Biodynamics is easy. I want to say this right from the beginning. And it doesn’t mean you have to spend many, many hours making strange preparations or spend loads of money.
- · You can buy all the preparations, ready to use, from your local or national biodynamic association – see Contacts for a list of these.
- · You can also buy a star calendar to show you when to do what.
- · The probable cost for the calendar and a year’s supply of preps is likely to be under £25 – that’s less than 50p a week.
Using the eight preparations, in conjunction with the Star Calendar, is fundamental. They are the corner-stone of biodynamics. It’s actually getting the preps on the ground, on the plants and in the compost heap. When added to good organic practice they increase soil and plant health and vitality, enhance colour, form, fragrance and flavour as well as helping plants resist pests and diseases.
Spray & Compost Preparations
The preparations are used in two ways … spray preparations that are used directly onto the soil and plants; and compost preparations that (as their name suggests) work in the compost heap.
Both the spray preps are made using cow’s horns as the container and are sometimes known as the “horn preps”. How they’re made is dealt with in the “Making the Preparations” chapter but, as I said above, you don’t need to do this unless you wish to. The preps are available for sale, cheaply, through your national biodynamic association.
What you have to do is make them into a form that the soil and the plants can use and that’s what we’re going to do in this chapter. For both preparations, horn manure (500) and horn silica (501), you do this by stirring a very small portion of either in a bucket of water for an hour.
Less is More
You need only a very small amount of either prep. For the horn manure, a piece about the size of your thumb-joint stirred into an ordinary household-size plastic bucket of water will do the whole of the average town garden. For horn silica, a quarter of a teaspoon in half a bucket of water will be more than enough for most people’s veg and flowers. It really is a case of less-is-more.
The preparations are not fertilisers to be sprayed onto the ground in great quantities. As you’ll see shortly, you actually flick droplets onto the soil or plants with a large wallpaper brush or spray them with a plant sprayer. Using the brush may make you feel a bit silly at first if your neighbours spy you but you really won’t care when you’re munching those delicious raspberries or vegetables, or enjoying the beautiful, healthy flowers.
Horn manure – 500
This is fresh cow manure prepared in a cow’s horn over the winter: it improves the soil and helps roots to come to their full potential.
It is applied to the soil; it doesn’t matter though if you splash the plants while applying it.
About Cows’ Horns
A cow’s horn is a special thing and it isn’t the same as a bull’s horn. The cow’s horn is heavy, thick-walled and slender, spiralling right up to the tip. It shows how many calves she has had in “rings”, rather like aging a tree.
Bull’s horns are thin-walled, have no rings and are generally conical, growing straight without the spiralling from base to tip.
People have tried putting the stuff in other containers, including bull’s horns, to see if the process still works. It doesn’t. You end up with manure very like what went in originally. There’s something about the cow’s horn that’s special, enables the manure to turn from smelly cow pat to fine, sweet-smelling earth-like compound. The same goes for the silica although the non-effects aren’t so obvious.
I don’t know why this happens and – at present – I don’t think anyone else really does either. but it does work and the results on the garden are wonderful.
Horn silica – 501
This is crushed quartz silica prepared in a cow’s horn over the summer: it helps fine tune cultivation, bringing leaves, flowers and fruits to their full potential. It is applied to the plants, not the soil.
It must be used carefully in time with the star calendar and on the relevant plants only or you will get some effects you didn’t want … as you’ll see in the section on using 501.
NB – the horns only ever come from animals after they have been slaughtered at the end of their lives. Now cow is ever de-horned in biodynamics unless there is a desperate medical reason to do so. And biodynamic farmers tend to use every part of the beast they are allowed to so nothing of the cow is wasted but all is used, and with thanks.
And here’s a pic of my husband Paul doing a 500 stirring 🙂