The Preparations Behind Our Biodynamic Wines:
What Are They & Why Do We Use Them?
To follow biodynamics means to think differently about the way we manage the farm, vineyard and gardens; to recognise that our entire property is a living organism that requires certain practices to build healthy living soils and nutrient-rich plants.
A key way we nurture this living system is with the various biodynamic preparations, numbered from 500 through to 508. These preps are made up of a range of natural ingredients that offer different benefits, and when applied in line with the lunar calendar, support our vines & gardens to grow in a healthier, more balanced way.
These biodynamic practises are used across our vineyards, gardens & farm in harmony with organics as the starting point in our pursuit of quality. For soil and plant health is not only key to producing the best fruit & vegetables, but also to ensure the land can continue to do so long into the future. Below is a quick guide to these different biodynamic preparations and their benefits…
The 500, 501, and 508 preparations make up nourishing treatments that are diluted with water then sprayed directly onto our vineyards & gardens to strengthen the vines & plants and protect against disease. While 500 targets under-soil activity, 501 + 508 work to bolster above-ground growth, working in polarity to bring balance to our property.
Prep 500 – Horn Manure (soil spray)
The base of Prep 500 is cow’s manure from lactating cows that is buried in cow horns over winter. During the colder months, the manure breaks down and the microbes active in the manure & soil become concentrated. When dug up in spring, it is totally transformed into a dark, organic material known as humus.
The manure is diluted in rainwater, then stirred continuously for one hour in a specific manner; we use a flow form that relies on a pump to create vortex motions in the water. The vortex motion stimulates life processes and oxygenates the water, before being sprayed in the afternoon, when the earth breathes in and turns its energy to the roots and soil.
The benefits of Prep 500 range from healthier soil organisms and increased microflora to greater worm activity and enhanced top soil growth. The soil begins to breathe better, humus forms, and root penetration increases.
Prep 501 – Horn Silica (atmospheric spray)
Prep 501 is a horn silica made from crushed quartz crystal; similar to Prep 500, the fine powder is buried in cow horns, this time through spring and summer months. When dug up, it’s blended with water in the flowform, before being sprayed as a fine mist across vines & gardens in early hours, as the earth breathes out.
Being an above-ground prep, it targets the fruit and foliage of crops, enhancing the photosynthesis process to bring light and vitality to the plants. In our case, it supports the ripening of grapevines and is particularly valuable in the weeks before harvest.
It also enhances the flavour, aroma, colour and nutrient quality of fruits, while strengthening cell walls of plants to build greater resilience.
Prep 508 – Casuarina/ Horsetail (atmospheric spray)
Prep 508 acts as an antifungal preparation, and is often mixed with 501 to spray across vineyards during an ascending moon. Made into a tea using native casuarina needles in Australia, it helps counter fungal growth and clear botritys on grapevines. When applied at times of strong water influence like a full or perigee moon, it also helps balance the spread of water between plant and soil.
Steiner chose the particular ingredients in these biodynamic preparations for the elements they possess, which both enhance soil microorganisms and stimulate plant growth. They bring about a balance in the fermentation of compost materials, and when spread across large areas of land, create balance, diversity, and nourishment.
These preparations are added to our own organic composts – made up of soil, wood chips, manure, sand, shredded cardboard, grape marc, grass & cover crop clippings, and other organic matter from around the farm – which is then spread across the farm with reference to the lunar calendar.
Prep 502 – Yarrow Flower
Yarrow works to activate the potassium and sulphur processes that attract trace elements and remedy weaknesses during periods of flowering and fruiting. The prep is made by placing the flower heads in a stag’s bladder, hanging in a sunny spot over summer, and burying for the winter. The end product is then added to the compost pile, enabling the soil to absorb and retain silicic acid and other minerals present in the earth.
Prep 503 – Chamomile
Prep 503 supports the retention and stabilisation of nitrogen and calcium in the soil. It also serves to protect plants from any negative side effects that occur during fruit growth. This prep is made by pressing dried chamomile flowers into a cow intestines, not unlike how a sausage is made. It’s then buried over winter and added to the compost heap.
Prep 504 – Stinging Nettle
This prep acts as a general tonic that enhances the ‘intelligence’ of the soil, while aiding decomposition and the formation of chlorophyll. Stinging Nettle is also known for activating ‘good’ bacteria, along with naturally occurring elements like iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. It’s made by pressing wilted nettle leaves into an unglazed clay pipe in autumn, before being buried in the ground for 12 months.
Prep 505 – Oak Bark
Naturally high in calcium, the oak bark prep provides healing forces and qualities to the compost, fighting harmful plant diseases – especially fungal – when spread across soil and plants. During times of high moisture, such as a full moon or after heavy rainfall, it also helps restore balance in the soil.
Prep 505 is made by grinding oak bark and placing it in the skull of a domestic animal, such as a cow or sheep, then placing it in a shallow spring over winter, where slow moving water can continuously flow through.
Prep 506 – Dandelion
Dandelion stimulates the relationship between silicon and potassium, so that the silicon can attract cosmic forces to the soil. When infused with compost that is then spread across plants, it helps to sensitise plants to their environment, allowing them to attract what they need. It also stirs up various trace elements and helps good bacteria and fungi grow in the soil.
Prep 506 is made by packing newly-opened yellow dandelion flowers into a bovine mesentery and burying it over winter.
Prep 507 – Valerian
Valerian flowers have an affinity with phosphorus, which activates bacteria, selenium and magnesium in the soil. It also brings, and regulates, heat when applied to the compost pile. 507 is made by infusing pressed Valerian flowers in water, then leaving to ferment for a week in a glass container. It’s then filtered and stored in dark glass bottles, filled to the top to prevent air from getting in.
The Cow Pat Pit (CPP)
CPP is a manure concentrate, much like Prep 500, which contains the added nutrients of basalt dust, powdered egg shells, and the compost preps 502-507. It is used over gardens, in orchards, and over large farmland areas.
To make the pit, the concentrate is mixed in a well-drained hole in the ground, about 15cm deep, lined with untreated timber or solid clay bricks. The manure blend is covered to retain moisture for 4-6 months, when it has formed a consistent soft, dark texture and earthy smell.
The CPP is aerated with a garden fork about every 3-4 weeks while buried, and upon digging up, is stirred in the flowform, to be applied as a liquid manure or foliar spray across garden & vineyard soil.
A holistic approach
Each and every ingredient in our biodynamic preparations plays a role in bolstering our vineyards, gardens & land. But more importantly, they allow the living forces in the earth to form a self-supporting system that can thrive in natural, holistic ways.
To see how we put our biodynamic theories into action, follow our Instagram or come visit the Tinja property, where our garden & vineyard managers are always working on something…
Words by Hannah Edensor. Images by Tim White & Hannah Edensor