Building a Biodynamic Compost Pile in the City

I find Biodynamics really hard to write about, explain… even understand in specific terms.  But I love to practice it.  I love to stir and I love the way the garden- any garden- feels after I spray the preps.  It  just works.  Biodynamics works to increase general garden health, to improve the soil – this I’ve experienced- and it is Highly resource-efficient.  So we like it.  And we like the philosophy a lot, but we dont know how to effectively write about it yet, so:  Here’s how we made a Bd compost pile at Sugar Creek Garden.  I hope it encourages you to explore bd in your own garden!

The challenge is translating Biodynamics in all its rich-wonderfulness to an urban environment without compromising its wholeness beyond function.  That’s what our little group Urban Biodynamics, guided by Jim Jensen here in Decatur (Atlanta) GA is working to do.

1.  Compile your materials.  Manure is critical.  The most life-force comes from the living.  Animals= astral force.  We used goat-manure because it’s very local. Cow manure is the best.  Because it’s scraped from the goat pen, the manure is mixed with quite a bit of hay.  Need a balance of carbon like veggie scraps or ‘brown’ materials like straw or leaves, wood chips.  We used a lot of raw kitchen scraps from a pile that was 1/2 way done, eggshells too.  We used granite sand and some existing dirt from the site.

2. Build it up, baby- layer cake.  Of all the different ingredients- each layer about 2-4 in thick.  Keep the pile moist as you go- add water if you must (non-chlorinated!).  When the pile is 1/2 way done, add the compost preps, except only 1/2 of the Valerian mixture (#507) goes now, the only one not in granule ‘dirt-like’ form.  It’s a liquid that stirred in water.  We are imbuing the energy of prep 507 into the water by stirring in a special manner for 10 minutes.  Stirring is a wonderful experience.

3. The Biodynamic Compost Preps.  JPI has a brief description of each prep that goes into the pile #502-507.   As far as I know, the numbers dont mean anything but the herbal preparations are Very meaningful, very potent in what could be considered homeopathic doses.  Josephine Porter Institute is promoting widespread use of Biodynamics without compromising it’s quality, (says me).  They are an excellent resource for info as well as preps, if you dont make your own- and you probably won’t in the beginning unless you are a larger-scale, established farm.  I buy mine from Bio-Ag Resources in Kentucky.

4. When 1/2 the pile is built up and the preps are in, layer the rest of the pile.  Jim likes the manure to be nearest to the center, so the astrality which tends to scatter is contained within the pile.  He also likes the manure near the preps.  We layer backwards,  in the opposite direction we built the first 1/2.  Begin with leaves, then granite sand, wood ash, lettuce plants, hay/manure- preps- hay/manure- partially decomposed veggies, dirt, granite sand, ash, leaves.   You get the idea.  Its not an exact science, more of a feel you get for it. And dont forget to add your water if the pile is feeling dry.

5. Finish with a fine spray of the rest of the activated (stirred) 507 and a nice ‘skin’ as Jim likes to say.  A layer of leaves or carbon is good.

3 Responses to “Building a Biodynamic Compost Pile in the City”

  1. gardenboy says:

    I remain a biodynamic skeptic. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE compost and composting and using compost and occasionally mixing compost to keep the heat up. My personal record is 160 degrees for a week. Still, as a more or less atheist anarchist, the biodynamic stuff smells strangely like religion and dogma. This is understandably important to many people’s lives. In my own experience, I have found a path that yields great results without formalization and mystic forces. Suddenly don’t know why I’ve embarked on this missive. Perhaps a cry for higher meaning in my already garden-centric personal spirituality? Bless us all…there is a cranefly in my bedroom.

    • Lindsey Mann says:

      Hi Chris. Thanks for responding. Dont know where you get the religious sense from, except that BD recognizes the invisible “spiritual” forces at work in the world, streaming to us from the solar system and beyond. They do exist, and understanding how to harness their potential and work in harmony with them is part of the aim of bd! YOur problem might be just semantics….. The ‘spiritual’ term astrality, for example is related to the element modern science calls Nitrogen. It’s just a more expanded viewpoint- not focusing purely on the material, but looking at the energy behind the material. As for dogma, the philosophy is pretty heavy within the bd community and can be hard to access…. My approach is PRACTICE PRACTICE and learn intellectually as you go…. In the practice, I find methods so far superior to even organic approaches, so from a very practical level i am a ‘believer’. Though it’s much less about belief and more about doing and experiencing.

      Personally, I LOVE bd mainly because it is extremely resource-efficient, working with homeopathic doses…… which I know your conservation-minded approach can appreciate!

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