Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Grow Biodynamic Tomatoes in a Home Garden

Biodynamic growing involves some mystical notions about the influence of the moon on crops. Here's what it's all about.

Biodynamic farming goes beyond organic growing, which deals with boosting soil health through composting rather than the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic growing methods have a good basis in science, which shows that healthy soils are more drought- and pest-tolerant, and may even produce more nutritious crops. Biodynamic growers believe the phases of the moon, among other more mystical influences, have a role, too. The Daily Green asked Kiva Bottero, who has worked on biodynamic and organic farms and publishes, a "journal of engaged living and mindfulness," to explain the idea behind biodynamic gardening, and offer some tips for home growers interested in trying it out on this year's tomato crop.

To fix the new, look to the old. Biodynamic gardener Maria Thun appreciates this paradox of modern day agriculture. Inspired by philosopher Rudolf Steiner's lessons on the spiritual science of biodynamics, she set out to scientifically prove what peasant farmers have been saying (often scoffed at) for centuries: the positioning of the moon, sun and planets influences a plant's development. Adherents believe biodynamic gardening can reap better tasting, longer lasting fruits and vegetables.

In her book Gardening for Life the Biodynamic Way ($19.80 at, Thun categorizes plants into four groups: root plants (such as carrots and beets cabbage); flower plants (roses and tulips); and fruit plants (tomatoes and peppers).

The moon passes in front of the twelve zodiac constellations every time it orbits the earth. These constellations are grouped into four categories (earth, water, air/light and warmth) that represent the four types of plants (root, leaf, flower and fruit). The moon's passage through the warmth constellations (Ram, Lion and Archer) positively affects the growth of fruit plants. You can put these cosmic principles to work on your tomatoes (or any fruit) by following these three simple steps:

Plant On Fruit Days With The Moon Descending
Plant or transplant according to the dates on the Stella Natura Biodynamic Planting Calendar. Fruit periods that fall during the descending moon are of added benefit to plant growth. "When [the moon] is descending the earth breathes in," says Thun, "and the sap-flow and forces of plants concentrate in their lower portion: this stimulates better and stronger root-growth." This stage of growth has the strongest formative influence so try to keep on schedule. If you can't, make up for it by hoeing at the right time.

Hoe On Fruit Days
Continue the cosmic trend initiated through planting by working your soil according to the chart. Use the soil's natural rhythm of breathing out in the morning (exhaling moisture) and in again in the afternoon (inhaling moisture) to regulate its moisture. Hoeing in the evening lets moisture in while hoeing in the morning lets excess moisture out. Hoe only the top 3 cm. Thun is one gardener who always has time for a tea break. By working the soil in this manner she manages to water her plants only once a year (after planting). Unless you're caught in a drought, this translates to less work for you and less water wasted for the earth.

Harvest On Fruit Days With The Moon Ascending
Fresh is always best, but if you plan on preserving tomatoes pick them on fruit days when the moon is ascending (refer to chart). On these days plants direct their natural force upward in sync with the rising moon to produce better storing fruit.

Stick to these tricks of timing and you'll reap the rewards of better tasting, longer lasting tomatoes with less work.


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