The Dirt/Soil

The Dirt/Soil-

Vineyard/Farm as a living, life-giving system

The vines reach into the soil for their essential needs: water to drink and food to eat. If the soil is full of microbiotic life and natural nutrients, the vine absorbs everything it needs to grow at a normal, healthy rate.

In organic and biodynamic vineyards, the farmer pays attention to creating a living soil that allows the vine to follow natural cycles. Farmers are aware of the subtle language of the farm, leading to an understanding of what is occurring on and under the vines.

• Use natural soil amendments to build a living soil
• Natural sprays and composts (preparations), made from farm animal manure, plants around the farm and byproducts of the winemaking process.
• Cover crops between vineyard rows to build organic matter in the soil. This vegetation helps prevent erosion, puts plant food
(nitrogen) into the soil and helps prevent water loss from the soil.
• Manual or mechanical methods to control weeds.
• Non-toxic pest management
• Farmers use practices such as wildlife corridors and bird boxes, encouraging animal and insect life, to regulate pest populations.
•Farms must go through an annual certification process
• Organic (CCOF, USDA)
• Biodynamic (Demeter)
• Do not use synthetic chemicals which pollute the environment and deplete nutrients
and micro organisms in the soil
• No synthetic fertilizers
• No synthetic pesticides
• No synthetic herbicides
• No bioengineering
• No ionizing radiation
• No GMOs

A 22-year farming trial study by Cornell University concluded that:

• Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides.
• Organic farming approaches for these crops conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does.
• Soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.


Biodynamic farming combines established organic practices and unique philosophical farming principles which recognize the connected web of life. Winegrowers take a holistic approach and treat the soil and everything grown on it as a living, life-giving system. Farmers think systemically about how their activities give back to the land.

A healthy vineyard is a healthy system.

  • The soil has plenty of nutrients and microbiotic life to feed the vines.
  • Water is used in a responsible, systematic way that ensures the vine is properly fed.
  • Beneficial insect and bird populations keep harmful insects in check.
  • Animals and cover crops provide material for organic composts to feed the vineyards, restore nutrients to the soil and lessen soil compaction, keeping the soil loose for vine roots to explore.
  • Farmer’s follow the Demeter Farm Standard


  • Nutrients and energy are returned to the soil through the careful application of eight biodynamic preparations applied according to the biodynamic calendar which takes in consideration the seasons, time of day and natural rhythms of the earth and cosmos.
  • The preparations, which can be grown and prepared on the farm, are homeopathic materials from a combination of herbs, minerals and animal manures. When combined, aged, fermented and applied, they revitalize life forces in the soil and vine. Preparations stimulate the roots and soil microorganisms, as well as aid in the formation of humus.


Growers refer to a biodynamic calendar in order to harmonize their activities with the seasons and phases of the moon. Farmers receive knowledge accumulated from previous generations regarding the influences of the moon, sun and stars on varying crops. Many of these lessons are supported by Rudolf Steiner’s observations. The scientific study of the cosmos’ effects on plant life is still in its infancy; recent experiments and experiences indicate that ancient wisdom holds many truths.

For more information on the calendar and optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting, please pick up a copy of Maria & Matthias Thun’s The North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar. Here are a few very helpful excerpts.

Root crops on Root days
Radishes, swedes, sugar beet, beetroot celeriac, carrot, scorzonera, etc. fall into the category of root plants. Potatoes and onions are included in this group too. Root days produce good yields and top storage quality for these crops.

Leaf plants on Leaf days
The cabbage family, lettuce, spinach, lambs lettuce, endive, parsley, leafy herbs and fodder plants are categorized as leaf plants. Leaf days are suitable for sowing and tending these plants but not for harvesting and storage. For this … Fruit and Flower days are recommended.

Flower plants on Flower days
These days are favorable for sowing and tending all kinds of flower plants but also for cultivating and spraying 501 (a Biodynamic preparation) on oil-bearing plants such as linseed, rape, sunflower, etc…

Fruit plants on Fruit days
Plants which are cultivated for their fruit or seed belong to this category, including beans, peas, lentils, soya, maize, tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, courgettes, but also cereals for summer and winter crops…Fruit plants are best harvested in Fruit days. They store well and their seeds provide good plants for next year. When storing fruit, also remember to choose the time of the ascending moon.” (Maria & Matthias Thun, The North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar).

Article Source:  Paul Dolan Vineyards