Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Building raised vegetable beds has many benefits; they negate contending with poor soil, you can make them tall to avoid bending, avoid soil compaction and they look appealing to name a few. But how can you make them biodynamic?
As I discussed in Part 1, incorporating biodynamic preparations to the vegetable garden is easy but requires time to stir to activate the preparation before use, however for a raised bed, following the principles of biodynamic growing methods may be a little trickier.
Biodynamic bed from Part 1 two weeks on with huge growth from elderberry, currant and filbert.
The Farm is an Individual Entity
In biodynamic agriculture, the farm is considered to be the center of activity and is an individual entity. It is a fundamental principal that the biodynamic farm is self sustaining — the animals produce the manure that feed the land, the crops thrive on the nutrients of the land and the crops feed the animals and the people of the farm who in turn add to the compost pile which builds the soil.
Like the biodynamic farm, the biodynamic garden should be able to produce all that it needs and compost or manure brought in should be limited. An analogy to explain would be taking medicine for a short period of time to help with an illness. Bringing compost and manure from external sources is a temporary solution to help overcome the problem but once the garden is running, you should be able to generate the materials for the compost heap and the fertility of the soil.
First Answer These Questions
1. What sort of raised bed do I want?
2. Will it be tall or low to the ground?
3. Will it be contained by brick or wood, or left uncontained?
4. Where will it be positioned?
5. How will it be watered?
For the purposes of this post, I will cover a simple bed which is not contained by anything.
Building A Raised Bed
Step 1: Cover The Ground
If making the bed low to the ground, do not make it so wide you cannot reach the middle to weed or harvest this avoids you standing on the bed and compacting the soil.
Cover the area with a thick layer of cardboard or weed suppressing fabric.
Cardboard has a couple of benefits over the fabric; it will block the weed growth if overlapped well enough and will degrade over time providing nutrients and humus to the soil. Cardboard is cheap (or more often free!) and is a great way to recycle. It is best to remove all plastic from the boxes including packing tape.
You can add other organic matter such as dried leaves, straw, hay, manure or grass clippings. If it is material that is dry, it should be wetted thoroughly to help decomposition and to stop things blowing away in the wind.
Adding more material layer by layer will add to the overall soil structure and fertility over time.
Step 2: Add Compost
Place a thick layer of compost on top of the cardboard. You can add a thick layer of well rotted manure as a layer in the raised bed above, below or in between compost layers to provide a fertility boost for the roots.
If adding manure before the compost, you need to spray the manure with the biodynamic preparations of valerian and horn manure to ensure you will reap the benefits. If you are just using lots of compost, I spray each layer with the preparations but you can just spray the very top.
Step 3: Prepare the Biodynamic Preparations
As before in Part 1, you will need to activate the biodynamic preparations by adding a small quantity to a gallon of water. Remember if the water is chlorinated or chemically treated, leave it to overnight.
I prepared the valerian preparation (biodynamic preparation 507) first. By adding 30 drops of valerian into a gallon of water and stirring for about 10 minutes. When stirring biodynamic preparations in water to activate them, you need to ensure vortex is created in the clockwise direction as well as the anticlockwise direction.
The picture above shows the beginning of a vortex. Once a vortex is created, allow the water to come to a stop before stirring in the other direction. Once the preparation is activated it is then placed it into a garden sprayer and sprayed on the bed until the soil is lightly wet.
Next you need to activate the horn manure (biodynamic preparation 500) in the same manner as the valerian preparation but it must be stirred for about an hour. After it is stirred, transfer to a garden sprayer and spray the area right before planting.
I have used the preparations to spray the cardboard and any other organic matter with the preparations which seemed to help break down the cardboard and leaves quicker.
Composts or manure brought into the garden from external sources such as the nursery or store; may be treated with the preparations before spreading on the bed for example in a wheelbarrow. I have found little difference in the growth of plants on spraying before spreading the compost or afterward spreading.
If you are converting an existing plot, add compost to the bed and spray with the biodynamic preparations.
It is best to sow the seeds in accordance with the calendar, for me it was a blossom or flower day so purple sprouting broccoli was sown and within a couple of weeks I have a thriving row in need of thinning.
Emma Raven has been gardening, cooking, canning and home brewing for most of her life. Formulation scientist, blogger, home brewer and avid gardener. Born in a village on the northern east coast of England, she now calls the Wasatch Mountains of Utah home. Find Emma at , and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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