A four Farm Case Study – research into impact and viability of four biodynamic farms of different sizes and ways of working.22nd February 2023
Chamomile: keep calm and carry on….18th April 2019
Julie Moore is our biodynamic kitchen garden expert. She lives with her partner Lee, a talented photographer – many of his pics – including the one above are featured in the gardening club e-newsletter.
In 2005 Julie moved to France and became good friends with Elodie, the previous owner of her smallholding who was also a keen gardener. This is how Julie was introduced to biodynamics…
“Have you planted your potatoes yet?” I shook my head. “But you must, by 9.30 tonight.” “Why?” I asked. Elodie laughed, raising her eyes to the sky and pointing upwards, “Because of the moon, of course! You must go, you have two hours to get your potatoes in. Be quick.”
Fifteen minutes later, I was carrying 10kg of chitted potatoes to our potager. With the light fading fast, aided by a head torch and my partner, Lee we planted our potatoes in double-quick time finishing with 10 minutes to spare. Planting by head torch made me wonder whether Elodie was on a different planet, but I must admit I was curious.
A few days later, I visited Elodie. Friendly greetings aside, the first question I received was “Well, did you plant your potatoes in time?” Nodding, I asked, “What’s it all about?” She laughed and handed me a thick, well-thumbed and dirt stained copy of a Calendrier Lunaire, a moon planting calendar. Turning the pages, I was overwhelmed by coloured symbols for each day of the year alongside the detailed text of garden tasks for each region of France.
“Do you not know about this in England?” Elodie enquired in a tone of disbelief. How could I not know about the importance of the moon? Elodie gently took the book from me and thumbed through the pages. “Here, this is when you should harvest the potatoes if all goes well with the weather.”
Of course I dutifully obeyed and on the said day, I dug up my potatoes. Amazing. I had a bumper bounty, way surpassing previous harvests. With such a yield, perhaps Elodie wasn’t so eccentric after all?
Researching the internet, I found that there was heaps of information on moon planting on French websites. December issues of gardening magazines all came with a Calendrier Lunaire for the following year. It didn’t take me long to realise that the whole valley was in tune with the moon ― mowers would only hum on flower days so that the grass re-grew more slowly and the farmers all chose the same day to cut their hay. I even discovered from one farmer that you could tell whether it would be a hard winter by the number of layers of skin on the onions ― it turned out to be a more accurate forecast than Meteo France!
By the time I’d read “Gardening for Life the Biodynamic Way” by Maria Thun, I was sold on the biodynamic concept. Coming from an organic background, it seemed the obvious way forward to work with these invisible cosmic forces, Nature and myself.
Over the years, I’ve encompassed permaculture principles to our garden too, and witnessed the slow changes that have made the garden, together with a now more balanced and diverse ecosystem come to life. I can see how everything is inter-connected and am more appreciative of the cycles of life.
The biggest lesson for me since employing biodynamic principles is to have patience. I’ve learnt by doing and developing my own ear and eye as to what my plants and garden need. The journey for me hasn’t ended yet and perhaps it never will. I’m being taught by the best teacher in the world — Mother Nature and that’s what’s so fun, every element in my garden continually changes, nothing is ever static. And from a harvest perspective, well, there’s definitely a wow factor in the taste of all my fruits and veggies. That’s the biodynamic difference!