Biodynamic farming and gardening is a great passion of ours here at Honest to Goodness. We like that biodynamic farming supports the self-sustainable quality of traditional agriculture, with new and interesting techniques. The result is good quality living soil that produces good quality food that in turn ensures good nutrition (assuming you eat it!). We also like the common-sense practices of biodynamics including striving to be self-sufficient in fertilisers and working with nature's rhythms.
- What is Biodynamic agriculture?
Biodynamic (BD) farming and gardening is based on the work of Austrian philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner. A group of farmers concerned about the declining quality of foodstuffs asked Dr Rudolf Steiner for help in the early 1920’s. From a series of lectures and conversations held at Koberwitz, Germany, in June 1924, there emerged the fundamental principles of biodynamic farming.
Steiner emphasised that a healthy, well-structured soil, rich in humus and high in biological activity is fundamental for a sustainable, well balanced agricultural system. He insisted on avoiding chemicals, and concentrating instead on natural composts inoculated with the product of certain medicinal herbs (the BD preparations).
- What are the similarities and differences between organic and biodynamic agriculture?
Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming; a certified biodynamic product is also a certified organic product. Both organic & biodynamic farming prohibit the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, plant growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. Both farming methods also use organic agricultural practices such as crop rotation and composting, tree planting & the integrated use of livestock. However, in addition to these practices, biodynamic agriculture uses special plant, animal and mineral preparations (BD preps, numbered 500-507) and the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars to create a thriving ecosystem. Biodynamic farming & gardening essentially looks at the soil as a living organism.
- Biodynamic Preparations
The biodynamic preparations were developed out of indications given by Dr Rudolf Steiner in 1924. They are made of certain medicinal herbs that have undergone a long process of fermentation in order to enrich them in growth-stimulating substances. They are not fertilisers themselves but greatly assist the fertilising process. They speed and direct the fermentation process toward the desired stable or neutral colloidal humus (stable humus is the final product of the decomposition process. It can be recognised by its dark colour, crumbly or slightly gelatinous texture and characteristic "earthy" smell. Stable humus, or colloidal humus, provides long-term nutrient reserves and improves soil structure.) These preparations only need to be used in very small amounts.
Horn Manure Preparation (500) stimulates humus formation in the ground and the growth of roots. It increases the micro-flora and availability of nutrients and trace elements. It is applied to the land mainly in Autumn and Spring, often before clearing or after ploughing and sowing.
Horn Silica Preparation (501) enhances the light and warmth assimilation of the plant, leading to better fruit and seed development with improved flavour, aroma, colour and nutritional quality.
The two preparations, 500 and 501, are used as field sprays. They are diluted in water, stirred for one hour, and sprayed directly on the soil or plants respectively.
Compost Preparations (502 to 507) are applied to the manure and compost piles in very small quantities. They have no manuring effect, their sole purpose being to direct the fermentation of any kind of organic matter toward humus.
- Biodynamic Composting
In Biodynamic farming, one of the most valuable fertilisers is seen as the manure and compost from the property itself. They contain organic matter on which the soil bacteria and earthworms can feed and then revitalise the soil & natural substances that absorb moisture and mineral solutions in the ground and prevent erosion of the soil. The careful storage of manure in heaps covered with earth, as taught by the biodynamic method also avoids nitrogen loss to a great degree. (The growth of the leaves, stems and roots of plants is especially dependent on nitrogen).
Biodynamic composting plays a vital role is assisting raw organic matter reach a state of neutral colloidal humus. It allows for the complicated fermentation processes to take place in the manure heap. BD preparations are inserted into the heaps in order to speed and direct fermentation and preserve the original manure values. The same principles apply to compost materials. Everything that is able to decompose can be used. These materials are piled up in alternate layers, and the finished pile is treated with biodynamic preparations.
- Pests, weeds and biodynamic agriculture
Pest and disease control is generally managed by developing the farm as a total organism. However, BD practitioners may make use of specific products for weed and pest control, which they make from the weeds and pests themselves.
Weeds and pests are very useful indicators of imbalances in soil, plants and animals; and the aim in the biodynamic method is to use such indicators in a positive way.
- Interested in biodynamics but not too sure where to start?
We recommend the following books:
- Biodynamic Gardening for Health & Taste by Hilary Wright.
- The Biodynamic food and Cookbook by Wendy Cook. Click here for more info >
- Foodwise by Wendy Cook Click here for more info >