situation, or if one plans far ahead without understanding or being receptive to the present situation, mistakes will be made. John Bradshaw
Biodynamic Preparations – one of my 500 sprayings was done on bare soil with no active roots as I hadn’t yet planted my summer crops ….. is this OK?
Spraying 500 on bare soil is fine. Better if you will put some plants in there in the next few weeks. Best is to sow or plant at the same time as the 500 application or a bit earlier. With a home garden that is difficult as you will have beds that won’t have plants for a while and you will perhaps have beds that don’t allow good contact of the 500 with the soil. You have to go with the weather and the overall garden and property. As you will water your crops you will have the opportunity to perhaps apply 500 again at a later date to get more effect on these parts of the garden. Rod Turner
Compost – what ratio of manure to non-manure materials should be used?
The percentage of manure and other materials cannot be determined by a formula. Experience is the best guide. Much depends on the type of manure, how old it is and the nature of the other materials. Depending on the situation, the percentage of manure could range from say 20% to 60% by volume. 60% fresh manure, or poultry manure would cause gross over-heating, whereas 20% of old cow manure would result in too low a temperature. The more heaps you make the more instinctive it becomes. Cow manure is the best manure if you can get it. John Bradshaw
Compost – how should it be applied to the garden?
Compost should be spread on the soil and turned under straight away with a garden fork. If left on the surface it will dry out and lose its colloidality. Alternatively, dig a furrow, put compost in the furrow, mix it with the soil and replace the topsoil. For fruit trees, vines etc, compost can be spread around and covered with a light mulch to stop it drying out. John Bradshaw
Compost making – can compost be made in layers rather than mixing the materials before adding to the heap?
Yes, good Biodynamic compost can be made in a layered heap, provided the layers are kept as thin as possible, around 30mm maximum. The ideal method is to mix the materials thoroughly before adding to the heap, but as many people these days have back problems, the layering method eliminates one extra handling of the materials. The key is to keep alternate layers of manure and non-manure materials as thin as possible. As the heap grows, the accumulated weight presses the layers together and the materials effectively intermingle. I find layering in this way produces just as good a result as the pre-mixing method. Layers thicker than about 30mm will not produce a uniform colloidal humus and cannot be recommended. John Bradshaw
Flowforms – why are they unacceptable for “stirring” 500?
Rudolf Steiner clearly described the stirring method required to fully activate 500 and 501 before spraying out. This involved the creation in the water of a deep vigorous vortex, followed by the production of an energetic, bubbling chaos and then another deep vortex, and so on. This should be done with the water as a whole, that is, each vortex and chaos involving all the water at once.
Alex Podolinsky talks of the vortex drawing in the harmony of the solar system, the drawing power of the vortex mirroring the drawing power of the Sun on the planets.
None of these aspects is achieved in a flowform. The water flows through a series of vessels, creating a similar effect to that of a natural stream. It is then either held in a tank at the bottom before being pumped back to the top or immediately pumped back. Either way, the water is not being activated while being pumped or held in the holding tank. There is no deep vortex involving the water as a whole, and no vigorous bubbling chaos involving the water as a whole. In one flowform set-up I studied, each part of the water was only actually activated for one minute during the hour. John Bradshaw
Kikuyu Grass – how do I get rid of it?
Mulching is usually a complete failure with kikuyu grass, as it survives for long periods under mulch and aggressively breaks out. It can also send runners up to 2 metres under mulch. The best method in a small Biodynamic or organic garden is to dig it out with a garden fork. If it is thick and matted, cut it into squares with a mattock and lift each square with the fork, bang the soil off and pile up the squares to dry out.
On a larger scale, chisel plough in summer when it is hot and dry. Pull it about with a chisel plough repeatedly over a period of a month or two. As long as you don’t get too much rain, the kikuyu will dry out and die completely. This method also works well with other problem grasses such as couch grass. John Bradshaw
Mulching – do you recommend thick, continuous mulching in the garden?
Continuous heavy mulching in Biodynamic and organic gardening, is not recommended. Soil must be able to breathe for biological activity to take place. Heavy mulching inhibits soil biology and leads to poor structure. It also makes it impossible for 500 to reach the soil. Light mulching, however, is very useful during hot dry periods, or in the establishment of vines, berries and fruit trees. Applied to the soil after spraying the spring 500, the mulch is usually almost gone by the time the autumn 500 is applied. John Bradshaw
Pest Control – are neem oil, pyrethrum and snail pellets OK for pest control in Biodynamic gardening? I have been gardening Biodynamically for 18 months now.
Yes they are fine to use thoughtfully, but you should also ask yourself why the pest is there in the first place. For example, slugs and snails are there because there are hiding places for them, aphids because the plant sap doesn’t have enough “sun” influence at the moment. After only 18 months I would still expect to have a few pest problems for a few more years. Pyrethrum and neem are also indiscriminate as they will also kill beneficial creatures attempting to keep things in balance. As for the snails use the Maxicrop iron based ones as these are less toxic to the soil. Put them in small containers to keep them off the soil. Rod Turner
Seed Growing - How can I make my own seed raising mixture?
Organic and Biodynamic gardeners can make their own seed raising mix quite simply. Mix equal parts of good white, washed sand (the sort used in concrete) and Biodynamic compost. If you have no BD compost, any colloidal compost, worm casts, or old mineralised compost (compost that has lost its colloidality) will do as a substitute, though it will not hold moisture as well as colloidal compost. Some peat moss or good garden soil can be added. Mix thoroughly. Don’t sterilize it – damping off is hardly ever a problem, provided you don’t over-water. John Bradshaw
Seed Storage – Pea seed I saved from my garden has weevils eating holes in it. What can I do to stop this in future?
Organic and Biodynamic seed is of course not treated with chemicals to stop weevils. Once your seed is thoroughly dried after harvest, put it in a fully airtight container and put it in the freezer for 2 or 3 days. This will kill all weevil eggs. John Bradshaw