Preparation 500

Healing Ponds Farm is going biodynamic. For starters, that means compost. More particularly, it means Preparation 500.

Friendly Haven Farm describes it like this:

“Biodynamic Compost is something special. This method of combining animal manures and organic wastes is known for its ability to
bring outstanding nutrition and remarkable healthy growth to garden plants, fruits and vegetables.
"Biodynamic Preparations" Chart, compiled by Paul Dolan Vineyards

"Biodynamic Preparations" Chart, compiled by Paul Dolan Vineyards (clickable)

Biodynamic compost revolves around “preparations” – mixtures you concoct, then apply to your land, to increase fertility and make your garden healthier.

The idea is soil improvement:

It can renew depleted soils in places where soil fertility is fast disappearing, a truly valuable way to work against “one of the most significant global environmental problems” of the world: i.e., desertification.

Closer to home, it can enrich your garden too, enormously.

There are at least 9 different preparations used in biodynamic compost (want to see the list?), but most recently, the one we’ve been getting our hands dirty with at Healing Ponds Farm is Preparation 500.

Preparation 500 is “cow horn manure compost.” Here’s how it works:

You get your hands on some cow horns, stuff them with fresh manure from a pastured, lactating cow, bury them under some good topsoil (16 to 18 inches deep), and dig them up 6 months later. The horns can be collected for reuse – they’ll break down after a while, but you can use them several times before that happens. As for the compost, it’ll turn into a calcium-rich humus.

Want to see this in action? Here’s a video from Backyard Biodynamics, demonstrating how to stuff and bury your horns.

After you’ve dug them up again, you empty out the compost, dilute it (mixing 25g in each 3.5 gallons water for every acre of land), then spray the solution on the soil.

Current Moon Phase (c) MoonConnection.com

A real-time moon tracker, for your reference. (This moon is clickable.)

Timing matters. Wait for a descending (waning) moon to stuff and bury the horns, sometime between November and February. As for spraying, it’s best to do it every spring and fall, in the afternoon.

And the benefits? According to the Biodynamic Association of India, these include:

  • Strong humus formation
  • Increased beneficial soil bacteria and fungi
  • Improved soil tilth
  • Better earthworm activity
  • Deeper root systems in plants
  • Greater absorption and retention of water

By the way, click that link (above) if you want to learn more about how to do this. The Biodynamic Association of India has a lot of great info and instructions on their Preparation 500 page.

Friendly Haven Farm cites the following:

“Research at Washington State University (WSU) found that biodynamic composts have higher temperatures, mature faster, have
more beneficial nitrates than normal compost piles and are effective even in homeopathic quantities (ibid.).

And, from the Biodynamic Association of India again,

“International research has found that BD soils require 25% to 50% less irrigation than conventional soils (ibid.).

Have fun making your own Preparation 500, and if you do, please come back and tell us how it goes!



4 thoughts on “Preparation 500

  1. Why does the phase of the moon matter? Especially if they are underground for 6 months…I’m not understanding the logic behind it. thanks

    Posted by Martin | July 23, 2012, 8:21 am
    • Hi Martin,

      My understanding is that biodynamics involves a cross-over between science and spirit. It’s a little bit mystical, in other words. That said, there is a scientific basis for taking the phase of the moon into account when farming. Here’s a quote from The Regenerative Leadership Institute:

      “The Moon plays a central role in biodynamic farming. It is an established scientific fact that the phases of the Moon influence the ocean tides here on Earth. Farmers who embrace biodynamic farming also believe the moon exerts a similar influence on the growth of plants. They coordinate when they plant seeds to coincide with the correct Moon phases during each growing season.”

      You can read more from this article here: http://www.permaculture.me/biodynamic-farming

      Thanks for reading, hope that helps!

      Posted by Healing Ponds Farm | July 25, 2012, 12:18 pm
      • I see. Thanks for the reply that is helpful. It seems like it would be so easy to test these methods by burying different batches at different moon cycles and seeing if there were differences in yields and this information could be used by biodynamic farmers worldwide. But that is definitely a science based approach and maybe the goal of biodynamic farming isn’t to maximize yields, but rather for the farmer to have a more mystical connection to nature and the world. Maybe understanding why or even if it worked would be counterproductive to that goal.

        Posted by Martin | July 25, 2012, 1:06 pm
      • Wow, yes. I think those thoughts and questions are insightful – it makes me wonder how the larger community of biodynamic farmers would weigh in. (Possible blog post brewing here.) (:

        Posted by Healing Ponds Farm | July 31, 2012, 2:22 pm

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