2011 05 GWM Blog

The first line of TS Eliot’s famous poem “The Waste Land” is … April is the cruellest month …

And 8 lines from the end Eliot says … Shall I at least set my lands in order?

I’m feeling these lines very strongly right this month.

The weather was very good in March and I got a lot done, then the winds changed after the equinox – as they usually do – and now we have gales and calm, gales and calm. It’s having a damn good go at smashing down the polytunnel but so far it’s still standing, and in it are the young plants I sowed and grew on since the beginning of the year.

I want to set my lands in order.

April can indeed be cruel, the gales are not giving the plants any breaks. It’s odd to have continental weather when you live in an island, all brought about by Global Warming. At least now there is just about no argument that global warming is real, is happening. I saw it first in 1992, in the garden in Balham when I sat there in June watching the eucalyptus tree bending and swaying in a very strong wind, far stronger than any I’d seen before in June.  Back in February I was talking about 80 mph winds, it’s not as bad as that at present but the winds are still very fierce.

This is a column about biodynamics … so how can BD help?

Mycorrhizal root tips (amanita)

The base of all plants is the soil, good soil makes good plants. Using prep 500, the horn manure, increases the mychorriza, the fungal soil life

Mycorrhizae are symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant. The mycorrhizal fungus colonizes the host plant’s roots, they are an important component of soil life and soil chemistry. Horn manure helps this to happen.

From Wikipedia …

Plant root hairs are invaded by the mycelia of the mycorrhiza, which lives partly in the soil and partly in the root, and may either cover the length of the root hair as a sheath or be concentrated around its tip. The mycorrhiza obtains the carbohydrates that it requires from the root, in return providing the plant with nutrients including nitrogen and moisture. Later the plant roots will also absorb the mycelium into its own tissues.

Beneficial mycorrhizal associations are to be found in many of our edible and flowering crops. Shewell Cooper suggests that these include at least 80% of the brassica and solanum families (including tomatoes and potatoes), as well as the majority of tree species, especially in forest and woodlands. Here the mycorrhizae create a fine underground mesh that extends greatly beyond the limits of the tree’s roots, greatly increasing their feeding range and actually causing neighbouring trees to become physically interconnected. The benefits of mycorrhizal relations to their plant partners are not limited to nutrients, but can be essential for plant reproduction: in situations where little light is able to reach the forest floor, such as the North American pine forests, a young seedling cannot obtain sufficient light to photosynthesise for itself and will not grow properly in a sterile soil. But if the ground is underlain by a mycorrhizal mat then the developing seedling will throw down roots that can link with the fungal threads and through them obtain the nutrients it needs, often indirectly obtained from its parents or neighbouring trees.

David Attenborough points out the plant, fungi, animal relationship that creates a “Three way harmonious trio” to be found in forest ecosystems wherein the plant/fungi symbiosis is enhanced by animals such as the wild boar, deer, mice or flying squirrel, which feed upon the fungi’s fruiting bodies, including truffles, and cause their further spread (Private Life Of Plants, 1995). A greater understanding of the complex relationships that pervade natural systems is one of the major justifications of the organic gardener, in refraining from the use of artificial chemicals and the damage these might cause.

It’s been observed that using the biodynamic preparations increases mychorrizal activity. It certainly does help the plants survive the massive change in their environment that global warming is causing – so far, at least. My plants are coping. It’s part of what Steiner said was needed when he gave the Agricultural Lectures.

I don’t only use BD, I use every belt, braces and suspenders method I can to help the plants grow. They start their lives in super soil, carefully made sowing compost, transplanted  into super potting compost and eventually planted out into carefully prepared beds … again full of super soil. The soil is improved by adding the compost we make here, and the leaf mould, and the bokasahi, and the worm compost and juice, the wood ash from our stove, all of them given the BD treatment with the compost preps, Mausdorfer and cow-pat-pit, and it comes from our own garden, even some of the wood for the fire, so has already grown in biodynamic soil, had the 501 (horn silica) treatment, and so is 2nd or 3rd generation BD.

As well as the BD I give them shelter and protection with fleece and enviromesh, and the poor wretched polytunnel. The garden is planted with trees, shrubs and bushes to help break the wind as well as give habitat for wildlife and beauty for us. Later, as they become ready, I’ll be giving them 501 treatment in their turn to bring out the best in them.

Elen Sentier

behind every creative woman there’s usually a rather talented cat

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