Due to the unseasonably long, warm fall last year, master gardener L.A. Rotheraine and the gardeners at Evergreen Elm had to change their approach slightly this year when starting their plants.The group, however, is expecting the same phenomenal results they have always had with their biodynamic gardens.
"The reason no agricultural university in the Western Hemisphere can compete against Evergreen Elm's biodynamic gardeners within the confines of McKean County," Rotheraine said, are the sprays they use. For example, while other gardeners use the BD Field and Garden Spray only as a field spray, Evergreen Elm uses it as a foliar spray as well. This, in addition to the unorthodox way they use the biodynamic compost preparations produces superior vegetation, Rotheraine said.
He went on to compare biodynamic gardening to modern agriculture, emphasizing their incorporation of cosmic energy-energy from the stars and planets.
"The connection to the heavens is in the central stem of all plants," Rotheraine went on to say, referring to the stem as a "cosmic pipeline," or a "heavenly circuit."
"The biodynamic preparations intensify these heavenly currents or cosmic threads, thus uniting the heavens with Earth in a very beneficial way," he said. "Agricultural science has forgotten that all plants are materialized energy from stars and planets. It is common sense to see that the sun, moon and all the stars and planets have an effect on plant life on Earth. As a photographer knows every light effects a picture, therefore every light in the sky would have to effect plant growth to a greater or lesser degree."
Referring specifically to the effect the strange weather last fall had on gardening this spring, Rotheraine said the soil is much dryer than it would normally be at this time of year.
"Therefore, we are using the unorthodox technique of using the BD Field and Garden Spray as a leaf spray," he said. By spraying the soil and plants as they do, however, they are "actually changing the climatic conditions in the garden."
Normally, they would use a combination of horn silica and valerian flower concentrate for spray. Instead, they are using the field spray - comprised of seven preparation components, what Rotheraine refers to as "BD prep 500, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506 and 507" - exclusively this spring. Respectively, the substances are horn manure, yarrow flowers, chamomile flowers, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion flowers and valerian flowers.
It is not only the spray, however, that makes the garden so successful, Rotheraine said.
"The enthusiasm of Evergreen Elm's biodynamic gardeners becomes an actual force just like our preparations do and has a tremendous positive effect on the plants," he said.
While some may debate the theory behind Rotheraine's methods, what cannot be refuted are his results. For years, the group has taken dozens of blue ribbons at the McKean County Fair for their fruits and vegetables. Rotheraine, Evergreen Elm and the biodynamic gardens have also been featured on local television news and in newspapers as far away as Michigan because of the unusually high quality of their seed strains, plants and harvests.
"Until other gardeners and farmers use Evergreen Elm's biodynamic system, they will never achieve the results our gardeners have accomplished," Rotheraine said.
He seemed particularly pleased that master gardeners at two Midwestern colleges, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, are both currently experimenting with Evergreen Elm's methods. He is also hopeful that biodynamic gardening is becoming popular worldwide, as they group has seen a large number of hits on their Web site from Communist China.
"So, we're putting some of our key articles in Chinese hoping they will (use) the Evergreen Elm method of making seeds instead of being swayed into genetically-engineered and terminator seeds that the large corporations are trying to propagate throughout the world," Rotheraine said.
"If a seed strain is a replica of a particular cosmic constellation, then genetically altering a seed makes it inferior," he said, compared to what it could be - "a heavenly image in the form of a plant here on Earth."
Evergreen Elm supervisor Brandi Buck said that not only do the gardeners produce a spectacular garden, but the garden gives back to its creators and keepers.
"There is a therapeutic aspect of gardening for the individuals at Evergreen Elm," Buck said. "It helps with aggression and obsessive compulsive disorder," adding the repetitious nature of the tasks calms the clients at Evergreen Elm - an agency that specializes in the care and therapy of those diagnosed with mental health illness or mental retardation.
Some clients, due to their diagnoses, tend to binge eat, for example. Tending the garden allows them to better understand the nutritional value of what they are growing. It also helps with finger dexterity, she said, as well as giving them a reason to be outside getting exercise in the sunlight, which naturally combats depression.
Harvesting the gardens and taking home all those blue ribbons also fills them with a sense of pride and accomplishment, she said.
"Each individual here can tell you what they do in the garden and why," Buck said. Some of the clients at Evergreen Elm have been working with Rotheraine in the garden for decades, she added. "It's a huge benefit for them."
More detailed information on biodynamic gardening can be found at www.rotheraine.com.