April 10, 2010

Gardening 101 Guest Post—What is Biodynamics Part 2

I have been too busy gardening to write about gardening these days.  Luckily the Good Earth Farmers have come to my rescue with yesterday’s guest post and the follow up article below.   Go here to view Part 1

Below is a guest post written by Mr. Darren Smith from the Good Earth Farmers, a co-op of farmers serving the Eastern Tennessee area. I’ve included some information about the farmers below.  If you’d like to sign up for their free weekly newsletter, please e-mail-- goodearthfarmers@gmail.com Even if you are outside of the East TN area, I encourage you to sign up. Their newsletter always has great information on eco-conscious living, organic farming, and in season recipes.

What is Biodynamics?

Although we do not farm biodynamically, the method intrigues us. We also get questions which we can't answer about biodynamic gardening/farming. When we mentioned this to our friend Darren Smith, he kindly responded with the following article. Thank you, Darren!

(Continued from the last week's newsletter issue.)

Double Digging and Does the Biodynamic Approach Work?  By Darren Smith

Double digging is recommended.  In my garden, I decided on long rows that followed the sloping contours of my lawn, leaving grass in between. To start my

garden, I dug up the sod and tossed it to the side.  Then I dug down a spade depth and tossed that to the other side of my row.  Then I dug down one more shovel depth and used a potato fork to deeply pierce the very bottom of the trench.  I threw in a dressing of sand and then lay the sod grass side down.  More sand,  and some dirt, and more sand and a bunch of compost and more dirt.   The end result is a mound of loose soil that has a total depth once you figure in the action of the potato fork approaching 30 inches.   A lot of hard work, but my plants have an incredibly easy time setting extremely deep roots.

Does the biodynamic approach make a difference?  Somehow, my soul tells me it does and this spring I thoroughly enjoyed turning over the top layer of dirt, working in fresh compost and planting snow peas.  Beyond that, I can share some of my experience with tomatoes last year.  I started two varieties from seed on February 5 since the planting calendar said that date was especially good for starting tomatoes.  Later in the spring I gave some plants to a friend on a planting day for FRUIT.  Later in the summer, I asked my friend Dave how his tomatoes turned out.  He said real good.  I asked him if he had any problems with the late summer blight, and he said no.  He said his only problem was having to stake and re-stake them.  He quit when they got 7 feet tall.

Sugar peasBiodynamics also incorporates the use of 'preparations' that are homeopathic in nature. Various preparations capitalize on the special life energies associated with a particular plant. By applying these preparations, they help to stimulate or balance other growth forces. A favorite of mine is to use compost preparations that enliven the compost. This spring I noticed that the biodynamic compost I worked into the soil last fall left the surrounding clay very darkly colored. Before I started producing my own compost and relied on composted cow manure, the soil wasn't nearly as dark by the time spring rolled around.

That's about as brief as I can be with an introduction.  There's a lot more information to be had and a lot more for me to learn.  Some good sources include The Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics http://www.jpibiodynamics.org/ which is where I get my compost and other preparations.  They also have biodynamic calendars and other sources of information.  The proof is in the pudding.  There are videos on YouTube of a biodynamic gardener in Pennsylvania who grows cherry tomatoes.  A single plant will grow to heights of 12 feet and produce upwards of 2,000 tomatoes in a season.  Not bad for non-genetically engineered produce.

--Darren Smith lives in Knoxville and is a practicing biodynamic gardener.

Some information about Good Earth Farmers

Good Earth Farmers grow all our produce on our small family farms in New Market, TN.  All our produce is free of herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides. We never use synthetic chemical fertilizers.  Our irrigation water is not chlorinated-- it's from our own tested wells and rain barrels.

Good Earth Farmers offer Garden Delivery, a flexible program which allows its members to select farm-fresh produce from an e-mail order form sent out each Friday evening. You pick up your order the following Wednesday. $10.00 membership fee, no minimum order, and no sales tax!  Pick-up at 3 locations on Wednesday:

  • Dandridge, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, 3:30-4:00 p.m. 
  • Knoxville, Three Rivers Market, 4:45-5:30 p.m.
  • West Knoxville, John Bynon Park,6:00-6:30 p.m.

If you are in the East TN area, you can meet the farmers at an information table at Carson Newman College's  Earth Day celebration on the 21st of April (Jefferson City) as well as at Pellissippi State's Earth Fest (Knoxville) on the 17th.

For more information on the Garden Delivery program, please write us at gardendelivery@gmail.com To subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter or ask us questions, write goodearthfarmers@gmail.com

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