Making Compost at Schools and Farms

Harvests Magazine Article – Autumn 2015

Andrew Seager speaks from experience

Over the past 25 years, I’ve worked in many different agricultural and horticultural situations. They have ranged from a 500-acre mixed biodynamic farm on the Kaipara, to the two-acre Demeter market garden that I’ve developed south of Hastings since 1991.

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Biodynamic Gardening In An Urban School

Harvests Magazine Article – Summer 2016

Jen Speedy manages the gardens at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School, and assists with the Taruna Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics.

It’s a busy bustling life, that of the school garden.

The school year begins in late summer, after a six week rest for the garden from the activity of children, teachers and school people. I’m sure our school gardens rejoice when term begins, with the renewed activity and the return to rhythm.

We use the biodynamic calendar in our gardening activities and our general work over the three-acre grounds, as well as when we work alongside the children of the lower school in their gardening.

Our school is located in sunny Hawkes Bay, in the heart of Hastings city, right next door to Heinz-Watties. I am very fortunate to care for our school gardens with co-gardener and friend Jo-Anne Doig.

We are blessed with the rich, very fertile soils of the Heretaunga Plains. Our school is Taikura Rudolf Steiner School, founded originally as Queenswood Rudolf Steiner School in 1950. The first applications of preparation 500 were applied then, and the varied and beautiful gardens have been biodynamically cared for ever since. Just imagine 66 years of having preparation 500 joyfully, noisily, and lovingly applied. Sixty-odd years of the uplifting, sparkling light-filled mists of preparation 501 and lavish dressings of biodynamic composts. The blackbirds and thrushes are not the only ones who can hear the worms; the soil is so rich with life, and digging into soil is like slicing through butter.

Just imagine 66 years of having preparation 500 joyfully, noisily, and lovingly applied.

Jen Speedy

Taikura’s gardens are a holistic support system for the children; they not only provide a beautiful and safe environment in an urban setting, but are also used for education and enjoyment.

The grounds have increased in area over the years with the addition of Scannell’s Garden. Scannell’s is a woodland garden treasure with century-old trees, cool shady pathways, an open sunny lawn and a woodwork room. Thanks to the help of the children, there is much wood chip mulch under the trees to protect tree roots and retain moisture and soil life.

Bark-mulching these pathways also defines them, helping keep the ornamental gardens safe from playful children, although not always from the odd stray ball.

More recently, the school grew into a neighbouring office block. The challenge here was to enliven what was previously a sealed carpark. Now, four years on, what was once a hard, compacted, stony ground is a thriving garden – the clear result of hard work by Class 3 children digging over the ground, adding many barrow-loads of biodynamic compost, applying preparation 500, sowing green crops of lupins and barley, mustard and broad beans, and many dressings of cowpat pit and light mulchings of lawn clippings.

There are yearly themes in Steiner education, and in Class 3 (around nine years old), one is the study of how people work in the world. The children learn particularly about basic things that are sometimes taken for granted, such as how we obtain food and shelter. This leads naturally to them working in the garden

As an urban garden, the school is on the town water supply. We have a good-sized tank of rainwater specifically used for biodynamic preparations (and which also proves useful in times of drinking water crisis….)

The Annual Cycle

When the summer draws to a close and before our plants are fully ripened, we like to give a thank you application of preparation 501, a time we think suits our varied gardens.

This is a quiet and gentle activity with a small group of parents, teachers and friends enjoying the dawn of the new day, stirring and releasing light filled mists over our loved grounds.

With the children, our garden year starts by harvesting corn, tomatoes, beans, courgettes, eggplants, and sunflowers, along with herbs that they will use when cooking at the cob ovens. We then compost the gardens, plant winter crops such as leeks, kale, cabbages and broccoli, and sow broad beans. Some gardens are sown with green crops for later digging-in and replanting.

In the autumn, we stir and spread preparation 500; we create lasagne-style hot biodynamic compost heaps; we make the cowpat pit; and we fill cow horns with cow manure and bury 40 of them in the whare garden. With three acres of grounds, we have a good supply of materials such as leaves, lawn clippings, crop refuse, weeds and food scraps (from school lunches) for composting. The cow manure is collected from the cow pastures at Hohepa Farm and from Jo-Anne’s two cows at her farm. Our compost preparations are bought from the Biodynamic Association.

Our winter activities include turning the composts, mixing and aerating the cowpat pit, and gifting our trees with tree paste – a much-enjoyed activity completed with exuberance by all.

It’s spring as I write this, and we harvested the cowpat pit and have carefully lifted the cow horns. The children share much surprise over what comes out of the cow horns; it no longer looks, feels or smells like the cow manure that they originally put in. Together we have stirred and spread the cow horn manure (preparation 500) over our grounds.

The children are sowing seeds into their well-composted and prepared gardens. The green crops are dug in, and once the frosts have passed, the children plant out their tomato, courgette, corn, eggplant, watermelon and pumpkin seedlings, which they have grown themselves from seed in the classrooms and glasshouse.

The children enjoy the practical use of the gardens, cooking and sharing their produce.

An Urban Farm Grows Community

Harvest Article – Autumn 2018

Some innovative projects in Auckland are introducing healthy food-growing practices to new audiences. One of them is Katrina’s Kitchen Garden, an urban biodynamic farm operating out of West Auckland. Co-director Katrina Wolff tells their story.

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An Amazing Year in the Greenhouse

Harvest Article – Spring 2016

Anne Dodds’ greenhouse is at Te Awaiti on the Wairarapa Coast. A visit to her garden is part of the coastal walk for many people.

What a season! Day after day this past summer, I would walk into my greenhouse and be amazed.

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Climate Considerations from Members

Harvest Magazine – Autumn 2021

The following piece is an excerpt from The Autumn/Winter issue of Harvests 2021. For access to the full article and to participate in monthly Zoom gatherings, become a member of Biodynamics New Zealand.

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Biodynamics and Demeter Certification at Seresin Estate

João Corbett of Seresin Estate was interviewed for the 2021 Spring issue of Harvests Magazine, in the interview he talks through the benefits of Demeter Certification from his perspective as an agricultural engineer and his experience working on a vineyard. For access to the full article and other perks, become a Member of Biodynamics New Zealand.

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Gill Bacchus Talks Biodynamic Food

Below is an excerpt written by Gill Bacchus from the Spring 2021 issue of Harvests (available to members of Biodynamics New Zealand). Gill recently self published a book called ‘Love Your Vegges’ which is packed with information about biodynamic gardening and how to get more nutritious vegges into your children! We highly recommend it. Contact Gill if you want to purchase a copy Become a member here

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The New Generation of Biodynamic Gardeners

Kaitlyn is  18 years old and is John Paul College’s environmental captain in Rotorua. She has a huge passion for growing nutrient rich food from seed and diverting waste from the landfill by making compost. She has recently become a member of Biodynamics New Zealand and shares with us her passion for gardening, sustainability and visions of what her future holds.

This is an excerpt from the Spring 2021 issue of Harvests, to have access to the full article, and many other perks become a member of Biodynamics New Zealand here

What is it about biodynamics that interests you?

What interests me about Biodynamics is that the garden and every single part of that garden environment is looked at from a holistic viewpoint. This is very important, as nothing in nature is separate. They are all interconnected. Just like we are to Papatuanuku. Which is why I love how growers use ‘waste’ and plants from their land/garden to improve the health of their soil and therefore the health of the food they produce and the health of the ecosystem. I find this truly amazing because nowadays lots of growers depend on external inputs in order to grow food, which isn’t sustainable. I believe if we can return to biodynamic methods, then we will be able to even further slow down the greenhouse effect and find an even stronger connection to our environment. 

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Into the Soil: An interview with Mattias Olssen about biodynamics and film making.

I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Swedish film maker and podcaster Mattias Olssen about his documentary film ‘Into the Soil’ for the Spring issue of Harvests. He is the creator of the multimedia project called Campfire Stories, where he interviews people in his community pursuing sustainable and sometimes alternative lifestyles.  In this film he documents the philosophical approach of the biodynamic farmer Brigid LeFevre, who grew up in a Camphill community and now runs a small biodynamic farm where she grows supplies to make some of the best Kimchi in Europe.

To read the full interview and have access to Harvests Magazine, become a member of Biodynamics New Zealand here

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Biodynamics In Action at Ipuwai Farm

Harvest Article – Spring 2021

Below is an excerpt from the Spring 2021 issue of Harvests Magazine, written by Rachael Ewings. In Harvests, we share biodynamic stories from around Aotearoa, New Zealand and beyond. To get your hands on a copy of Harvests – and loads of other perks – become a member of Biodynamics New Zealand.

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