Category Archives: Gardening with the Moon

A Column by Elen Sentier

“Planting with the Moon” is quite well known but, in biodynamics, we use more than the phases of the moon.

Biodynamics is using a set of eight preparations (the BD preps) made from vegetable/herbal, animal and mineral compounds to enhance the soil and the plants.

GWM – Not doing it by the book :-)

February is hard on gardeners and the garden. It can be freezing or it can be warm and sunny – I’ve got a sunburn in the February sunshine a few years back. This year we’ve got wind … so far. Lots of wind, 80mph at times, knocking the electricity out, blowing down the chimney and generally sounding just like the wind in Hans Anderson’s wonderful story, “The Wind’s Tale”.

One thing that is no good at all is to sow seeds, or plant out plug plants, into cold, wet soil with a harsh wind and little sunshine. Sowing is definitely for indoors, or the polytunnel, or greenhouse, or under cloches. I’m doing all of those. I’ve got turnips, early lettuces and cabbages Premier and Derby Day. I’m just about to sow tomatoes, aubergines, sweet pepper Jumbo, Feltham First peas and broad beans Aquadulce. They’ll start life in the propagator with bottom heat to encourage them.

I’m going outside the box here, biodynamically. For various cat-reasons sowing didn’t happen on the fruit days during the last northern planting time. To stay strictly in the rules I would have to wait 4 whole weeks for the next fruit planting time with all three factors right. Three factors? They are …

  • Northern Planting Time
  • Afternoon
  • Fruit Day

These three things mean the Earth is “breathing in” … i.e. the energy is being pulled down from the stars into the soil – that’s the NPT, northern planting time. Afternoon – that’s also when the Earth is breathing in, energising the soil with the star energy the Moon collects. And fruit day – that’s when the Moon is collecting and focusing the energy from one of the “fire” constellations, Aries (Ram), Leo (Lion) and Sagittarius (Archer).

Well, I’m not going to be able to get all three lined up, but I can get two of them together. As I said, if I wait for the next NPT it’ll be too long away so I’m going to go for it on the next Fruit Days, Wed & Thu the 9th and 10th of Feb. If I wait I won’t be able to sow until Fri 18th, over a week later. And a week is a long time in gardening, many seeds will have sprouted in that time.

Sowing the tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, peas and beans this coming Wednesday and Thursday I’ll have two out of the three lined up … I’ll be sowing on Fruit Days and in the afternoon. That way, the energy will be pulling down into the soil (afternoon) and the Moon will be focusing energy from the fire constellation Aries (Fruit days). Two out of three is a lot better than nothing. Planting in good time, not waiting another week, is good too. I’ll then cultivate the seedlings on fruit days in the NPT to help them establish good roots which will work fine.

Biodynamics is a process that helps plants do their very best. It is NOT a religion where you will be blasted to hell if you don’t do it exactly by the book! Do take that to heart, don’t be put off doing it just because you can’t always be perfect. Honestly, good enough is fine, is very good. Always just try to do your best and know that plants want to grow, even in the most adverse conditions they’ll have a go. A friend of mine had to keep her lovely hosta stacked between a couple of concrete blocks for 2+ years … and she lives in snow-stricken Scotland! It’s fine, it grows its leaves beautifully and flowers like mad. That’s an extreme example but it really does goes to show that plants want to grow and will give it their best shot all the time. Biodynamics helps them.

So go for it with your biodynamics even if sometimes you can’t do it perzactly right every time. I do … and it works.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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GWM – Garden binge …

I was so lucky this weekend, Jo and Roy and Jennie came round to help move a mountain. Over the past couple of years prunings – like whole trees! – and clearings have built and built and built into a mountainf stuff at the end of the garden. It needed moving, the wood that is good for the fire chopped up, the brush burned for woodash, and the earth that’s actually been made from the “stuff” barrowed to the many flower beds who need it.

It happened!

We did it. The heap for burning is all built, I hope to set fire to it tomorrow when the winds are supposed to die down for the day. Half the earth has been moved to beds, the other half has still to be done, I hope to get it done this week.

The resulting space is fantastic. There’s a beautiful young oak tree – a gift from a dear friend with a fantastic garden in Porlock – at the near corner of the space. You can see it now, no longer hidden by its background. I have space for another polytunnel – and it arrived (in kit form) this afternoon. we have space for 4 more big compost bins that we desperately need and working space for composting. And easy access to the field for more burning space … and walkikng out to the woods across the way.

I’m just soooo thrilled.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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GWM – Flower Day

I did it! I got the dahlia tubers into pots today so they should come up early and flower all summer long. I’ve got 3 Bishop of Llandaff and 8 assorted cactus. I have to have Bishop of Lllandaff, living where I do, in the birthplace of the first Bishop of Llandaff, our Merlin-figure, Dyfrig of Madley. He’s the hero of the novel I’m writing at the moment. and I just love the cactus dahlias, so wild and exotic.

I was lucky in that I have the old soil from the potato bags. Seeds don’t need much nutrient as they have all they need within them, tubers do it in spades :-). The dahlia tubers are still half in hibernation and need to come out gently. I put some damp earth in the bottom of the pots then some dry earth from the potato bags which I used to fill in and cover them. then I popped a plastic bag over the top of each pot and stood them in trays in the scullery which is cold but doesn’t freeze. That way the tubers can wake up slowly, gently feel their way back into flowering life. I won’t need to water for a wee while but I’ll check them every day.

The old potato soil was given a dose of Prep 500 over the past 3 days so the tubers have that to help them as well.

Tomorrow and Saturday are leaf days so I’m going to sow cabbage and lettuce. Sunday and Monday are fruit so I’ll be sowing my first tomatoes of the year … watch this space 🙂

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

 

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Gardening with the Moon & Stars is out …

Gardening with the Moon & Stars

It’s out! Buy it HERE

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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GWM – Sowing Root Crops

Today is a root day in the northern planting time, the last for a little while so I’m sowing turnip ‘Golden Ball’ and radish ‘Rosa’ in plugs. It’s great to get started on the new year.

I’ve just got my seed compost together. My mix is

  • 2 parts molehill-earth
  • 1 part leaf mold
  • 1/2 part sand
  • 1/2 part well-rotted manure

I sieve the lot together and keep in an old potato bag in the scullery where it’s free from frost and handy to use. I use vermiculite to cover the seeds, lets in light and has nice volcano-energy.

Before I use the compost it gets a treatment of Prep 500 to help the soil-life and mycorrhiza, stirring up the energies so it all works well together.

Will keep you posted on how they do … 🙂

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

 

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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GWM – Beginnings for Spring

Another fantastic afternoon in the garden. Cleared the rubbish from the Alchemy Garden – about 5 wheelbarrow-fulls of good compost material, I’ll put that in the bin tomorrow. Also carved – I mean pruned! – all the honeysuckle, aquebia and climbing rose on the arched walk out from the french windows that borders one side of the Alchemy garden. Now I can see what I’m doing!

Lots of stuff coming up already, bulbs of course but also the beginnings of the herbaceous plants. The forget-me-nots are going great guns, tough little buggers but so lovely when you get that haze of blue in a few weeks time. Pruned the roses too. Everything seems nice and healthy.

The nettles are doing well! When and where don’t they? Lots of hand-weeding there to come but I need the soil to be a little less frozen to make it easier!

We did the 12 days stirrings of 500 from 26th Dec to 6th Jan, including all the flower garden as well as the fruit and veg. You can sense the vigour it’s given to the soil and the soil-life.

We’re in a no-no period right now so clearing up is all that should be done at present as the soil-beings are cheerfully working away and don’t want us to interfere! However,  Sunday thro to Wednesday are all root days in the Northern Planting Time so I hope to get some early seeds sown then. Will post what next week. Will do a 500 stirring again too on one of those days. I usually do one to prep the seed compost before using it, so likely Monday – have friends round on sunday but the might like to stir so wait and see. Collected mole-hills yesterday – the best seed-growing material when mixed with sand. You don’t need rich soil for seeds as the seeds have all they need within them. Potting on you need more food.

My robin-friend from yesterday came to supervise my work – she said I was doing OK (wipes sweat form brow!). it is so delightful to have a robin companioning me as I garden, very special birds – at least for me 🙂

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors
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GWM – Biodynamic Inspection

GWM BD Inspection

Archenland, our home, is Demeter certified so every year we are inspected to make sure we are still working along sound biodynamic lines and principles. We had our annual inspection today.

Having Richard, the inspector, round is always delightful if rigorous! We know him well but that doesn’t stop him asking poking questions and making sure we actually walk our talk – which is just how it should be. The Biodynamic Association, Demeter, is always concerned that all its members actually do practice biodynamics and do it properly. They give us a set of forms to complete which ask questions about …

  • Our land
  • What we grow
  • What outside input we do – like manure, compost, rock dust, calcium, lime etc.
  • What seeds we use – they must be at least organic and preferably biodynamic
  • What animals we keep, if any
  • What our crop rotation is
  • How wildlife friendly the garden is
  • What our pest control systems are
  • What composting we do
  • And … the most important … when we have put the preps on the garden during the past year

The fundamental part of biodynamics is putting the preparations on the land and in the compost. If you don’t do this you’re not working biodynamically. The planting calendar is secondary to using the preparations. We keep records in the diary of all the stirrings we do and which beds – particularly in the case of prep 501 – we spray. It’s very useful to us as well as necessary for the inspection.

Paul also keeps detailed records of what goes on each bed, each year, in terms of  …

  • Cow manure
  • Horse manure
  • Chicken manure – quite rare for us to be able to get
  • Pig manure – currently scarcer than hen’s teeth but I would like to use it, am hopeful to have a source for 2011
  • Homemade weed and vegetable compost
  • Bokashi compost & juice
  • Worm compost & juice
  • Basalt rock dust
  • Calcified seaweed & liquid
  • Local authority green manure
  • Leaf mould
  • Cow-pat-pit preparation
  • Liquid manure
  • Comfrey juice
  • Nettle tea feed
  • Nettle tea aphid killer
  • Horsetail tea fungus treatment

It’s a long list but it’s all good stuff!

Richard-the-Inspector likes to walk round the garden too – interesting this time as it was, as he put it, a winter wonderland out there with best part of a foot of snow covering everything. He wasn’t able to see much but did scrape off some snow and note the good condition of the soil beneath, commenting on the good use of organic matter to retain soil friability even under these harsh conditions. We can still dig leeks without breaking them!

Richard is interested to hear how we’re finding using the rock dust – we’ve been doing it for nearly four years now – and pleased that we notice how the veg beds that have had it produce stronger, healthier plants than those that haven’t. It really seems to add to the good effect of the preparations. We were talking about how there is no “magic bullet” but learning to work all things into an integrated whole makes the difference.

Mind you, the one thing we would never drop is doing the preparations, on the soil, the plants and in the compost heaps.

We’ve been doing more cow-pat-pit and Mausdorfer this past couple of years, partly because I’ve been in and out of hospital so much with the joint-replacement operations. This has meant not only has Paul had more to do in the garden but less time to do it in because of looking after me. Using these multi-preps – each of them contains all 6 of the compost preps – has helped get compost made and, by using cow-pat-pit directly on the land, has improved the beds without all the hard work of digging in compost. Richard asked if that meant we weren’t bothering with compost. Oh no, we said, we’re still making it and still find using real compost makes even more difference than just using the cow-pat-pit, but you always have to adjust your life to your circumstances and do the best you can. The two multi-preps have made it possible to do more biodynamics than we would have otherwise been able to because of me.

That’s something that Richard understands – doing the best you can.

Demeter isn’t the Spanish Inquisition! They very well understand that Life happens. Part of Richard’s job is to know when the people he’s inspecting really are doing their best and went they’re skiving. I strongly suspect that the number of skivers in BD is extremely small but I would never say we are a perfect lot without any failings!

People who decide to go for biodynamics, like most organic gardeners, do it because they feel it in their hearts not for any other reasons. We do it because it makes our hearts sing … and there is no better reason in the world for doing anything.

It was a good, thorough and rigorous inspection … we passed muster 🙂