Backyard paradise: urban biodynamic bliss

Garden Minestrone
26th July 2019
My Patch: Welsh Heaven
3rd November 2019

We are passionate about the importance and potential that small gardens have to become mini havens of biodiversity, productivity, peace and happiness. In one short year, Gardening Club members, Louise and Liam Latham have done just that, transforming the North West facing backyard of their new home in Stroud into a magical, enchanting and utterly inspirational patch full of wonder, crammed with flowers, herbs, veg, giant sunflowers, and – the icing on the biodynamic cake, a flow form water feature.

We couldn’t wait to visit to find out how they’ve achieved this miracle, and share it with members – and the first thing we discovered is how important containers are for them. Pots of all sorts and sizes form the backbone of their garden and their life. Every time they move, their plants move with them – the Acer and corkscrew hazel are now thriving in their 6th garden in 10 years . ‘We wouldn’t be without them, each one tells a story about our life together”, explains Louise, “We shuffle them around endlessly to see where they’re happiest, and find they create an immediate sense of belonging.” They grow just about everything in pots, too – including comfrey, biodynamic herbs such as yarrow, valerian & chamomile, as well as sweetcorn, beans, and prodigious quantities of pollinator friendly flowers such as calendula and nasturtium tumbling everywhere.

The rest of their 6 x 12 metre patch is a classic potager. The garden only had one bed with poor soil: long time fans of no dig, they tried the permaculture technique of layering, by putting down cardboard, adding a layer of organic farm manure, then a layer of newspaper finishing with a layer of organic peat free compost, and leaving it over winter. “It worked”, explains Liam, who is the head gardener at Matara in Kingscote. ”The soil went from brick hard to soft and easy to cultivate, and it saved us an enormous amount of time and energy.”

Applying the biodynamic soil activator ( horn manure) is another must for them. It was Louise, who is an artist, writer and Sacred Land Walker, who first became interested in biodynamics. They visited Tablehurst Farm and other biodynamic places, and were so impressed with the quality and vitality they saw, they wanted to try it for themselves, and have practiced biodynamic methods ever since.

“We enjoy using the BD preps “, says Liam, “and really notice the difference – the soil and plants literally perk up and become revived.” Liam will use them as and when he feels the soil and plants need them – including during a long hot spell or when the plants look tired. Using the recommended acreage as a guide, they work out approximately how much they would need for their space. “For a small plot like ours, I use about a quarter teaspoon” explains Liam. They use them for their containers as well as their soil.

The garden may be tiny but seems full of secret places and interest. Creating seats for quiet contemplation, surrounded by your plants is something else they warmly recommend. We all agreed one of the great things about Biodynamics is that it encourages a greater sense of connectedness and intimacy with Nature – and there is nothing more special than being really close up to your plants.!

Liam is a big believer of not rushing to change your garden immediately, but to take time to let it speak to you, so you and your garden can evolve together (another reason to have pots which can help you create an instant garden and give you the time and space for you and your garden to get to know each other).

Their advice for anyone starting out on their biodynamic journey is pretty simple, too: start experimenting, connect with your local biodynamic community and let it evolve gradually – which is what the biodynamic gardening club is all about.

We thank Louise and Liam for sharing their story and look forward to sharing many more.
Interested? Get in touch via the BDGC member’s Facebook Group. and share your pics too.