Posts Tagged ‘Biodynamic’

Green Manuring: Using Legumes for your plant beds

We use green manuring to help with our composting.  Green manures allow us to fertilize and add more organic matter to our soil.  Green manuring is a method of putting back into the soil living plants at the peak of their growth.  We do this by using leguminous plants (like mung bean, kadios, peanut and other wild plants) or we also use wild sunflowers. The plants are harvested at their peak or right before they flower, and then the plants are ploughed back into the soil.  This process brings in more nitrogen, organic matter and living plants into the soil.  Legumes for example take in a lot of nitrogen from the air through the bacteria that live in their roots.  Grasses also create green matter, which breaks down into humus.  So what we are doing here is a method of composting on the bed itself.

The limitation of green manuring though is that you are not able to control the quality of humus in the soil.  It also does not necessarily improve the soil’s structure long term.  In fact, the wrong use of green manuring can decrease the soil’s organic content.

How to Green Manure:

  1. Plant your leguminous seeds.  Water until germination occurs.  Then water constantly.
  2. When the plants begin to flower, it is time to turn your legumes or plants into green manure.
  3. Using a hoe or other material, chop, mow or cut the green manure plants at its base. We allow our cuttings to wilt for a few days.
  4. Incorporate it into the soil by digging or by shallow cultivation.  You can dig a trench 4 inches deep, 6 inches long and as wide as the bed size.
  5. The time it will breakdown will vary from 6-8 weeks.

Green manure can be sown almost anytime but the best would be at the start of or the end of the rainy season. This is because you need a lot of water for the green manure to decay properly.  The middle of the rainy season on the other hand is too wet and tilling the soil at this time might destroy your soil structure. We also do green manuring each time we start a new bed, to prepare an unused or exhausted soil for the next planting.

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Biodynamic Gardening: Applying biodynamic agriculture to a home, backyard garden, or a small farm

(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:

  1. 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.)
  2. You also use five compost preparations that are healing herbs added to the compost heap.
  3. 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.)

Some techniques:

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.

Biodynamic Farming

What is Biodynamic Agriculture?

Most people know what organic farming is, but only a few know what Biodynamic agriculture is. Biodynamics was introduced in the 1920’s by an Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. This manner of farming takes a unified approach to agriculture by considering the interconnectedness of the soil, the plants, animals, the earth and even the entire cosmos as a living system.  It is considered as one the most sustainable forms of agriculture. The focus of Biodynamic Agriculture is developing and maintaining a healthy soil organism through the use of manure, crop-rotation, cover-cropping and special preparations.  The farm is considered as an entire living organism, with the farmer and his practices as playing a vital role to the farm ecosystem. 

 

What makes it different from organic farming?  

As in organic farming, there is no use of chemicals, pesticides or fungicides.  However, biodynamics goes beyond organic farming.  It treats the soil as a living organism and ensures the health of the soil at all times.  Thus, biodynamic farming looks at the farm in terms of forces that affect the soil and the farm, processes that go into farming, rather than just the substances that are put into the soil or plants. Biodynamic agriculture makes use of compost (manure from animals already in the farm), cover cropping, ecological pest management, and special preparations that revitalize life forces, stimulate the roots and help in the production of soil microorganisms and humus. These preparations are homeopathic substances made from herbs, minerals, plant and animal, at very minuscule portions. Aside from the special preparations, Biodynamic agriculture follows daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of nature, such as the phases of the moon for sowing, fertilizing and harvesting.

Our farm

Our farm practices biodynamic farming in growing flowers (and vegetables too!)  We see our farm as an entire ecosystem.  Our farm follows a biodynamic calendar for optimum times for sowing, harvesting and transplanting. This is because Biodynamic Agriculture follows daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of nature, such as the phases of the moon, the movement of the planets and the stars.  We also use biodynamic preparations for our soil and leaves. These preparations are homeopathic substances made from herbs, minerals, plant and animal, at very minuscule portions. We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases.  We also follow crop rotation, and practice cover cropping.

Aside from flowers, our flower farm has now a vegetable patch, devoted to plants that do not only adorn our tables but we can eat as well!   The farm grows lettuces, arugula, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, celery, alfalfa sprouts, spinach and several kinds of herbs. More than this, we have planted the vegetables to create patches of ecosystems for all nature in our farm. We do so by growing in all our vegetable beds, a mix of legumes, leaf plants, root crops, annual and perennial plants in one bed. Thus, legumes will provide nitrogen (fertilizer) through their roots.  Root crops, taking nutrients from the soil, help aerate the beds, benefiting all plants. Herbs and flowers serve as homes for beneficial insects and also repel the harmful ones.