Before the word “organics” was invented, there was biodynamics. Although the organics movement evolved separately, and two decades later, the two natural farming methods share a lot in common. Both avoid the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Both share a focus on creating harmony and balance in the garden by using compost, promoting humus formation in the soil, encouraging beneficial insects, and other nature-centric practices. Biodynamics, though, takes all of this a step beyond what many people might consider normal, and takes into consideration the unseen life forces of the garden, the planet, and the entire universe.
Delving in Biodynamics
The concept of biodynamics was first described by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924. The name combines “biological” and “dynamic” - biological refers to the better known aspects of natural farming such as building soil health; but it's the dynamic practices that set biodynamics apart from all other methods.
The Moon and Stars of Biodynamics
In biodynamic agriculture, “dynamics” include the practices intended to influence metaphysical, etheric and astral aspects of the farm or garden. For example, many biodynamic gardeners use the Stella Natura Planting Calendar to determine the best lunar cycle for planting and harvesting. Just as the moon affects the tides, it is understood by biodynamic practitioners to affect the pull of water in the soil and in the plants themselves. The moon, stars, and other unseen life forces also play a part in the garden's life cycle and health.
Another key component of biodynamic gardening is the use of nine “preparations” which have been made from plant or animal ingredients and are used in very specific ways in the garden. These preparations are numbered “BD#500” to “BD#508,” each of which has its own unique ingredients, instructions for use, and healing properties.
- BD#500 “Horn Manure,” #501 “Horn Silica” and #508 “Horsetail” (made from the plant of that name, not the tail of a horse) are applied to the garden itself at various times in the year, and Horn Manure is sometimes also used for composting.
- The other six preparations - BD#502 (from yarrow), BD#503 (from German chamomile), BD#504 (from stinging nettle), BD#505 (from oak bark), BD506 (from dandelion) and BD#507 (from valerian) - are all used exclusively in the compost pile.
- The preparations are made using a complex process. Each has its own unique way of being prepared, and the process can take months to complete a single batch.
- Some of the preparations involve covering an herbal ingredient in sheaths of animal organs, which are then buried.
- The Horn preparations are made by stuffing cow horns (not bulls or steers) with manure or minerals and burying them.
- All of the steps in making the preparations are done at specific times based on the combined solar, lunar and zodiac cycles. This results in end products that are sensitive to the rhythms of the cosmos, which are then used to stimulate, heal or balance the biodynamic garden's life forces.
Biodynamics sees the farm or garden as a whole organism, not a sum of its parts. By integrating crops and livestock, recycling nutrients, maintaining the soil, and even by considering the farmer or gardener as part of this whole, biodynamics works to balance this whole with a higher, nonphysical realm and enhance the vital life force of the farm or garden and its inhabitants.