Earlier today I read an article in a British newspaper called The Guardian with the title ‘Insecticides put world food supplies at risk’. This topic reminded of a few conversations I had with my English friends in the late 1990ies. At that time I already championed recycling and composting and was usually greeted with comments such as ‘Why would you want to do that? Recycling is so time consuming and why would you ever make your own compost?’ My usual reply was, ‘Dropping your rubbish into different bins instead of just one mixed one, does not take any more time and recycling your garden waste into fertile, free compost makes sense to any owner of a great garden’.
Admittedly, things have changed and these comments have long ceased as recycling and composting, at least here in the UK, is not an unusual practise.
But when it comes to ‘biodynamic living’, this concept still seems a step too far for some of my friends. Having grown up in Austria with a moon calendar readily available in our home, I knew all about biodynamic planting tips, how to install a compost heap, when to cut hair, weed the garden, etc. Slowly I started to make up my first ‘ home-made’ moon calendars and started to circulate them among my more open-minded friends.
As my basic calendars proved to be so successful, I started to do a create a more sophisticated version that included symbols and colour coded day qualities. I then gave all this information to my lovely graphic designer friend John Goodinson and he did a fantastic job by combining all these bits and bobs of information and make them all fit beautifully on one single sheet of A4 paper. The LWTM life-style calendar was born and if you have signed up to the welcome package, you get a free newsletter at the end of each month that contains the LWTM life-style calendar for the month ahead.
But what does biodynamic actually mean?
In the early 1920ies the Austrian Rudolf Steiner coined the phrase ‘Biodynamic’, composed from the Greek words ‘bio’ (life) and ‘dynamis’ energy. But this concept is far from new. In fact, it dates back to the very roots of farming. As early as 800 B.C. the Ancient Greek poet Hesiod wrote the poem ‘Work and Days’ in which he depicts the notion that days do not just have have dates, but also ‘individual day qualities’. Today this old lore is often laughed at’, similar to composting and recycling only 10 years ago. But then how is it possible that ‘biodynamic farmed’ food just tastes so much better and wins awards the world over?
The biodynamic view of life is that we don’t function in isolation, but are actively part of nature and the cosmos. Before you dismiss this concept out of hand, check out this simple exercise. Next time you want to remove weeds, look out for the weeding symbol (a plant that is crossed out- please refer to our e-books in the resource section for more information). You may find that on these days the roots can be removed more easily. Now imagine what would happen if you only used ‘the easy days’ to remove your weeds and as a plus they would not grow back as quickly as usual. Just by choosing a different date you have a better chance of weeding your garden and don’t have to use chemicals to destroy them.
You have just experienced a session of ‘biodynamic gardening’. it is cost/time effective and does not use chemicals. Other ways of keeping pests out is to practise companion planting. An example would be planting the herb nasturtium (a pretty red and yellow plant) next to potatoes. Nasturtium’s natural odour deters many pests that feed on potatoes, so again there is no need for chemicals.
Apart from keeping pests out, companion planting also ensures that certain plants cross-fertilise each other when planted next to each other, therefore eliminating the use of fertilisers. Knowing how to use the right plants, at the right time and aiming to work with a healthy soil is one of the main principals of the Biodynamic garden movement. A healthy soil produces healthy plants and those produce healthy people and animals. The bees keep pollinating and the earth worms turn your grass clippings into fertile soil. It is all a cycle of life – and works well – without the intervention of chemicals.
So now tell me who has the last laugh, the person who uses Biodynamic planting techniques and is getting good results without spending lots of money on various garden chemicals or the next door gardener who plasters their garden with lots of expensive chemicals and slowly kills out the natural wild-life. I know what kind of gardener I want to be!
To find out more information about Biodynamic gardening please download our e-book ‘Gardening with the moon’. You can find it in the resource section.
By the way – the picture above shows a small part of my biodynamic garden in London, a place where wildlife is allowed to exist without being attacked by chemicals.