Out of the bottle and into the bag

Last week I was having lunch with my mom at our favorite nearby nursery/café. After failing to resist the grilled cheese sandwich (3 cheeses! And buttery panini bread!), we walked off lunch in the garden supply part of the nursery. Normally I’m on my best behavior when I’m shopping with my mom (i.e. I don’t take photos of things I’m going to take to task on the blog). But like the 3-cheese grilled sandwich I was unable to resist the bags of biodynamic compost.

Biodynamic compost is now available at garden centers
Biodynamic compost is now available at garden centers

Long-time readers of the blog may remember my earlier column and post on biodynamics. Since I wrote the original column over 10 years ago I’ve watched biodynamic marketing move from boutique wines to coffee, tea, tomato sauce…and now to garden products. Really expensive garden products, as in $19.99 for one cubic foot of compost.

An "untapped source of power and majesty" makes this compost different.
An “untapped source of power and majesty” makes this compost different.

What makes this bag of compost worth $19.99? One has to assume it’s the biodynamic preparations used to treat the compost. They’re referred to in the label under “concentrations of yarrow” and so on. Do these preparations make a difference? The label suggests it might be to restore the soil’s vitality. Is there validity to this claim?

It's doubtful that all of these ingredients are locally available. And why are so many materials needed?
It’s doubtful that all of these ingredients are locally available. And why are so many materials needed?

In 2013 I published a review of the scientific literature on biodynamics, specifically looking at whether biodynamic preparations have a measurable impact on anything they’re applied to. In a nutshell, the answer is no. (Though this article is behind a paywall, I can send a pdf to you by email if you’d like to read it.)

Don’t let packaging and magical words sway you. Compost made with local materials like bark or agricultural wastes and certified by the US Composting Council is reasonably priced and sustainable.


24 thoughts on “Out of the bottle and into the bag”

  1. What effect does the neem oil seed have on the organisms in the compost? I would also like to read the review.

    1. Though neem seed oil has pesticidal qualities, I imagine it is broken down pretty quickly in the compost. Just another additive without any real logic behind its inclusion. And I’ve sent you a copy of the review article by email.

  2. I’d love to get a copy as well. Is there any reason I can’t distribute this to a class I am teaching in the fall? Thanks in advance.

  3. Would also like the PDF. When I first heard of biodynamics, I thought it might have some useful practices. Then I read about burying a cow’s horn with manure in it, and how you HAVE to stir the compost tea only in one direction for a precise number of stirs. I’m sure there’s more mystical mumbo jumbo but I stopped reading. I do believe in compost, but it’s not my religion.

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