Dear Readers,

The nice thing about gardening is there is freedom to experiment; if you don’t like a particular technique, you can find another.  This is how we have come to biodynamic gardening, some things work for us, some don’t and we have to experiment and try new things to find out what works for us and our garden.

The biodynamic preparations I ordered arrived from the Josephine Porter Institute, along with plenty of reading material about the usage and storage of the preparations.

Josephine Porter Institute biodynamic preparations order

Josephine Porter Institute biodynamic preparations order

The preparations are enough to treat an acre of land; we don’t have that much land therefore, we must take the sizes into account and adjust the quantities we dispense for the small patch we are growing biodynamically.  I tend to hover on the cautious side with measuring out the preparations by using a small amount in a bit more water even though the JPI recommends “the entire unit be used to treat your garden area no matter how small.”  We did use the entire quantity according to the directions for the biodynamic compost set.

The preparations we received are:

500 – Horn Manure
To be used as a spray on the soil before planting.  The area must have been treated with 502 or 507 before this is used.

501 – Horn Silica
To be used as a foliar spray once plants are established.

502 – Yarrow
Used in compost preparations and to treat some plants during the growing season as a tea.  It is also used to treat the ground prior to the use of 500.

503 – Chamomile
Used in compost and to treat some plants during the growing season as a tea.

504 – Nettle
Used in compost and to treat some plants during the growing season as a tea.

505 – Oak Bark
Used in compost and to treat some plants during the growing season as a tea.

506 – Dandelion
Used in compost and to treat some plants during the growing season as a tea.

507 – Valerian
Used in compost treatment by being watered over the whole pile.   It can also be used to care for some plants during the growing season as a tea and to treat the soil prior to treatment with the horn manure.

508 – Horsetail Herb
Used to spray plants during the growing season to help prevent fungal issues.

We also received a biodynamic compost set of the preparations which are inserted into the compost pile, compost starter compounds and a field and garden spray compound.

I see the preparations as a carrier to unite the cosmic forces (the moon position; i.e. leaf day etc.) with the soil to help bring together harmony in the garden.  I think JimJim is half expecting to come home to a wicker effigy burning in the yard to ensure a good harvest, he sees the method as being somewhat pagan with making up the preparations or potions as he calls them.  I should probably not pretend I’m a Shakespearean witch whilst stirring the preparations and the Wicked Witch of the West when transplanting and sowing.  Apparently saying “Grow my pretties, grow” is slightly worrying.  (I had best not mention the old English practice of Wassailing in the orchards to chase the bad spirits to ensure a good harvest the following year, that one might not go down well)!

Back on with the post at hand, how did we use the preparations we have received?  Well, so far we have used the valerian, the horn manure and horn silica in the garden and the compost set in the compost heap.

To use these in the garden we carried out the following:

The first step in the preparation of the soil is to spray with valerian preparation (507). In our garden, we made a valerian tea with hot water in a 16 oz cup then diluted this down with water into a 2 gallon watering can then water the area 3 times.

The second step is to make up the prep 500 and spray this on the growing area three times.  This was done the following day for some sowings and on the same day more recently.  It should be noted that the plants growing on the soil where the horn manure was sprayed the day after the valerian appear to be germinating and growing quicker than those where both preparations were applied to the area on the same day.

Third step was sowing seeds and planting just after the application of horn manure.

Preparation 501 was sprayed once the plants were established.

Any excess spray was used on the compost heap or on the trees in our yard.

I should really mention that there are a few things which we have done “wrong” to the purists but so far, we haven’t seen any extreme ill effects:

  1. We used tap water, right out of the tap. Ideally chlorinated tap water should be left 24 hours in a container to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
  2. Stirring for 20 mins minimum without distraction doesn’t always happen; dogs drink the water whilst making the preparation or I get distracted and have to tend to something else, more beer needed…
  3. Not storing the preparations in line with the recommendations by JPI and not using them within 3 weeks of arrival. There are a couple of reasons for not storing them how the JPI recommends, the first is that I don’t have a wooden box, glazed ceramic crocks or lids for glass jars made of wood, stone, cork or non-plastic coated metal to store some of the preparations not in use.  The second is that I really disagree with the use of peat moss or peat since peatlands (mires) and bogs are a natural carbon sink and a declining ecosystem which take thousands of years to develop.  The third is that there really isn’t anywhere on the property which is away from electronics, circuits etc.

Have you experimented with biodynamic growing?  What works for you?  What didn’t work for you?  Let us know in the comments.