Biodynamic gardening

Biodynamic gardening

What is the big difference between biodynamic gardening and traditional gardening? This is a question I have been asked a lot over the years?

The gardening techniques may seem similar, but what is radically different is the overriding philosophy behind it. A non-biodynamic gardener wants, on the whole, to make her/his plants look the best with whatever method is a quick and convenient way. ‘Weeds’ are controlled with pesticides and the soil is a means to grow flowers/plants, but no particular thought is given to it beyond that function. Snails, earthworms, and most insects (with the exception of bees) are not welcomed and exterminated. This will give you a nice garden but often to the detriment of the wildlife.  The yearly use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers will lead to soil erosion and the extinction of many insects/worms and other species further down the line.

  The biodynamic approach is more wholesome. It all starts with the soil and great effort is made to keep the soil in a very good condition. The additions of soil tonics, organic sprays, and earthworms play a big part. If a plant grows in the ‘wrong place’, it is not just called a weed and discarded. Instead, it is carefully hoed out and used to make compost (although it needs to be rotted down first as active seeds may otherwise contaminate the compost heap). Take for example the nettle. In the ‘biodynamic world,’ a nettle is never seen as a weed, but as a useful byproduct of nature. You may not want it growing in your favorite flowerbed and hoe it out from there. But you won’t discard it, but rather replant it to a part of the garden that is less prominent. Nettles are one of the best garden fertilizers and you will need nettles on-site to make your nettle brew fertilizer. 

  Where does the word ‘Biodynamics’ come from? The phrase ‘Biodynamics’ was created by Rudolf Steiner and is made out of the Ancient Greek words ‘bio’ (life) and dunamis (power). A biodynamic garden is managed as one single complex organism. Everything there is useful and helps to keep the ecosystem in check. In essence, Steiner described Biodynamics as an ‘ecological and sustainable approach to agriculture/gardening that increased soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides’. It follows that bees, earthworms, and other insects are not harmed but welcomed and put to good use. However, that does not mean that there is no pest control at all. Of course, there is. But it is done in a sustainable/organic way and not as a blanket extermination program. To make Biodynamic gardening more effective, people use biodynamic calendars to harness the ‘best natural times’. We made it easy here and have created symbols for the most important gardening tasks.  You can also check out the category Happy House in the LWTM lifestyle calendar (the member’s version and you will find the code in the monthly newsletter if you are a subscribed member).  Once you have seen the Happy House category, just choose the task you want to look up and it will give you the best dates.  Otherwise,  check out the date and you will find which symbols correspond with the current date.  Here is a link to the LWTM calendar.

Click here to read more about how Biodynamic Gardening works

Let’s touch on some of the gardening symbols
Composting 

biodynamic compost heap

The waste from one year is the fertile soil for the next. If you have space for at least 2 compost bins, please install them. They don’t need to be fancy, even two dug-out holes in the ground with some kind of cover would do. What matters is how to assemble the compost and when you do it. Here is an article that explains Biodynamic composting in more detail.

The symbol to look out for is.    composting and soil tonics 

 

 

Preparing the soil 

biodynamic compost

Today is ideal for turning the soil, weeding, bringing out the compost to sprinkle it around your plants, and sieving it over the lawn.
Making your compost is not that hard. All you need is a good compost bin and time (see below). It is a precious commodity to have in your garden
and it is 100% compatible with your garden’s soil conditions as it is made from its waste products. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Repotting houseplants and planters on the patio/balcony

Your houseplants need to be repotted every or every other spring, depending on how quickly your plant grows. But once roots produce out of the pots it is time to go a size or 2 bigger. It might be a good 
idea to change your pots and spruce up your home. Leave an inch or 2 of space between the roots ball and the pot. This will give it enough space to grow into the new pot to extend the growing time. If your roots are fine, just add a bit of new compost earth to add extra nutrients, then feed and water as usual. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Organic pest control 

We want to encourage wildlife, especially bees and earthworms. But when it comes to aphids and other destructive forms and a plant is suffering, you can help it recover with a few biodynamic rescue remedies. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Watering and feeding your plants 

There are best days for watering, just look out for them on your calendar and you won’t forget or drown your plants. Here is a small guide on how to water correctly 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Pruning trees and bushes 

Cutting bushes down in season and at the right time will keep them happy and healthy for years to come. These are of course general pruning dates, for individual plants the rule of thumb is after flowering or for deciduous trees/bushes during the winter time. Revival pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs for more info. 

The symbol to look out for is.    Pruning trees and evergreens 

 

There are of course many more symbols. But here are a few to get you started on your biodynamic gardening venture. 

 

Design your perfect biodynamic garden

Design your perfect biodynamic garden

perfect garden designInheriting a grown-over, derelict garden is a momentous task, even for an experienced gardener. But following these few and easy steps can help you to turn this wasteland into your perfect garden.

The spring is a great time to start a new garden design from scratch.

This task is particularly important if:

– Your  garden is overgrown
– You recently moved into a new house and need to start from scratch
– You want to change most of the layout and planting scheme of your current garden

The Biodynamic garden design is similar to any normal design, except that you use the symbol guide on the LWTM calendar to guide you to the best times.

Biodynamic garden design is best undertaken over the winter months or in early spring, ideally during the Waxing Moon and when you see the LWTM life-style calendar symbol.

 

Step One: Photograph your current garden

It may be the last thing you want to take a picture of – a depressing, overgrown-looking wasteland. But taking pictures of your current garden is the starting point.

Be systematic and photograph every bit of your garden, moving closer to the middle, picture by picture.  It is important that you take pictures in a way that they slightly overlap. Once you have photographed your whole garden from all sides and angles, go and print these pictures out.

Arrange the prints in order, so they show the whole garden and glue them together by slightly overlapping.  Now you have a panoramic view of your whole garden in front of you.

Step Two: What kind of garden do you want to create? 
Do you prefer a formal garden, a cottage garden, a simplistic Japanese garden or some more modern design? A big consideration in all this is:

  • How much time have you got for gardening (formal gardens that need a lot of pruning, lawn mowing take up far more time than informal cottage gardens or minimalistic gardens)
  • What is the prime use of your garden?do you want to grow vegetables, use the garden as a playground or predominantly entertain? 
  • Will you have garden  furniture, a trampoline, sandpit,  compost heap or other garden structures and features

 Step Three: Draw your dream garden
Now place a large sheet of tracing paper over the photo-montage and start drawing your ‘dream garden’.
 At this stage, it does not matter if you get it wrong, as you can just use a new piece of tracing paper. Make sure you add all the garden structures and furniture (at scale) into your drawing. See how much space is left for the plants and possibly other features such as a garden shed, pond, etc.

Add a mood board in the form of snippets from a gardening magazine or pictures from the internet. That is what you would like your ideal garden to look like. Then show your different designs together with your mood board to your family and friends to get some vital feedback (as some of them have to live with this garden, too!)

Step Four: Research plants and conditions
Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you want. Now comes the next step – to see if your ideal design is also achievable and practical? 
Where is the sun? What type of soil do you find in your garden?

Yellow flowers in a shady corner may look lovely on the drawing board, but now do the research which yellow flowers will actually grow in this shady spot!  It can cost dearly and will just lead to disappointment if you plant a  sun-loving plant in a shady, damp spot. It just won’t thrive. The same principle also applies to your soil as well.  Acid lovers need a different kind of soil than plants that prefer alkaline soil conditions. A good way to choose plants is to walk around the neighborhood and see what other people grow and what seems to thrive in your part of the world. Chances are these plants will do well in your garden, too.

Step Five:  Learn about gardening
Gardening is a lovely leisure activity and will keep you in good shape. Good garden design is key to a successful garden that you can enjoy for years to come. 

It will provide you with all kinds of tips form planting, digging, feeding, pruning, weeding to composting and companion planting (which plants thrive next to each other and which should not be planted together).  It is a must-have for all organic gardeners.

 

The secret of Biodynamic gardening

The secret of Biodynamic gardening

Place for meditation Gardening in harmony with the phases of the moon has been practised for thousands of years. Its modern version ‘Biodynamics’ has been redefined by Rudolf Steiner less than a century ago. It builds on the concept of organic farming by combining it with the Ancient Lunar planting method and the use of natural remedies, such as soil tonics and natural pest control.

Derived from the Ancient Greek words ‘bio’ (life) and ‘dunamis’ (power), the biodynamic garden is managed as if it was a single complex organism with a resource of energy or “life power” that can be recycled.

The biodynamic gardener prepares the soil in spring with compost, created from the grass clippings and plants from the very same land the year before. During the growing cycle, herbal preparations are added to the soil and crops are rotated and grown by the method of ‘companion planting’.  Garden tasks like pruning, planting, re-potting and more are undertaken at specific times during the lunar cycle as marked on the moon calendar.

The founder of the Biodynamic movement, the Austrian Rudolf Steiner, held a series of lectures in 1924 on agriculture. In these lectures, he responded to a concern from farmers about deteriorating soil conditions and the effects it has on the growing plants. The deterioration of the crop and quality of the soil had accelerated since the introduction of artificial fertilisers at the turn of the 20th century and something had to be done to address this problem.

Soon after these lectures a research team was set up to look into how a ‘living soil’ can keep plants healthy and what methods can be employed to keep the land fertile and productive without the use of chemicals or other ‘foreign’ substances.

Today ‘biodynamic gardening/farming’ is practised in well over 50 countries worldwide and biodynamic farmed food tastes so good that it wins awards all over the world. The University of Kassel, Germany, even has a dedicated Department of Biodynamic Agriculture, which studies the effect of biodynamic food and lifestyle on human health.

Biodynamically farmed products are now protected and labelled by the’ Demeter brand. It was established in 1928 and aims to protect consumers and farmers alike. Similar organisations are the French ‘Biodivin” ( it certifies that the wine is biodynamicaly farmed) and the Egyptian EBDA (Egyptian Biodynamic Association).

How does it actually work?  the tides

We know that the moon’s gravitational pull moves billions of litres of water around the planet Earth every single day. But there is not only water in the ocean. We humans, for example, consist of nearly 70% water, and a lot of water is also contained in plants.

The water circulating within a plant contains vitamins, minerals and other active substances and travels from the root system through the stem into leaves, blossoms and fruit. At certain times during the moon cycle more liquid is concentrated in the root system, at other times more in leaves, fruit and blossoms. On a practical level that is why there are ‘good and bad times’ for certain activities. For example, when you pick an apple and want to eat it straight away, you want it to be juicy and full of vitamins. Therefore you pick a time when most liquid will be concentrated within the fruit. However, if you want to store the apple for a long time, you want to pick it at a different time when there is slightly less liquid in the fruit,  so the apple will keep  fresh for longer.

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