Biodynamic gardening is really just a fancy name for a method of gardening that’s been around for thousands of years – practical gardening wisdom handed down over time and widespread before the arrival of chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers and the intensive farming practices of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is the ancient art of watching the skies and using the rhythms and patterns of the sun, moon and stars to guide the sowing, tending and harvesting of crops. Our ancestors used this knowledge to their advantage, so that their crops were stronger, tastier, healthier and more productive. Afterall, they completely relied on their homegrown produce, so it had to be good. A quick trip to the supermarket was not an option!
Thankfully, these days you don’t need to be an expert in the solar system to work it all out! Biodynamic gardening calendars are widely available and suggest the best times for all your gardening jobs.
The soil in your garden works very hard to support the growth of healthy crops and natural soil fertility is essential in a biodynamic garden. Annual fruit and veg crop rotation is advised using the 4 plant groups – leaf, flower, fruit and root, as well as making and using your own compost. If you wanted to take biodynamic gardening to the next level you could start by using the various sprays, preparations and tinctures, of which there are many – to deter blackfly, slugs and snails, to get rid of fungus, even to increase fertility in your compost heap! All of them work in harmony with the natural environment, the aim being to keep a healthy balance in your garden. The outcome is very simple – healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy produce, healthy food on your plate!
Calendars: I’ve been aware of the principles and gardening biodynamically for over 10 years. Our ‘evidence’ is very experiential and often experimental and in the process we’ve had some amazing results! If you’re interested in giving biodynamic gardening a go (hooray!) then the first thing to do is buy a biodynamic gardening calendar. Then you sit down with a diary in one hand and a cup of tea in the other and note when the best days are for your crops in the coming season. I’ve got used to planning my allotment garden life around the calendar, but I never give myself a hard time if I can’t manage the right thing on the right day. Gardening is also about good intent, whatever the day!
It’s worth noting that the Northern and Southern hemispheres need different calendars (the planets are in different positions!), so make sure you get the right one. Here in the UK, I use a lovely simple and colourful calendar which is published by Lunar Organics. It looks very pretty on the kitchen wall! A more comprehensive (and complicated!) calendar is available here from Maria Thun, who has been the guru of biodynamic gardening for many decades. North American readers can buy a calendar here, whilst Australian readers can buy a calendar here.
In the UK, The Biodynamic Agricultural Association are a great reference point for questions and also supply ready made tinctures, sprays and ‘preparations’ for your compost and allotment garden.
Books: My favourite books are ‘Gardening for Life – The Biodynamic Way’ and ‘The Biodynamic Year’, both by Maria Thun. Also, ‘Biodynamic Gardening’ by Hilary Wright. Lunar Organics also produce a very concise and inspiring little booklet called ‘In Tune with the Moon’, which explains how to use the gardening calendar and gives simple instructions and tips on how to garden biodynamically. I do of course read loads of other gardening books and magazines, but my stalwarts are ‘Organic Gardening’ by Charles Dowding, ‘How to Grow your own Food’ by Dirty Nails (anonymous writer for the Blackmore Vale Magazine!) and ‘The Allotment Book’ by Andi Clevely. I know there are many others and that you will have your own favourites. Go with whatever works for you.
Lastly, I’m very excited to say that our allotment has been featured in a book about biodynamic gardening, published in the UK in March 2015. It’s called, surprisingly….. ‘Biodynamic Gardening’! More info here.
I wish you the happiest of happy days in your beautiful gardens and many hours of pleasure sowing, tending, harvesting and eating your amazing homegrown produce! Yay.