The composting of organic matter is a fundamental part of biodynamics, it is an effective way to return the goodness and fertility back into the soil that was lost during the growing season. It helps maintain the cycle of fertility by recycling nutrients, so you can minimise the amount of excess material that you bring into your holding.
The plants, weeds, and kitchen scraps that have gone into the compost have spent much of their time gathering minerals from you soils, they have become rich in nitrogen, composting breaks down these organic plant, putting the vitality back into the soil. This is key in biodynamics as a farm should aim to be as self-sufficient as possible.
The compost should be in the heart of your garden or holding. No longer should it remain tucked away in the corner, hidden from sight. A truly remarkable process takes place within a pile of organic material, transforming it into rich humus abundant with vitality, ready to spread into the garden.
If the compost materials are well balanced then it won’t release any bad smells. Compost is worth its weight in gold for your garden, especially following the incorporation of the six biodynamic compost preparations. Composting provides your soil with all the nutrients, micronutrients, and organisms it needs while suppressing harmful ones. The kills diseases, pests, and the seeds of weeds so they won’t find there way back into your garden beds.
Every plant and animal will eventually return to the soil. This is the natural life cycle. Composting creates an environment where the process of decomposition can take place more quickly and efficiently. Layering a compost pile allows the gardener to decide the best composition of material based on what goes in.
“Every year, our gardens and plots produce organic matter in the form of weeds that we’ve dug up – dead plants, grass cuttings, leaves and woody prunings. Add to this kitchen waste and wood ash and, before you know it, you have all the ingredients to make compost.” (v. J.Moore)
Compost become rich and fertile humus, which can be used as a natural fertilizer in the garden. Each year a garden generates a large amount of organic matter each year, we find ourselves cutting back nettles or bushes. We are able to reduce the biomass of all this organic matter and create a dense and nutritious substance. As compost breaks down its size will reduce by half, its a good way to deal with having excess organic matter, and its great for the environment.
Choosing The Right Site For Your Compost Pile
Firstly, you need to decide on a good site for your compost pile. Ideally, it will be positioned close to your growing area, and your available organic materials. The heap should have direct soil contact, as you want to give direct access to the micro-organisms, bacteria, worms, and other helpful creatures.
The compost heap should not be waterlogged, so you should choose an area that is flat, and not likely to accumulate water at the base throughout the year.
As you may have observed the four elements Earth, Water, Air, and Fire are key to choosing a suitable place. You need the pile to have contact with the earth, you need to avoid the compost absorbing too much water or too little. The perfect site for a compost heap will be balanced in these four elements. Now you need to consider the elements of air and water.
The compost heap should be exposed to too much wind neither too much sun in the summer. You should find a location surrounded by trees and shrubs, while not being to close or the roots will find there way into the rich compost.
Preparing The Foundation For The Compost Pile
The compost pile dimensions that I have been working with during my course, are approximately 4 feet by 6 feet (122cm x 183cm), which is a little smaller than a double bed mattress.
The size of your compost heap will depend on how much organic material you have, and how much space you have? But I recommend the 4 feet by 6-feet size, anything larger becomes a little unmanageable, especially when you come to turn the pile. The area of the compost pile also dictates how high you can build. 4×6 feet will allow you to build up between 4 to 5 feet. This gives you plenty of layers, to your compost lasagna.
The grass or weeds on your chosen site should be cut, and the ground should be worked, to soften the ground. At this point, many biodynamic practitioners will spray preparation 500 on the surface as you want to stimulate as much micro bacterial activity as possible because all these creatures and fungi will colonise the heap, and start to break it down.
It’s good practice to choose a permanent location for your compost pile, as the soil underneath will remain full of life ready to colonise into a new pile.
i. P.Mason – 2014 – A Biodynamic Manual -Second Edition – Practical Instructions for Farmers and Gardeners – Floris Books – ISBN 978-178250-080-3
ii. C.Ryrie – 2001 – Soil – Gaia Organic Basics – ISBN 1-85675-122-8
iii. M.Thun -1999 – Gardening For Life – The Biodynamic Way – Hawthorn Press – ISBN 1-869890-32-9
iv. 2020 – Step By Step – Biodynamic Gardening Course Handout Booklet 2020 – Ruskin Mill Land Trust
v. J.Moore -2016 – Composting The Biodynamic Way – Kitchen Garden Magazine – View PDF
vi. S.Fishman – 2016 – Biodynamic Compost – Youtube – View Video
vii. All the photographs contained in this article have been taken by the author.
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