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By Monica Mansfield

December 8, 2016

 

 

 

Plants need specific vitamins and minerals throughout their growing and blooming phases.  Conventionally, we get these nutrients from fertilizers or soil amendments, but did you know you can feed your plants with other plants?  For example, common (and therefore free) weeds such as dandelions and stinging nettles are highly prized for their vitamin and mineral content in biodynamic fertilizers.

 

Free weeds, such as dandelions and nettles, are prized for their vitamin and mineral content in biodynamic fertilizers.

 

Biodynamic gardening was developed in 1924 by Rudolph Steiner.  A group of leading farmers in central Europe charged him with envisioning an alternative to modern agriculture.

 

They were wary of the path modern agriculture was taking and predicted there would be a negative impact on human health and the environment.  Steiner even predicted that, because of the new pesticides on the market, the world's bees would face population collapse around the year 2000.

 

Inspired by the centuries-old farming practices of his hometown in Austria, he came up with a self-sufficient gardening method that works in harmony with nature's cycles.  His method utilizes specific plants to create preparations for the garden.  Steiner's biodynamic gardening method is the antithesis of modern agriculture.

 

Steiner came up with a self-sufficient gardening method that works in harmony with nature's cycles.

 

Biodynamic methods teach gardeners how to make plant teas and special preparations instead of using conventional fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.  The cost of conventional products can add up, so why not forage for and grow plants to replace them?

 

Biodynamic plant sprays are one effective method to keep your garden vibrant and disease-free.  The same plants that can be used to heal the human body can be used to treat the garden.  Steiner said that while the roots are most effective for healing the human body, the flowers heal the earth.

 

The roots are most effective for healing the human body and flowers heal the earth.

 

There are three main methods for making plant-based sprays: teas, decoctions, and liquid manures.  Teas have a subtle effect, great for a boost or taking preventative measures.  The decoction method is used for tough, woody parts of the plant, such as bark, shoots, leaves and flowers.  Liquid manures and plant fertilizers provide a powerhouse of nutrients that are easy for the plant to digest and absorb.

 

Biodynamic gardening utilizes many plants for teas and signature preparations.  The following four plants will be an asset to your garden.  Some may already be growing in your backyard.

 

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Learn More About Biodynamic Gardening

Comfrey

Comfrey is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, iron and all of the trace minerals.  Use comfrey tea throughout your flowering cycle, and its high potassium level will act as a bloom booster.  If you alternate using comfrey and stinging nettle tea on your garden, your plants will receive a full range of nutrients.

 

If you alternate using comfrey and stinging nettle tea on your garden, your plants will receive a full range of nutrients.

 

Comfrey grows wild on roadsides and next to streams in many parts of the country.  If you have some growing nearby, collect the leaves when it starts to flower.

 

If it doesn’t grow wild in your neck of the woods, it is an easy addition to the garden.  Comfrey is vigorous and hardy.  It likes rich soil and plenty of water, but it really isn’t that picky.  It will be happy in the sun or shade and will spread rapidly if left unchecked.  This makes it the perfect candidate for a container on the deck.  It is difficult to start from seed, but root division is very easy, even with the smallest slice.

 

Comfrey is vigorous and hardy. Harvest the leaves when it begins to flower and they are richest in nutrients.

 

Harvest comfrey leaves when it begins to flower and the leaves are richest in nutrients.  Soak 2 ¼ lb of comfrey leaves in 2 ¼ gallons of rainwater and let the mixture ferment for 4-10 days.  With this liquid manure, you can make a foliar spray or liquid fertilizer.

 

The foliar spray will help to reduce plant stress.  Dilute 1 part of the comfrey concentrate in 19 parts water, and apply to the plant leaves.

To give your soil the nutrients it needs, make a liquid fertilizer by diluting 1 part of the liquid manure in 8 parts water.  Spray on moist soil in the afternoon, preferably after it has rained.

Dandelions

Dandelions are loaded with calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, silica and vitamins A, B, C, and D.  Dandelion tea will stimulate growth in the beginning of the growing cycle.  According to the biodynamic method, this plant tea signals the plant to concentrate on improving its flavor.  It also makes the leaves less resistant to disease.

 

Dandelion tea will stimulate growth in the beginning of the growing cycle, improve overall flavor and increase disease-resistance.

 

You probably have dandelions growing in your yard.  Instead of treating them with toxic weed killers, pick a handful of flowers in the early morning, before they have opened.

 

Pour 1 ¾ pints of hot water over the flowers and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Strain the mixture and mix one part dandelion tea to 4 parts rainwater.  The biodynamic method recommends applying the spray to the plant and surrounding soil in the early morning, under an ascending moon.

Nettles

Nettles are by far one of the most beneficial plants on the planet, for both humans and crops.  They are abundant in vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  They have a variety of uses for your garden, which include stimulating root growth, preventing pests and disease, and easing plant stress.

 

Nettles are abundant in vitamins and minerals and are great for stimulating root growth, preventing pests and disease, and easing plant stress.

 

Nettles grow wild across North America.  You will find them on the edges of fields and roadsides, and next to streams and marshes.

 

If you want to cultivate your own, propagate them from a runner in rich, fertile soil in a semi-shaded area of your garden.  Make sure to keep the soil moist.  Nettles spread quickly, so keep them contained.  Harvest the leaves and stems when the nettles begin to flower and the leaves contain the most nutrients.

 

To make nettle tea, soak 4 oz of leaves in 1 ¾ pints of hot water, let it sit for 10 minutes and then strain.

 

To make the decoction, pour 1 ¾ pints of cold water over 4 oz of leaves.  Bring to a boil, simmer for 3-10 minutes, then strain.

 

Mix one part of either nettle concentrate in 5-20 parts water.  Use the mixture as a foliar spray to encourage growth and repel pests.

 

Prevent aphid attacks on fruit trees and vegetable crops with a cold extract of nettles.

 

Prevent aphid attacks on fruit trees and vegetable crops with a cold extract.  Soak 4 oz of nettle leaves in 1 ¾ pints of cold water for 2-3 days.  Strain and spray on your trees and crops.

 

Make a liquid manure to stimulate root growth, prevent stress from temperature fluctuations, and stop leaves from turning yellow with chlorosis.  Soak 4 oz of nettle leaves in 1 ¾ pints of water in the sun for 4-10 days so it can ferment.  Strain and mix one part nettle concentrate with 10 parts water.  Spray the crops and the soil.

The Recipes Weed Tea The weeds that invade our garden are hardy and robust without any help from a gardener. They are chock full of vitamins, minerals and trace elements that we can utilize to feed our crops. Of course you’ll want to include dandelions and nettles for a powerful boost! 1. Gather your weeds into a porous bag and cover with water in a bucket or large container. Weigh the bag down with a brick and cover with a burlap sack. 2. Two to four weeks later, strain the liquid. 3. Dilute 1 part weed concentrate to 10-40 parts rainwater and stir vigorously to aerate the mixture and stimulate the beneficial microbes. 4. Apply generously to the soil once a week for three weeks in the fall. Comfrey Liquid Manure Soak 2 ¼ lb of comfrey leaves in 2 ¼ gallons of rainwater and let the mixture ferment for 4-10 days. To make a foliar spray that will help to reduce plant stress, dilute 1 part of the comfrey concentrate in 19 parts water and apply to the plant leaves. To give your soil the nutrients it needs, make a liquid fertilizer by diluting 1 part of the liquid manure in 8 parts water. Spray on moist soil in the afternoon, preferably after it has rained. Dandelion Tea Make dandelion tea to promote growth, boost flavor and promote disease-resistance. Pour 1 ¾ pints of hot water over the flowers and let it sit for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and mix one part dandelion tea to 4 parts rainwater. Apply the spray to the plant and surrounding soil in the early morning. Nettle Tea To make nettle tea, soak 4 oz of leaves in 1 ¾ pints of hot water, let it sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Nettle Decoction To make the decoction, pour 1 ¾ pints of cold water over 4 oz of leaves. Bring to a boil, simmer for 3-10 minutes, then strain. Mix one part of either nettle concentrate in 5-20 parts water. Use the mixture as a foliar spray to encourage growth and repel pests. Nettle Cold Extract Prevent aphid attacks on fruit trees and vegetable crops with a cold extract. Soak 4 oz of nettle leaves in 1 ¾ pints of cold water for 2-3 days. Strain and spray on your trees and crops. Nettle Liquid Manure Soak 4 oz of nettle leaves in 1 ¾ pints of water in the sun for 4-10 days so it can ferment. Strain and mix one part nettle concentrate with 10 parts water. Spray the crops and the soil.

Garlic

Just as garlic has anti-parasitic, antiviral and antibiotic properties in our bodies, it is a natural fungicide and insecticide in our garden.  Garlic will tackle gray mold, aphids, codling moths, snails and slugs.

 

Garlic will tackle gray mold, aphids, codling moths, snails and slugs.

 

If you’d like to grow your own garlic, plant them in the fall for a harvest the following year.  You can plant them in the spring, but they won’t get nearly as large.

 

Plant individual cloves one to two inches deep in the soil with the tips pointed up.  Cover them with mulch for the winter.  Make sure to give them plenty of nitrogen and full sun during the growing season.  Harvest them in the summer when the leaves have yellowed and fallen over.

 

To make a garlic fungicide, soak 3 or 4 chopped garlic cloves in 1-2 liters of cold water for a few days.  Strain and spray on the plant without diluting.

 

Make a garlic spray to fight aphids and codling moths, and repel snails and slugs.  Pour a cup of olive oil over 2 crushed garlic cloves and let it sit for two days.  Decant the oil into a pint jar of warm water and shake to emulsify.  Store the jar in a dark place for two more days.

 

Mix one part of the garlic concentrate in 20 parts water and stir for 20 minutes.  Spray the leaves and the soil of the infested plant.

 

Making your own plant sprays is a simple and cost-effective way to boost your garden’s health.  Plants are as beneficial to your crops as they are to your body.  Useful plants grow in abundance disguised as weeds, and are easy additions to your garden.

 

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