Gardening by the moon: why I’m going biodynamic
By David Lea-Wilson (co-founder of Halen Môn and keen gardener)
Outside a small village, and not far from our Saltcote, is my beloved walled garden. Rescued from near ruin some thirty years ago, it is where we grow much of the veg for our café, Tide/Llanw, as well as apples to press for juice, walnuts to pickle, and flowers to cut. Recently, Richard and his wife Janet have been key in helping bring the garden to life, and helping ensure there has been a plentiful supply of chard for our takeaway pizza night, and herbs for the ever-popular toasties on the lunch menu.
I have been an organic grower for the last twenty years and counting (although if I’m honest I resort to a handful of slug pellets if desperate with a few young tender crops)
I am totally onboard with the idea of looking after the soil long term – rotating crops, composting well – and will even begrudgingly admit that even slugs have critical functions in the big picture. But a chance visit to a vineyard in Catalonia in 2019 that had gone one stage further in seeing nature as one large cyclical being – by becoming biodynamic – was incredibly interesting.
According to Wikipedia:
‘Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.’
The crops at the beautiful Raventos i Blanc vineyard looked vibrant and healthy. The employee who showed us round waxed lyrical about being biodynamic, and what it meant for their produce. Some of their methods seemed sensible – using no chemicals, for example, seemed to be a no-brainer.
But there was no doubt that others were more unusual. There was talk of buried cow horns filled with manure and left to mature over winter. They were choosing some days over others for pruning or digging or harvesting. The phases of the moon were crucial to every element of growing and picking.
The general claims of biodynamic gardening are astounding:
• More nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables, that keep fresher for longer
• An increased yield, with richer flavour
• More fragrant flowers and herbs
• A greater sense of well being in all who work on the land
• A positive contribution to combating climate change
Our tour at Raventos was bright and beautiful, and the tasting in the dark, cool cellars below afterwards perhaps even more memorable. As we clinked, the proof seemed to be in the glasses. The wine was delicate, fragrant and delcious. We left feeling inspired.
Upon our return, I bought a book – Monty Waldon’s Biodynamic gardening. I read it over the summer, and finally took the plunge last month by ordering cow horns, finding some fresh manure, and buying some ready prepared Horn Manure 500. I am very much at the beginning of this journey, but look forward to sharing some of the results with you in months to come.
With our sincerest thanks to Raventos i Blanc for making us so welcome.
And our thanks also to the brilliant Liz and Max Harala Hamilton for such beautiful imagery of our garden (the ones in Spain were taken by Jess Lea-Wilson)