Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming but tends to go a step farther and was the precursor to the organic movement. Developed in the 1924 Germany, it treats animals, crops and soil as one single system. According to the Biodynamic Association, “A biodynamic farm is a living organism.‘
This living organism is also seen as a “unique individuality;‘ this means each farm is unique and different. So, a biodynamic farmer must find his own holistic balance that works for his farm.
Biodynamics was quickly came to the USA in 1926. In 1938 the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association was started. Now know as the North American Biodynamic Association. Biodynamic farming even has a standards group called Demeter International and certification agencies for products produced by biodynamic farms. Two practices many biodynamic farmer try to follow are biodynamic preparations and moon planting.
Biodynamic preparation play a huge role in biodynamic farming. Preparations are numbered 500-508. The first is the 500 preparation also know as horn-manure. It is prepared by allowing cow manure to ferment in a horn while being buried in the soil for 6 months in autumn and winter. This is then used to make a soil spray the stimulates humus formation and root growth. Preparation 501 also know as horn-silica is similar to 500. Except powdered quartz is used to pack the horn and it is buried in spring and summer in the soil. This preparation is a foliar spray to stimulate plant growth. Preparation 502-507 are used to make compost and are applied to the compost at a special time.
Preparation 508 is a foliar spray made from horsetail plants (Equisetum arvense). It is sprayed in hope it will suppress fungal diseases in plants. This preparation are important to biodynamic farming, because they are used to help regulate the biological processes and enhance the life force of the farm system.
Moon Planting and Maria Thun
Maria was born in Germany in 1922 near Malburg. In the 1940s she was introduced to biodynamic farming and started to study the affects of the astrological calendar on farming/gardening. Her research and work continued until her death in 2012.
She published many books including: Gardening for Life (The Biodynamic Way), The Biodynamic Year, and When Wine Tastes Best. The almanac Maria Thun’s Biodynamic Calendar (also known as North American Maria Thun Biodynamic Almanac) is the book farmers use to find the best planting days.
Maria’s Biodynamic Calendar
The biodynamic calendar uses lunar/astrological influences to help improve plant and soil development. These influencers include many astrological cycles, the main one being used in Maria’s calendar is the sidereal cycle. This cycle tracks the moon movement through the 12 zodiac star signs in the sky. The moon stays in each zodiac signs for one to four days, which takes 27.3 days in total to complete.
Maria divides the 12 zodiac signs into four different elements: water (leaf days), air (flower days), earth (root days), and fire (fruit days). She then breaks plants up into one of the four elements. These four elements correlate with aspects of the plant’s growth and development: water to leaf growth, air to flower growth, earth to root growth and fire to fruit growth. The plants element would depend on what part of the plant you want to harvest. For example, lettuce would be the leaf type, all flowers would be flower type, potatoes would be root type and tomatoes would be fruit type. If plants are planted in their element day, it will improve the plant’s growth and development. Maria did a great deal of research and was able to show increases in yield, when planting in the proper days.
The calendar also includes a great deal of information about other cosmic cycles including: the phase cycle (moon and sun 29.5 days), the perigee cycle (moon and earth 27.2 days), the nodal cycle (moon and ecliptic plane), and the height that the moon rises in the sky (ascending and descending 27.3 days). Maria uses these cycles to determine unfavorable times to work in the soil. Many of these days have to do with eclipses, nodal points of the moon/planets and negative influencers.
The calendar is not just for planting, ether. Maria has also given the best dates for felling trees accounting to their species. Honey bee activity and weather can be predicted by movement of the moon through the zodiacs.
General Rules for Biodynamic Moon Planting
Maria Thun Calendar can be a little hard to follow and sometimes it is difficult to be at the right place at just the right time. So, I try to follow some basic rules:
• Midday is a bad time to plant, work, or harvest in the garden
• Do not plant on Saturday or Good Friday
• Avoid unfavorable day such as eclipses and nodal days
• Transplant when the moon is ‘descending’ through the constellations (when the moon is in Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio)
• Try to follow the general rules of The Old Farmer’s Almanac
The North American Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar can easily be found online. There are also apps, like Moon and Garden that will help your find the right day.
Biodynamic farming can seem a little strange at first, but its main goal is to approach farming holistically, ecologically and ethically. Inspiring the farmer to create a ecosystem unique to his land and situation.
Tiffany Jones is the District Manager for the Wexford Conservation District. For more information on biodynamic farming and for assistance in local conservation matters contact Tiffany by phone at (231) 775-7681, ext. 3, by email at email@example.com, or stop by the Wexford Conservation District office at 7192 East 34 (Boon) Road, Cadillac.