Beautiful green May!
30 May 2017
May sees us surrounded by vibrant green once again. Playful birdsong and the humming of busily feeding insects fills the air.
For the gardeners at Weleda this is where we start ‘running to catch up with ourselves’ as the weeds start growing faster than the crops! May is always the busiest but most beautiful month of the gardening year.
May usually marks the start of leaf harvesting time. This year we are harvesting the shimmering leaves of Birch (Betula pendula), the large downy and sharp leaves of Scotch thistle (Onopordon acanthium) and the fresh new shoots of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). These get made into medicinal tinctures and used in various remedies. Our other harvest this month is the third and final pick of our cowslip (Primula veris) flowers.
General tasks like weeding and mowing take up a lot of our time now.
We watch for any signs of potential pest infestations starting. This spring is proving to be ‘hot and fast’ which can create the ideal conditions for plants to become stressed and more vulnerable to attack. To help regulate this, we encourage lots of natural predators by creating habitats for ladybirds, birds and insects.
Like April, May is proving to be a very dry month. With great reluctance, we’ve had to get the sprinklers out to make sure the plants don’t get too stressed. But we have finally been blessed with a week of glorious rain which has greatly helped our crops.
We continue to sow seeds and nurture the already sprouted seedlings into maturity by thinning out and potting on, giving them room to flourish and grow.
We are busily preparing the fixed planting beds by edging, digging and raking over. Just before planting we add just the right amount of our homemade biodynamic compost to ensure our plants grow healthily. We’re very careful in siting our crops so they have the correct conditions they need. We pay particular attention to our Echinacea pallida plants as they like a deep, raised bed to created long healthy roots. After planting, we always spray a biodynamic horn manure preparation to encourage the plants to grow strong root systems and to connect well with the soil.
Last month we dug up all but the last of our biodynamic preparations. This month is when we dig up our stinging nettle preparation and start the process of making a new one all over again. Flowering nettles will be gathered, chopped up and left to wilt before being put into the ground, where they will stay for a full year. We have also made our yarrow ball which gets hung up in a sunny place for the whole of summer before it gets buried in the autumn.
Just before sunrise on a warm dry day, we spray a biodynamic preparation called Horn Silica into the air above our crops. It is made up of ground up quartz chrystal that is then diluted and stirred into warmed rain water. It’s applied throughout the growing season as each crop reaches particular stages of development, such as getting ready to flower or fruit. By referring to a biodynamic calendar, we choose an optimum day to spray: choosing either a leaf, fruit, root or flower day. The Silica spray helps to support the growth and development of the plant by strengthening its connection to the warmth, the light and the cosmos.
The compost making season starts and at Weleda we have it down to a fine art. Throughout the year, a large amount of compostable material gets generated from the field which we believe should be returned to the earth, so we’ve developed our own unique method ensuring we get consistent results. We build up many layers of grass clippings, soily weeds, tincture pressings, green manures, chopped up nettles and comfrey, plant stems and sticks, a smattering of cow manure and a selection of minerals and biodynamic preparations; all liberally sprinkled with water. It can take two gardeners a whole day to make one ‘hot heap’ but it’s well worth the effort as this is the main source of fertility for our soil and crops.
If you would like to find out more about Biodynamics why not visit the UK Biodynamic Association’s website: