Winter Gardening: Biodynamics, Keratin, and Compost

Here in the USofA we are covered in a wintry mess. The garden lies dormant under a layer of ice and the fresh veggies are long gone. We still have veggies in the freezer though, and huddle in front of Netflix with big warm bowls of pumpkin soup. You can see our soup recipe (it’s GF, and vegan) on Bread Butter & A Cup of Tea. The warm summer days and sun-ripe veggies always sound the best in the depths of winter and so we start planning the garden now.

Biodynamics is a gardening system that incorporates gardening by the moon and soil replenishment through magical means. I’m not into the magical means but they are interesting to read about. One soil amending recipe calls for burying cow horns with quartz inside of them, directly in the garden, on auspicious days. Not really my thing. However, the scientific advantages of keratin in the soil are well founded.

Keratin for soil amendment is so valuable that somebody patented it. The patented keratin mix is intended for greenhouse soil amendment. It contains added elements that speed the oxidation process which helps with water maintenance in the soil, and is useful for replenishing nutrients. Luckily, chicken feathers are a good source of keratin (and much easier for us to come by than cow horns) but they take a long time to compost which is why we’re talking about gardening in the wintry depths of January.

Feather sourced from Radu Luchian.
Feather sourced from Radu Luchian.

In addition to veggie scraps, we compost the chicken poo and the shredded paper that they nest in. It’s a streamlined process now, but it took us some time to set up and get used too. We shred all the recyclable junk mail and use it as chicken bedding in the coop and nesting boxes. When it’s dirty we move the paper and poo to the compost bin and mix it with the veggie scraps. We find a 50/50, green/brown mix works well for us. It was really difficult to maintain the ratio when the pumpkin vines were composted, but now we’re catching up because we add more and more chicken bedding but not near as many green bits through the winter. Also – we learned that you can add dryer lint to your compost. It’s considered a brown item because it adds carbon and fiber to the pile, but we keep and use it for fire starter in the wood stove. There are so many uses for all the little things we used to throw away!

Adding the chicken feathers from the coop and nesting boxes provides the keratin the Biodynamic method calls for. I hope to see the difference this summer with our first harvest – even though it seems so far away from the here and now.

Stay warm all my Northern Hemisphere friends, and soak up some sun for me if you’re in the South!


One thought on “Winter Gardening: Biodynamics, Keratin, and Compost

  1. Thanks for sharing about keratin in the soil, I never even thought about it even though I compost the coop contents on a regular basis and occasionally go biodynamic in my gardens!


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