Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 3, Issue 3
June 2008
Biodynamic Gardening
  Now that the organic gardening movement has gone from having a fringe following to being mainstream, advocates of biodynamic farming, the eccentric cousin of the organic approach, are adopting the fringe. Like organic gardeners, biodynamic agriculturists avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in favor of natural methods of encouraging plant growth and discouraging plant and animal pests. However, the biodynamic philosophy encompasses much more than just production methods.

In the 1920s, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian writer, editor and philosopher interested in the linkages between spirituality and the life forces in nature, established the principles of biodynamics (though not the name) based on a series of lectures he gave to local farmers. His work was devoted to spiritual development rather than agriculture per se, but his lectures established a viewpoint of the farm as a living, self-enclosed organism.

As with traditional organic cultivation, nurturing the soil is a key focus of biodynamic gardening. But according to the principles of biodynamics, soil nurturing is based on the application of nine compost and field supplements. These are peculiar mixtures involving various wild plants that are often buried to ferment before use (for example, stinging nettle buried for a year surrounded by peat) and applied in minute amounts—a dosage philosophy similar to that found in the homeopathic treatment of humans. In fact, like homeopathy, the idea is to make small adjustments to assist natural biological processes.

Another distinguishing factor of biodynamic agriculture is the timing of seeding, composting and other tasks, which is done according to lunar and other celestial patterns. Biodynamic planting calendars are exact, listing specific dates and time periods for seeding and other chores.

While the use of unconventional mixtures in the preparation of compost and field amendments is subject to ridicule, as is to a lesser extent the use of solar and lunar indicators, at the root of biodynamics is an intense respect for the land. Every farm or parcel of land is considered to be unique, with its own individual personality. Each element—plants (cultivated and wild), animals (livestock, wild and human) and soil—is interrelated and influenced by the others and by the movements of the celestial bodies. The health of each element is nurtured to further the health of the whole.
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