“Biodynamic practices are logical—it’s just a different kind of logic than an organic gardener may be used to,” says program director Mac Mead of the Pfeiffer Center. Get your feet wet with any, or all, of these basic practices.
Follow a celestial garden calendar.
The idea that the moon and stars subtly influence plant growth is a cornerstone of biodynamics. But you don’t have to study the night sky; just follow the annual Stella Natura. Illustrated with artwork and essays on BD principles, this calendar tracks the passage of the moon through the 12 constellations of the zodiac each month, indicating optimal times to work with a plant’s roots, leaves, flowers, or fruit (a category that includes many vegetables, nuts, and seeds). A “root day” in spring, for example, is the perfect time to plant carrots or beets. But it’s not a rigid system—if rain or a busy schedule get in the way, just do the best you can. Consulting the cosmos should “never paralyze or unduly postpone one’s work,” the authors say.
Mist with a manure or silica preparation.
Mead recommends two for gardeners new to BD:
Preparation 500—made from cow manure buried in the earth to soak up energy—is mixed in tiny amounts into water, then sprayed on soil in early spring to promote root growth. “It helps the earth hold nutrients, air, and water and give them to the young plants,” Mead says. “We see more consistent growth—instead of some seedlings and transplants doing well, virtually all do well.”
Preparation 501—made from quartz crystals ground to a fine powder called silica—is sprayed later in spring and summer, to help leaves take in sunlight. “It’s beautiful in the garden when silica is sprayed,” says Mead. “We usually spray in early morning. The rising sun shines through the mist. And the plants and trees seem to lift themselves up a little bit higher afterward.” Silica helps plants absorb light more effectively, biodynamic practitioners say, resulting in produce with a higher nutrient content.
Try biodynamic seed.
Collected from plants raised on biodynamic farms, this seed costs more (a small packet of 25 tomato seeds, for example, might cost $3), but fans claim faster germination and better yields. The major supplier in the United States is Turtle Tree Seed, based in Copake, New York, which carries
vegetable, flower, and herb seeds. Some seed meets the strict requirements of the U.S. Demeter Association, the certifying organization for biodynamic products.
The Pfeiffer Center garden is always open for visitors; the center also hosts workshops throughout the year. Visitors can sample garden produce in-season in creative meals prepared by award-winning chef Anthony LoPinto at the Threefold Café, located across the street on the campus of the Threefold Educational Center.
The Threefold Educational Center, a community of programs and institutions based on the work of Rudolf Steiner, is open to the public.
The Pfeiffer Center hosts workshops and training programs that teach biodynamics. 260 Hungry Hollow Rd., Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977, 845-352-5020.
Celestial calendar: $15 (plus shipping) from Stella Natura, PO Box 783, Kimberton PA 19442, 610-469-9686
Biodynamic preparations: Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Bio-Dynamics, PO Box 133, Woolwine, VA 24185-0133, 276-930-2463. One dose (covers up to an acre) of Preparation 500 is $8; 1 dose of Preparation 501, $3.
Biodynamic seed: Turtle Tree Seed, Camphill Village, Copake, NY 12516, 888-516-779