An inter-connected, complex farming system that works in harmony with the natural cycles of the environment and is guided by the phases of the moon.
In The Raymond Garden
Though it’s still warm, we’re seeing some subtle changes in the garden. By November, fall will be in full swing, and we will focus on returning nutrients to the soil. Falling leaves, fruit and other residues can attract disease and pests, so we build those crop remnants into compost piles, turning this “waste” into a valuable source of fertility and energy once it’s broken down. Some of our crops are specifically planted with plants that have high biomass to help feed our compost piles.
Around the time of the first rains, we add compost to fruit trees and vines. We plant our winter garden before November 1st, including lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach, kale, chard, turnips, radish, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and cover crops such as bell beans, vetch, and oats. Since garlic has short and inefficient roots, we plant lettuce first to open up the soil and add organic matter for the next crop.
After the first fall rain, we plant natives and perennials for hedgerows to create a habitat for beneficial insects and encourage biodiversity. In fall we also sow native wildflowers for spring blooms, which will attract beneficial winged insects once the weather warms. To help keep bugs out – and raise the ground temperature – we use a floating row cover. It creates a mini-greenhouse effect, helping our fall and winter crops grow a little faster and remain healthy.
Harvest has begun, and we follow the biodynamic calendar to harvest on the most favorable days when possible. After the first rains and after the nights have cooled, we create preparation 500, in which we stuff cow horns with cow manure and bury them 16 inches deep into the fertile topsoil. These horns function as an antenna of sorts, receiving energy from the sun, moon, and cosmos. Over the winter the manure breaks down and gathers beneficial soil microbes. Come spring, we will dig these up, mix with water and apply to the soil.
In Your Garden
Compost also plays a critical role in your own fall garden. The residue from your summer plants is full of organic matter, nitrogen and micronutrients. Once your plants have faded – but before they dry out – pull them to build your compost pile. Not only will it feed your plants in spring, but it will also build the fertility and quality of the soil. To be successful, your pile must be 4 feet on all sides and contain a healthy mix of green vegetation, dry vegetation, water, and air. Steer clear of redwood leaves, eucalyptus, junipers, walnuts, California bay laurel, invasive weeds, diseased plants or cat or dog manures.
If you’re in a warmer area, it may take a while for the “second summer” to pass. Use a shade cloth and misters to start your fall crops; don’t wait too long as they won’t develop in time before the short days and frosty nights. Collect and save seeds from your summer flowers and vegetables for future use, as long as the plants were healthy. Consider planting garlic from late September to early November. By growing your own garlic, you can access a rich and flavorful world beyond the commercially available grocery store bulbs.
Though there aren’t as many harmful insects in fall, they’re still there. Slugs and snails, for example, lay over half their eggs in the fall, which hatch 2-3 weeks later. Consider adding emptied grapefruit halves or eggshells to your soil, or introduce natural predators such as birds by adding a birdbath. Chickens, if you have them, can also help. Yellowjackets are quite active in late summer and early fall but are beneficial insects themselves, so take care when trying to mitigate their presence. Be sure to clean up dropped produce, for example, as yellowjackets are especially attracted to rotting fruit.
In biodynamics, constellations (Virgo, Scorpio, etc.) are each connected to an element: earth, water, air or fire. Those elements relate to the parts of a plant: earth = root, water = leaf, air = flower, fire = fruit. The effect of the moon traveling in front of each constellation influences the corresponding plant part and is used as a guide to when one plants, prunes, sprays or harvests. Using that same logic, there are also “unfavorable” days to do any gardening at all. Considering starting your biodynamic practice by avoiding the following dates this fall – 9/27, 10/24, 10/25, 10/26, 11/10, 11/11, 11/23, 12/18 and 12/19.