I recently began a Biodynamic gardening course. My interest in the course has been driven primarily from my passion for food and my interest in holistic nutrition. Following a plant-based diet and with certain dietary requirements I have become increasingly aware of what I eat and what I get from what I eat. I wanted to take this a step back even further to consider the whole process that our food goes through from caring for the soil, to planting, to harvesting and to preparing and plating up our food. What’s more, I realise how readily available all foods are to us nowadays, and how accustomed we have become to finding anything we care to eat at the supermarket. Without growing our own fruit and veg, we rely on eating food produced in different parts of the country, or even different parts of the world. This is often without giving a second thought to the fact that it’s traveled hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles to reach us. More and more these days, people are taking an increasing interest in the cycle of the seasons and realising that everything does have a season. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to me that I could be eating a deliciously prepared meal and yet have little idea of where it came from and how it was grown. More than anything, I wanted to have a part to play in this process of growth and to be able to give back to the earth what it has given and continues to give to us in abundance.
There’s a small group of us who come together to share this learning experience once every month, in person or via online group meetings. Despite our motivations for doing the course being very different to one another, we are all united by our eagerness to want to broaden our minds and learn more of the concepts and practices of Biodynamic gardening. Our first session took place at the end of February. A time where we were coming out from the last of the short, frosty, wintry days and beginning to see hints of flowers blooming and trees growing and reproducing. We warmly welcomed in sunnier and lighter days and we began to see hibernating animals make their way out of hibernation. As a group, we will continue to meet for a total of 10 months, bringing us up to the last week of November. In this way, we will be following the seasons as they come and go, from Winter through to the end of Autumn. We are being encouraged to recognise the changing faces of nature and, in doing so, learning to work with nature’s rhythms and in return to benefit from them.
So, what exactly is Biodynamic gardening? The term Biodynamics has been around since the 1920s and as it stands today, there are thriving biodynamic farms all over the world. A good place to start is to look at Organic gardening, with many similarities drawn between the two approaches. Both reject the use of toxic chemicals and believe first and foremost in building a healthy soil, seeing it as the key to fertility. Ways of ensuring this, involve the use of green manures, cover crops, cultivation, composting and companion planting. What differentiates Biodynamics and Organics is that Biodynamics adopts a broader perspective, recognising that soil and animal fertility will continue to decline, and that there is a need to do more than simply feed the soil. Biodynamic gardeners recognise that the earth itself needs to be healed. This is done through applying remedies to the soil, to the leaves of the plants, and to the compost pile.
In adopting this broader perspective, we are encouraged to become aware of everything that can influence plant growth, from deep inside the earth to the far reaches of the cosmos. The soil itself is believed to be alive and the degree to which it is alive will affect the vibrancy and health of the plants it supports. By delving into this, as gardeners we are asked to undertake detailed, patient, careful, long-term observations of nature. This involves tuning into the effects of the sun, rainfall, warmth, and cold when working with our unique patch of land. Importantly, when it comes to our own input, we are asked to use our intuition to better understand and be aware of what’s happening in the garden.
Opening my mind to encompass this newfound awareness and appreciation that comes with Biodynamic gardening, has resonated very strongly with me. I hold the perception that individuals and life around us take the form of interdependent wholes. I believe everything to be connected and as such, nothing in life is static. We are dynamic beings living in an ever-evolving dynamic world. The more I study Biodynamic gardening practices, the more I begin to recognise how my own beliefs and values fit perfectly with the notion that nothing in nature remains static either. Just as we humans and animals grow, mature, reproduce and die, plants will likewise move through a cycle of leafing, flowering, fruiting and dying. Extending this perspective further, we go forward to consider the wider cycles of life that nurture this process, that is, the effects of the changing rhythms of day-and-night and the unfolding seasonal growth throughout the year. What I found interesting was the sudden realisation of how these rhythmic changes are reflected in not only the plants but us also. In the Winter, we are typically more withdrawn and introspective whereas in the Summer, we tend to be livelier and more outgoing. When we plant according to the Biodynamic calendar and we begin to eat food in season, we notice how the fruits and vegetables that surround us at these different times of the year are actually there to support our different states of being. We can begin to marry up with the seasonal rhythms once more, connecting to our instincts and deep-seated natural rhythms.
I have only begun scraping the surface of what this uniquely holistic approach holds to gardening but am able to recognise how Biodynamics goes much further than merely what takes place in the garden. My introduction to Biodynamics has taught me that the focus is no longer just on substances, but also senses. I understand the importance of identifying the relationship between the soil, plants, organisms, environment and the atmosphere and how this places an emphasis on everything working in harmony. In Biodynamics, we look to the sensitivity, feelings and identity of the plants, questioning what each plant brings to the world. In doing so, we make a reflection upon ourselves, entering into a reciprocal cycle of giving and taking with the earth. Cultivating a special sense of well-being.