Monday, March 28, 2011

Bio-Dynamic Agriculture: A Primer

I'm definitely not an expert in the field of bio-dynamic agriculture. I'm more of a student. I stumbled onto bio-dynamics last fall after noticing something intriguing with our carrot harvest.

Last year, I happened to plant carrots over the course of a couple of weeks - completely by accident. Sometimes that's just the way gardening goes when you have a little one who's tired of being in one spot for too long. When I went to harvest the carrots, I noticed a huge difference in the quality and size of them. Some were perfect: straight, long and blemish free. They tasted amazing, kept well into January and I bet they would have kept longer had we not eaten every last one of them. Some of the carrots however, had multiple legs, were twisted and went soft fairly immediately. It definitely had me thinking: the only difference in those carrots was when they were planted.

Carrots from our harvest.
I'd read Louise Riotte's, Astrological Gardening, and was vaguely familiar with the concept of planting one's garden according to the astrological signs. I'd also dismissed the idea as too complicated and too much work. After the carrot harvest, however, I began to reconsider the idea.

Bio-Dynamic Agriculture is astrological gardening, plus a lot more. It is a system of agriculture based on the lectures of Rudolf Steiner, which he wrote between 1912 and 1924. The idea is to garden according to the 12 astrological signs, each sign having been assigned an element: earth, water, air and fire. Each of these elements has an affinity for a specific plant type:

  • Earth: Root Plants (carrots, potatoes)
  • Water: Leaf Plants (lettuce)
  • Air/Light: Flowering Plants (broccoli)
  • Fire/Warmth: Fruiting Plants (tomatoes, peppers, squash)

    This form of agriculture also takes into consideration the effects of the moon, stars and planetary alignments. Each day in our calendar year corresponds to an astrological sign, element and plant. It is a bit complicated and overwhelming at the start, but thankfully, Maria & Matthias Thun print an annual calendar that provides guidelines for each day.

    There are exceptions to the rule, however, but the general idea being that in order to harness the favorable times for planting, harvesting and growing, root vegetables would be tended on root days, leafy vegetables on leaf days, flowering plants on flower days and fruit bearing plants on fruit days.

    Lettuce grown on a 'Leaf Day'.
    Bio-Dynamic agriculture also details how to build soil fertility through crop changes and rotation and provides ways of combating pest and diseases in a completely organic way. It is a way of thinking that recognizes the importance of our soil and how its vitality affects everything around us - especially the plants we grow and the food we eat. Ultimately, it is a blueprint for how to heal the earth through a sustainable form of agriculture. If you are at all interested in growing your own food and saving the planet, I highly recommend checking out Maria Thun's books on the subject.

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