(Article based on: Getting Started with Biodynamic Gardening by by Tom Petherick)
First step: The clarity of your Intention is often the most important and a necessary first step. It will be at the core of your gardening/farming. So make a conscious intention to follow the biodynamic route.
Some basics: Most people who are drawn to biodynamic farming, already have a passion for organic agriculture. You see the need for plants to grow and thrive without chemical sprays or fertilizers. However, more than organic soil, biodynamics also pays attention to subtle, unseen forces. One would be the lunar phases. We know the effect of the moon on tides and in the cycles of female mammals. This can help us recognize and understand that in the same way, the gravitational pull of the moon is also moving the water in plants, in the soil and in the air. As the moon waxes and wanes it influences the plants. Aside from the moon, biodynamics recognizes the forces at work from the cosmos, so other planets as well, the sun and astrology.
How do you start? What you have to do is to see your garden or farm with new lenses. See it as an entire organism, with all its parts working individually and together. “Rudolf Steiner saw the ‘farm organism’ as a self-contained and self-supporting unit with all the different components of the farm acting as microcosms of a greater whole.” So, see the soil as a crucial part, just like you would see your heart as the center of your body organism. Look at the plants just as you would your respiratory organs. See the farmers as the limbs. Look at your farming methods as the brain. And always see the subtle forces in the same way as you would the life force that surges through you and keeps you alive.
What is important to know: These are the basics of biodynamics:
- Biodynamic farming makes use of two field sprays BD 500 (horn manure) and BD 501 (horn silica). We have started making our own sprays but for those who would like to begin by just buying prepared sprays, please let us know and we will give where to get it from.)
- You also use five compost preparations that are healing herbs added to the compost heap.
- You follow a planting calendar that gives clear indications when to carry out tasks in the garden. (There are sowing calendars prepared by Bios Dynamis in Kidapawan. We also follow a calendar from the Rudolf Steiner store in Sydney but customized the calendar to make it more suitable to the Philippine climate and seasons.)
These three methods are not hard to do. Anyone can do it. And there is a wealth of information already available. We learned the basics from a Biodynamic Farming seminar by Greg Kitma. There is also a local version for Biodynamics written by Nicanor Perlas (let us know if you want a copy of the book.)
For the biodynamic calendar: Using the biodynamic calendar, you will see a correlation between the various different parts of the plant and the signs of the zodiac. One way of using the calendar is by looking at the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Then match each element to a part of a given plant – earth to root, air to flower, fire to fruit and seed and water to leaf. Next, match each of those parts of the plant along with their element to the twelve signs of the zodiac. You will see that as the moon moves through each of the twelve on its 27 and a bit day journey around the earth every month it will influence those parts of the plant relating to the zodiacal sign e.g. Pisces=water/leaf, Capricorn=earth/root.
Building Soil Fertility: Soil fertility is crucial and helps in breaking the life cycle of pests and disease. One important way is to practice crop rotation. This means that you rotate annual crops around the garden. The method allows you to plant a healthy mix of plants. For example, planting legumes (fruit) will add nitrogen to your soil. After a cycle, plant flower crops. A crucial part of biodynamics is the need to allow nature to follow its own pace and not force growth or impede it. Do not try to force the soil to produce as much as it can just because it can.
Composting: Recycle the nutrients round the garden. We use an open compost heap with soil as the base, and the heap measures about 1 ½ meter. We do not turn the heap as much as normal composting techniques require. It takes about four months to cook. We then get the compost that we can and insert biodynamic compost preparations (yarrow, chamomile, nettle, dandelion and oak bark).
Field Sprays: Once you have tried the field sprays, you won’t turn back and will never go back to your other sprays. The sprays work like magic! It is difficult to prove the effectiveness of the biodynamic sprays and all we have to show for it is the quality of our soil. The sprays seem to change the energy in the garden, lifting it a few notches up. And you see it not only in the soil and the plants, but in the energy of the farmers as well. BD 500 works in the root zone and BD 501 is active in the area of light and growth.
Seeds: It should come naturally for gardeners to save their own seed. It happens in nature and it is easy to save the seeds such as heirloom tomatoes and brocollinis. If you are not able to you’re your seeds, try and use biodynamic seeds that have been produced in an environment where the biodynamic measures are in use.