In our previous article we looked at how to make a problem weed ferment used in Biodynamic farming to keep unwanted grasses and other plants in check.  However, ferments are not only used to help solve issues.  There are a great variety of beneficial ferments that you can use to promote balanced life on the farm.  Many of these are especially effective when you are working to transform depleted land into a fertile, natural farm.

Essentially, these ferments serve as tonics.  Through the fermentation process we create cultures of microbial life, which through their digestion deliver nutrients the soil needs.  Different ferments can be made using plant materials or manures to increase nitrogen or phosphorus or trace elements. 

How is it made?
At Avondale, we make liquid tonics through an aerobic fermentation process.  Any vessel can be used such as barrels, earthenware pots or buckets.  We make use of 200 litre plastic drums.  To make a liquid tonic from manure you need to break it up first; or if you are using plant material, you’ll want it chopped up as fine as possible.  Fill the container to three quarters full with either the plants or the manure, and then top it up with unpolluted water.  It’s important to use a source of water that is chlorine-free to protect the micro-life you need in the brew.

You then add Biodynamic compost preparations BD502 to BD506.  You use just 1 gram or a tablespoon of each of the preps which are placed into the mixture separately.  It works well to put the prep in the centre of some straw or organic matter and press together to form an egg.  Place each prep ‘egg’  just below the surface of the manure or the plant material so that it is cocooned inside.  A small amount of BD507 is then stirred in.  You may well need to use weights such as bricks or rocks to then submerge the material.  It needs to be kept below the surface of the water, and should not float on top.  Cover the drum with a hessian sack that helps to minimize evaporation while still keeping the brew in contact with the air.

After two weeks, you will need to stir up the brew on a daily basis for a few minutes.  Be warned, each brew will have its own smell, which are mostly strong, and some of them stink.  So don’t set this up outside the kitchen door or in any recreational or often frequented outdoor space.   It’s also a good idea to place the container in shade, especially in the hot summer months as you want to minimize evaporation.  It will also be necessary to top up the water as we lose some to evaporation.  A positive sign is when you can see froth and little bubbles forming which means there’s a good active digestive process happening. Depending on the ambient temperature, it can take eight to twelve weeks for fermentation to take place.  At the end of fermentation there will still be a pungent smell, but you’ll notice it would have become somewhat mellower.  The tea can then be stored and will keep effectively for about six months.

How is it used?
Before use, the tea is diluted with unpolluted water at a ratio of 1:10 parts, and the mixture if also dynamised for ten minutes before it is used to oxygenate it and imbue it with energy.  At Avondale, we will use 10 to 100 litres of the mixture per hectare.

Because we generally use the tonics for their nutrient boost, they are either applied on leaves or on the soil.  Because the tonic contains plant or manure-derived nutrition, it absorbed so much better by the plants.  To maximize the vines uptake of the tonic, we also apply it in the full moon period – four days on either side of the day of full moon – so that there’s a strong drawing of the tonic from leaves to roots under the moon’s influence.

Tonics are applied on a two weekly basis and  they can be applied in conjunction with Cow Pat Pit (CPP), a special Biodynamic compost that will be the subject of our next post.  Visit us again soon, or like us on Facebook to get notification of our next blog.

Read our introductory article about ferments and peppering

Read how to make Lucerne tea ferment as a general tonic and to boost your earthworm populations

Read how to make problem weed ferment