We thought you might like to know what the biodynamic preparations are all about, and newcomers to biodynamics might also be wondering: what are these numbers I see in writings about biodynamics? They are simply the shorthand used by some biodynamic practitioners to describe the preparations. At BAA we prefer to use the name, however many practitioners still refer to the numbers so we pop them in brackets to avoid any confusion.
Horn Manure (500) is made from fresh cow manure, buried in cow horns* in rich soil from Autumn to Spring. The resultant Horn Manure is a powerful soil activator used to bring the calcium activity and the sun/life forces to the soil. These forces cause seed germination; root development and growth of the plant as well as humus formation in the soil. Use of Horn Manure improves soil structure and enhances the soil food web; especially the beneficial bacteria and fungi and the earthworms. Horn Manure (35g for a garden or 85g per hectare for broad acre) is rhythmically stirred for one hour and applied to the soil in the garden or the whole farm in the late afternoon at least twice per year in spring and autumn in droplet form. Horn Manure is the original biodynamic soil spray.
* A word re our cow horns. We are very particular with regard to where our cow horns come from and will only ever use the horns from dead animals. In biodynamics the animals are a respected part of the environment.
Horn Silica (501) is made from ground up clear quartz crystal and buried in cow horns in rich soil from Spring to Autumn where it is programmed by the summer soil forces. A tiny amount of Horn Silica – 1gm per acre is rhythmically stirred for one hour and applied as a fine spray over all crops and pasture in the early morning. Horn Silica works with the soil silica, taking light forces into the soil. It also aids photosynthesis and the uptake of minerals and trace elements from the soil. This potent preparation increases the quality of the final product – its ripeness, sweetness, flavour, fragrance, shelf life and dry fibre content. It also improves the palatability of pasture, the essential oils in herbs and the protein content in grains. Horn Silica is sprayed out after Horn Manure at least twice per year in Spring and Autumn. It is the original biodynamic atmospheric spray.
Equisetum (508) is made from a decoction of the herb equisetum arvense. Its purpose is to regulate the watery element brought on by too strong or too weak moon forces. In other words use of equisetum is able to curb the strong moon forces (too much water) and encourage those forces when they are too weak (not enough water). This has the effect of encouraging the growth of beneficial fungi in the soil in the fermented form and minimising the occurrence of detrimental fungal diseases on plants when sprayed on them as a fresh concoction.
The Compost Preparations (502 to 507) are made up of:
Yarrow (502) Yarrow flowers placed in the stags bladder, hung in the sun during the summer and buried in rich soil during the next winter- this preparation stimulates the potassium, silica and selenium activating bacteria and helps combine sulphur with other substances. This preparation remedies weaknesses in flowering and fruiting and strengthens the plant against insect attack. It aids the soil in connecting to the planetary rhythms.
Chamomile (503): Chamomile flowers packed in the small intestines of the cow and buried in rich soil during the winter. This preparation retains nitrogen and calcium in the compost heap, keeping them in the living realm and preventing losses to the atmosphere. It stimulates potassium, manganese and boron, as well as azotobacteria activity – the best bacteria for making nitrogen in the soil.
Stinging Nettle (504): Stinging Nettle buried in rich soil for a year. This preparation helps the soil to develop an intelligence to accommodate the particular plants which are growing in it. It also helps proper decomposition of organic matter, aids chlorophyll formation and stimulates iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur activity in the soil.
Oak Bark (505): Oak Bark is placed in a cow skull in water over the winter. Helps calcium and phosphorus work into the earth in a living form to prevent plant diseases.
Dandelion (506): Dandelion in the cow’s mesentery. Stimulates the potassium /silica bacteria in the soil to enable it to work more effectively with the growth forces. Silica makes the plants more inwardly sensitive so that they can attract to them what they need. Can help increase flowering and filling of fruit out to tips eg cucumbers. Brings substance to our foods to nourish us. Also stimulates the magnesium, boron and selenium soil activity.
Valerian (507): Tincture made of valerian flowers. Stimulates the phosphorus process and mobilises the phosphorus – activating bacteria in the soil, as well as selenium and magnesium. Can assist flowering process. Forms warmth blanket around compost heap. If sprayed onto blossoms in spring can protect against late frost.(See our page Combating Late Season Frosts)
All of these compost preparations aid in proper fermentation and breakdown of matter when placed together in the compost heap, manure concentrate or liquid compost teas. They keep everything in the living state and act as bio-stimulants to activate specific bacterial processes in the soil. When used on the farm in the compost and liquid manures they help to organise and sensitise the farming entity.
All of our preparations are made by a Master Preparations Maker. We carefully select the ingredients and each is made with care. You can see photos from our Autumn Preparation Day 2012 here.
For home gardeners starting out in biodynamics, you may find our Soil Activator the best way to start. It includes all of the preparations and has had some pre stirring to start the activation process. You can read more about Soil Activator here.