Manure buried in cow horns, bark stuffed into a horse’s skull and herbs packed into cow intestines.
It sounds like the stuff of Halloween nightmares but it’s actually a farming technique adopted in many fields around south west London.
Biodynamic farming sees crops planted and harvested in relation to the lunar cycle using an astronomical calendar designed to help farmers act at optimal times as the moon moves through the constellations of the zodiac.
Several biodynamic farms such as Brambletye Farm, Jacob’s Ladder and Brockmans sell their fruit and vegetables at south west London farmers’ markets including Wandsworth and Barnes.
Ellie Woodcock of Brambletye Farm said that most people take the lunar cycle for granted and are unaware about the impact of the moon on crops.
She explained the difference planting according to the lunar cycle can make to the quality of vegetables produced, causing variations in size and shape.
“Its power is visible in the tides of the ocean – water in the soil and land is also affected,” she said.
Special manures and herbal preparations are also used to enrich the soil in this method of farming.
Manure from cows on biodynamic farms is buried in cow horns for six months, it’s then dug up and mixed with water to form a solution.
This mixture must then be stirred vigorously in alternating directions, forming a vortex, for an hour.
This is then sprayed on the crops and is said to encourage healthy root growth, vitalise the soil and helps the plant find what it needs from the soil.
An information video on the Biodynamic Association website explains that the manure is ‘transformed by the life processes’ that work through the material as it is stored underground in this manner.
Various preparations are also used to enrich the soil, using herbs such as chamomile, oak bark, yarrow and stinging nettle.
According to the Biodynamic Association some of these herbs have to be buried in animal organs in order for them to be effective.
The herb yarrow is buried in the bladder of a male deer and chamomile must be buried in the cow intestine, whereas oak bark should be buried in the skull of cow, sheep, pig or horse.
Ellie Woodcock acknowledges that some biodynamic principles may seem like ‘voodoo’ to some, but many praise the quality of biodynamic farming produce.