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FAQ

Every effort is made to present accurate information. Biodynamic Agriculture Australia Ltd accepts no responsibility for statements made and opinions expressed herewith. Furthermore, Biodynamic Agriculture Australia Ltd accepts no responsibility for results or perceived results on individual properties following implementation of biodynamic techniques.

Question

How do I deal with a bracken problem on my Uki property?

Answer

First of all, it’s great to hear that you are purchasing a bit of land. I’m familiar with Uki – a nice part of the world.

Bracken thrives on well drained, acidic soils and particularly likes high rainfall. It’s difficult to eradicate using organic methods. By all means plant lab lab, as it is a good nitrogen fixer. It won’t necessarily choke out the bracken but will also provide lots of biomass to help increase soil fertility.

I usually advise applying dolomite to raise the pH and to elevate magnesium levels. You would need to apply a hefty amount, and maybe twice per year. Minimum one tonne per acre!

Also keep slashing new growth soon after it appears. In high rainfall areas I recommend also applying boron in the form of Solubor, and using it with some humic or fulvic acid so as not to kill off your ants, which are a vital element of the soil ecosystem. Check out NutriTech Solutions for application rates.

It would be a good idea to begin applying biodynamics to your cleared land. Actually this is an alternative to purchasing a heap of dolomite, or you might consider only treating a small area of bracken with dolomite to see how it works…

Go to our website and purchase one litre of Liquid Soil Activator – which contains all the biodynamic preparations. All you do is dilute it one hundred to one (no actual stirring required, as this preparation is pre-potentiated) and spray out over the three acres late in the afternoon, preferably on a descending Moon, as droplets, not mist.

This powerful soil fertility stimulant, applied twice per year, will kick off a soil food web response which should eventually see the bracken become less and less a problem, and your soil become much more fertile.

Don’t expect an immediate result, however. The process will take a year or two to make a significant difference.

Question

We run a small coffee plantation on Tamborine Mountain Qld, of 2ha/600 coffee bushes, plus a café where we sell our own coffee. The café generates 30kg of grounds per week. What’s the best way to use this resource. Biochar? Compost? Direct into the soil? Mulch? Mushroom substrate?

Answer

Yes! Coffee grounds have a similar carbon/nitrogen ratio to cow manure – less the biology of course. Compost worms love it and reproduce rapidly in worm farms fed the material. To “inoculate” with biology, by far the best source is cow manure. To upgrade the compost to vermi compost initially import some bulk compost worms. Once you get the system working, you should always have heaps of worms to seed each new compost batch.

Add some paramagnetic basalt crusher dust, or if not available, any quarry crusher dust, for grit. Worms have a gizzard, and need grit to digest their food. Paramagnetism? This is a growth force particularly present in some rocks such as basalt, some schists and spectacularly in serpentinite; granites to a much lesser extent. The Mount Sylvia palagonite from not too far away from you near Gatton would be a good rock dust for this purpose. It has a paramagnetic reading of around 1200cgs, which is excellent.

The average output of a café is between 20 and 50kg of spent grounds per week, and this is enough to overwhelm most backyard gardeners unless they have large gardens. In the case of this plantation, there would be enough compost from your café “waste” to keep the coffee bushes continuously composted on a rotational basis. (The source of good organic/biodynamic cow manure would be problematic on Tamborine Mountain, and might involve getting it in the Beaudesert area.)

Last and far from least, don’t forget the importance of small but critical additions to your compost heaps which ensure that you have maximised the process and its outcome: for example, seaweed, (fresh or powdered or meal or liquid), molasses, diatomaceous earth, Borax (only two or three teaspoons per cubic metre), possibly some dolomite, and finish off with the BIODYNAMIC COMPOST PREPARATIONS.

Following is a very insightful point about Casuarina in relation to Australian biodynamics we have received in our collection of letters to the editor. Differentiating our regions according to hot/dry versus cool/wet predominance and getting a better fit with these silica plant aprays makes a lot more sense. 

I received a very strong impression when I read Steve Kapolice’s letter and your response in the Winter 2000 News Leaf.

In preparation for winter, I sprayed combined soil prep, followed by the 501 mix the next morning. I used fresh Casuarina tea rather than Equisetum. I am fortunate in being able to collect needles from trees growing in coastal sand dunes; should have plenty of silica, from the quantitative viewpoint.

I used the Casuarina last year and observed that a small- leaved tea tree, that my partner had told me grew a good coating of black stuff every autumn, did not have any sooty mould for the first time in its life in his garden. I have always felt that using the Aussie Casuarina was a better fit for our generally bright, hot and dry environment rather than the Equisetum, which hails from a much wetter and colder background. Perhaps Equisetum is more suited to our southern regions or areas of high rainfall.

The idea of using Casuarina struck me as being “right” for our climate when I first read an article about it. On reading Steve’s letter, a more concrete “why” clarified itself in my mind. I am thinking now that the Casuarina could be moderating and balancing the effects of the 501 in relation to our harsher climate that the trees have grown in.

Question

How can I garden biodynamically in a very small town house common area?

Answer

Hay (actually straw?) bales make a great, if somewhat temporary, but renewable garden edge. You can even plant into them! There are some Youtube videos on this very topic. 

However, if using bales in this way necessitates too much soil to fill up within them, then of course just pull them apart and lay between a few beds that you have mounded up.

As for soil, you’ll just have to either mound up what is there (and of course add lots of compost), or buy some. River loam is best, but there are now plenty of bagged lines around, at garden supply places. Bulk is probably more economical, though. Adding a high quality potting mix to any soil you purchase, to ensure good drainage, is usually a good idea. 

There is really no need to obtain really good soil (e.g. river loam). Pretty much any medium, including clay and/or sand, would suffice. It’s what you add to it which will make the difference (e.g. compost, manure, potting mix, and of course, biodynamic preparations, etc.). In other words, don’t be too fussy!

I think just hay bales on their own are a wonderful substitute for soil when you can’t find any. Loose hay is more difficult to utilise, however, and would need plenty of soaking and compacting. Lucerne hay is the Rolls Royce of hay in this context, as it contains more plant nutrients than oaten or barley or wheat hay – expensive though. Naturally you would plant seeds and seedlings into it with a little potting mix or some such, plus plenty of regular watering to get the hay rotting down, but simplicity is the appeal of this method. I’ve seen good examples of this practice on YouTube. I gather that the “tree stumps” are your garden border? Ideal! And their height is just right – not too high and not too low…

You are certainly onto a good thing using our Soil Activator, as it is a very powerful boost to any soil, especially newly installed/”imported”. Spray it on just as soon as you get your beds in place, and consider repeating at two monthly intervals for the first six months. Don’t worry about winter – even at Wollongong winters are pretty mild, and soil biological activity doesn’t stall…

Lastly, lavish your attention and care on the garden and what you plant in it – love is a critical element of biodynamics.

Question:

I’m aware 501 is a component of Soil Activator, which is the basis of  Liquid Soil Activator, but given the 501 prep works best when applied at Moon ascending periods, is it beneficial to use 501 in addition to the LSA soil spray which I assume is best applied in a Moon descending period?

Answer

The rationale for including horn silica 501 in Liquid Soil Activator (LSA) is that when the soil is presented with a full suite of the preps, which is what constitutes LSA, its innate “intelligence” will choose those components in the quantities and timing that it needs. Any uptake of the 501 will thus vary according to the soil’s condition. In this way the 501 acts as a soil prep, and probably brings a silicon gesture into the soil food web.

In the case of spraying 501 as an atmospheric spray in accordance with Steiner’s indications, as you know it specifically works in the realm of warmth and light to strengthen plant cell walls, enhance ripening etc. So applying LSA (or SA) does not obviate the need to spray 501 (in the morning, preferably on an ascending Moon), following a sprayout of LSA.

Question:

Hello I have just read the article by Brian Linke who seems to have eradicated onion weed with apple cider vinegar. I live in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne where we have surely the world’s worst onion weed problem. (Not to mention the sycamore trees and ivy) that are taking over this wonderland area. I have 2 acres of land. Approx 1acre is/should be grass but is simply onion weed. When it dies off the long grasses come up. But it is also all through my wonderful garden. I have many bushes and trees and then I have my very own forest. The onion weed is only starting to go into the forest but will soon be well established. There are heaps more this year than last. I have been here 2yrs. Then it is all over this area. As I drive around I can see some areas that are relatively unaffected but still on the side of the road there are bad patches. This is not a pest it is total infestation and takeover. The problem is truly massive, so much more that one paddock. Most of the land is off course hilly, or sloped. I would so love to find a solution. The council would in theory work together with anyone who had a solution. But they have such a huge problem with sycamores and then there is the ivy. Funding only goes so far. I am about to try to convince a mechanical engineer friend that we could invent some machine to dig it, and mulch it. Nothing will be simple but we work on the nothing is impossible theory. I have read pretty much all that has been posted. Everything involves big expense. We won’t be popping down to the supermarket to buy our cider vinegar. I have read putting used vegetable oil around the bulbs starves them to death. So I need a machine that will dig, mulch and. .. well anything that will prevent regrowth. I thought might as well write to you, who knows someone just might be able to contribute an idea. We must save our beautiful Dandenong Ranges from invaders.

Answer

The onion weed invasion you describe is a real worry. I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer…yet.
However, here are some ideas.

First of all, don’t give up on vinegar (acetic acid being its essence). Maybe it doesn’t have to be apple cider vinegar, so trial the cheap stuff. And also try different dilutions, even neat.

Secondly, if acidulation is an answer, then use any benign acidifying agent, be it chemical or merely mulch such as pine needles – what you’d use for acid-loving plants such as strawberries, blueberries or azaleas. Of course this may work in your garden setting, but not be practicable over larger areas or woodland etc.

The biodynamic peppering strategy (see detail in BAA’s Biodynamic Handbook) is always an option, but sometimes doesn’t work very well with underground corm, tuberous or bulbous plants like nut grass, soursob or onion weed. It might take years to have any significant effect, so could be frustratingly slow.

The weed tea strategy described in the handbook might be a way to go. I have heard success stories using teas of various weed species. This technique is actually a very sound one, based on the theory that weeds have a purpose, and you take this away by concentrating the essence of the plant and dispersing it over the area of infestation. For neighbouring, non target plants, this is quite a benign strategy. Also, by adding the biodynamic compost preparations to your weed tea, you would also vitalise the soil food web, especially the fungal side, possibly making the soil less inviting to the weed?

Another possibility is sowing a diverse mix of competitive plants which would include a strong-growing running species (kikuyu/ buffalo, or even couch!) and/or erect species like ceteria or even a tussock like low growing lomandra, combined with deep rooting species like chicory, plantain, sorrel, and maybe also a rambling/smothering legume (e.g. greenleaf desmodium – NOT silverleaf d.). Even lucerne! Probably the best “weapon” is shade, so a combination of heath species might be another strategy. You might even consider letting your open area become a flower heath, a delight for your own eyes – and pollinators! There are plenty of native shrub/heath species which should work in the Dandenongs. Of course lawn and garden invasion by onion weed poses quite a different issue to invasion of forest or woodland or bush or roadside.

Such a serious and growing problem as you describe may well require a radical rethink of remediation. For instance, how to USE the onion weed? How to communicate with the plant elemental(s) and do a DEAL? How to SMOTHER it – e.g. solarise under plastic sheeting.

Question:

We are planning an agricultural venture in India using innovative cost effective technologies. I had read about sequential spraying to produce rain.

I had 2 doubts:

1. How many acres should one spray – you have mentioned on the website that if one sprays 1 Ha, it also covers some surrounding areas. So to cover an Indian village that has a 1 km – 2 km radius, we may have to spray in maybe 5 places in this area, is that right ?

2. Will this work on soils engaged in conventional NPK farming (99% of India does that).

Answer

I’m thrilled to hear that you are intending to put out sequential sprays for rainmaking.

1. I think that it does not matter if the area you are attempting to influence is a two square kilometre village, which is essentially a mosaic of privately owned houseblocks. (However, it would be a good idea to choose a hectare somewhat central in the village. Oh, and the sprayed area could be less than a hectare.) Often the anecdotes which come back to us regarding the rain which occurred after the sequence of sprays claim that it fell only on the property of the instigator. However, it often falls on the surrounding area as well. I think it is important when you are stirring each one of the series, that you form a clear intent that the rain extends over the whole village area, if that’s what is needed.

2. I wouldn’t worry too much that any of an area – or all of it – has been subject to conventional farming. In your intent(s), incorporate a tolerant and accepting attitude regarding unenlightened practices, and even a tad of forgiveness! Don’t forget that the work of biodynamics is thoroughly within the spirit realm. I know there may be a karmic issue here, so I certainly cannot guarantee that the rainmaking impulse will be effective over badly/conventionally managed land.

Question:

A while ago my eldest daughter’s mother-in-law was dying and she was concerned about her roses: they were very old and were not happy being dug up and taken to Coffs Harbour. Don the head gardener at the beautiful Steiner school where l was volunteering said yes the roses could go into the school. The three rose bushes looked very sad, but a promise is a promise so I made sure to look after her roses. I asked Don what can l do to help them? Don suggested Tree Paste. I was very puzzled: what? Then he showed how to mix some, and this was an old batch. In no time at all these roses soaked up the wonderful paste and l watched as beautiful glossy green leaves appeared. In no time long stemmed gorgeous roses took on new vitality….wow l was hooked. Whatever biodynamics was l wanted more. I have been singing the praises of biodynamics ever since and only use their products in my garden. Thank you to the biodynamic team that do such wonderful work. Major thank you to Rudolph Steiner and his mind blowing work.

Answer

Well done, Meg. Yes, Biodynamic Tree Paste is certainly effective at rejuvenating roses!

Question:

I am seeking advice on how to restore paddocks which were treated with herbicides, planted with prairie grass and then fertilized with superphosphate three years ago on the advice of a local agronomist. Said paddocks are in the Southern Highlands of NSW and are now covered in capeweed, clover and wild turnip- all of which are unsuitable for my horses. Do you have someone who can help me please? What should I do first?

Answer

Biodynamics is a powerful tool in remediating country which has suffered the multiple injuries of over-grazing, chemical fertilizer use (e.g. superphosphate), repeated tillage, herbicide use, and compaction (whether from machinery or horses), singly or in combination.

Our advice is to begin as soon as possible, notwithstanding drought, in applying a biodynamic soil spray. We strongly recommend our Soil Activator. You could opt for the “traditional” form of this preparation, which requires 20 minutes of vortical stirring in water, or our latest version, Liquid Soil Activator, a pre-potentised form which does not require stirring – just adding to the water in your spray tank. You would need to repeat this treatment in the future, possibly at intervals of two months or so over the first year, for best effect.

The details of biodynamic practice are fully presented in our Biodynamic Handbook, which you can obtain from the BAA website.

Regarding the capeweed and wild turnip, these are usually signs of a seriously damaged soil food web, for which biodynamic treatments are good at remedying, but don’t expect a quick fix, especially when horse grazing pressure/compaction continues. Making weed teas of these species might be something else you could consider, based on the premise that they are nature’s attempt to remedy the situation. Detail on making such teas is in the handbook.

You might consider getting a soil test done (try EAL) to ascertain whether you should put out some boron (available as Solubor from NutriTech Solutions), as these two weeds are often a symptom of boron deficiency.

Question:

Hi there, I have 100 acres on French island that I wish to biodynamically improve. What do I need to do to achieve this goal?

Answer

A simple question, but a not-so-simple answer…

Although there is much to know about biodynamic practice, one action to kick things off would be to purchase some Biodynamic Soil Activator and spray it out in accordance with the stirring and application instructions on the label. However, to do this you would need to know how to stir vortically and for how long, and also the best Moon orbit time (not “phase”) and time of day. To cover all your 100 acres in one go would be a daunting task, however, so you might have to choose a smaller area to begin. The rate of application is 75g of soil activator in 34 litres of water per hectare, stirred vortically for 20 minutes, then sprayed out in the late afternoon on a descending Moon, in droplet form, not mist.

It would be a good idea to go onto our website and become a farm member, thus obtaining the Biodynamic Handbook, which contains all the information you would need to practise biodynamics. If you lack the facility to stir a large volume of water, you might consider using our Liquid Soil Activator, although you’d still need a pretty substantial spray rig to cover 100 acres. We receive reports from some people who say that they got a good biodynamic response from merely spraying around the property boundary, as well as the paddock boundaries, plus a few criss-crosses. The key to this is that biodynamic preparations are not about substance, but about energy, and by spraying them out peripherally you are still creating the biodynamic “energy bubble” over your property, which quietly goes to work on vitalising and boosting the soil food web.

Anyhow, be assured that biodynamics actually WORKS, and is much cheaper to apply than conventional or “organic” methods.

I wish you the best of luck, should you persist with biodynamics. I hope the above advice is enough to get you started.

Question:

Hi, I have a few questions re the tree paste…

1. I have some which I left out in the elements and it got a layer of green on top. Do you think it’s ok to use if I take that layer off? I did already do this as I was desperate.

2. We have a gum tree that developed a strange “mushroom looking” growth from an old wound (the old wound would not have been pasted as it was before we moved to this property). My husband cut out the mushroom and sap began to ooze out. He then pasted the fresh wound with undiluted BD paste. Do you think this will help or is there anything else you could recommend to help this tree?

Answer

I think you can be confident that the old tree paste with its layer of green on top is still biodynamically potent. It is a very chemically stable compound, and I feel that our “use by” date is conservative.

As for the growth on your gum tree, such a response to some parasite or virus or injury causing the growth of scar tissue is pretty common and does not normally threaten the tree’s survival. The growth is the tree’s rather chaotic attempt at healing itself. It may look like a cancer, but it is essentially wayward wood growth. The gall wasp growths on citrus trees is a similar phenomenon.

The poultice of undiluted paste in the wound is a good idea, and should protect against infection/rot. If the “mushroom” grows back, I would be inclined to just leave it alone. In older eucalypts, these growths are known as “burls” and are highly prized by woodworkers!

Question

I have a few acres of fleabane and would like to know how to manage this problem. I have used the practice of burning seed and spreading the ashes this was a long time ago (on another property) I have forgotten the process: something like burning while the moon is in Scorpio. Could you please help with any advice?

Answer

Here’s a quick summary of the weed peppering method. Burn the whole plant, including the roots (I only recently heard that folks overseas were getting better results than when just using the seed!), at Full Moon, when it is in a fire sign, particularly Leo or Sagittarius. Avoid burning whilst Mercury is retrograde.

Refer to our Biodynamic Handbook for a detailed description of the peppering technique.

Don’t forget that making a weed tea of the fleabane and spraying it out over the infested area can also work to eradicate the weed. Don’t expect a quick disappearance, though…

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