Recipe – Biodynamic Tree Paste

Biodynamic Tree Paste (BTP) comes from the tradition of lime-washing the trunks of orchard trees in the winter to combat pests and provide the trees a boost. It is generally applied in winter in a descending moon to boost health, combat fungal diseases and pests and to help heal pruning cuts.

Hugh Lovel gives a gives an overview of the history and principles of BTP and a recipe at http://www.quantumagriculture.com/node/178. He sums it up well when he says “The idea is one of building, strengthening and enriching the bark and trunk of the tree, which can be thought of as the ‘soil’ out of which the tree’s vegetative growth springs.” I also found a great simplified recipe and a video demo from Backyard Biodynamics at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VHRtDOo8k0.

We made our BTP at the gardens based on the Backyard Biodynamics recipe, with some of the other things I found in other recipes added back in based on what we felt was right for our place. Ingredients: 4 parts certified organic composted cow manure (easier to get around here than actual cow pats); 3 parts fine clay (ours had some grit in it and wasn’t bentonite but it had to do); 2 parts fine diatomaceous earth; 1 part volcanic dust; 1 part agricultural lime (some recipe’s recommended slaked lime, but that didn’t feel right to me); A 1/4 part of zeolite (probably not needed); some seaweed concentrate and; enough rainwater (about 10 parts) to blend it all to the consistency of paint.

Method: Soak the clay for a few days or more. Put the rainwater in a non-reactive container and expose it to the sun and stars for several days and nights. Assemble all the ingredients. Dilute the seaweed concentrate into the water to about half the strength you would use on vegetables. Put all the dry ingredients in a wheelbarrow with a little seaweed-water and mix lovingly by hand in a wheelbarrow, gradually adding more water until it reaches the consistency of paint.  Transfer the mixture to a tall bucket and stir in the usual biodynamic way to further energise the solution with both yin and yang. Stir for an hour, or at least as much of hour as you can. Then, paint the trunk and bark of the tree as high as you can reach.

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2 thoughts on “Recipe – Biodynamic Tree Paste

  1. Hi Rob
    I looked up your two quoted recipes and neither specified bentonite (a swelling clay rich in montmorillonite) both said use a fine clay (but all clay is fine) and one said use clay that potters use (which, ideally, would be non-swelling kaolinite). Internet posted recipes also include significant quantities of linseed oil (to help paste stick to tree and not wash off in rain). A bentonite based plastic cement could similarly stick without the need for linseed oil. Linseed oil mixed with chalk powder is traditional glazing putty – but that can crack.

    Traditional tree treatment has been either a lime wash or bordeaux mix (lime plus bluestone aka copper sulphate). Continuing with those ingredients is therefore prudent. Likewise, as you pointed out, diatomaceous earth can kill some pests, which might reduce saw flay larvae migrating up trunks after winter. But the professional pruner/horticulturist who spoke at Wentworth Falls Gardening Club recently said she has found that a clean cut exposed to air heals better than those coated with propriety compounds, despite that extra expense. There is a real danger that a disease promoting micro-environment can be created under the coating. To risk all our heritage apple trees with an untested product, therefore, might seem reckless. Could we try it on just one or two trees this year – and compare the results to that from a traditional lime wash or bordeaux mixture? And as the greatest risk is where the protective cambrium coating has been removed by pruning, perhaps the pruning should be done after any applied organic paste has dried. After all, even certified organic manures should have warnings that they contain organisms that can cause disease.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWE9Scwy1zA expounds on the difference between organic and biodynamic. The latter does not allow anything to be imported to the site. Your use of off-site sourced clay, zeolite, diatomaceous earth, seasol, basalt dust, lime and certified cow manure would have rendered the mix merely organic and not biodynamic. Not that I think there is anything wrong with organic, but just calling something biodynamic does not make it so.

    I had assumed that biodynamics concerned the verifiable influence of organisms on chemical reactions affecting, its structure, and its nutrient availability to plants. In the sixties, our lecturer in Sedimentary Geology at Imperial College, Doug Sherman, found that the particles of clay in the Wash off of East Anglia will pass through the guts of its tiny worms once every three days on average, and that such environments are responsible for the previously baffling formation of a type of carbonate mineral that should not otherwise be possible. I regard that as a convergence of real science with biodynamics and was hoping to learn more,

    Regards… daveW

    PS. I have read that the combined energy from all the stars that are shining on the entire surface of Earth is less than that emitted by a single candle. The amount of star energy entering a glass bottle over a couple of nights is totally insignificant compared to that entering during the daytime. To suggest otherwise weakens the credibility of any other unsubstantiated claims.

    PPS The alignment of distant planets will have no influence on soil organisms. It can affect the beliefs of non-scientists, however, so we must be careful to separate such beliefs from verifiable relationships (including those that might not yet have any accepted scientific explanation)

    • Hi DaveW,

      Re: Bentonite. Try McFarlane, Annette, Organic Fruit Growing, Harper Colins, Sydney 2011, pp. 60. This is where I first heard of the stuff. She suggests “fine clay or bentonite,” so perhaps the differences in properties of different fine clays is not so critical.

      Likewise, Neither Annette, nor the Backyard Biodynamics ladies used the oil. I brought some linseed oil along just in case, but it just didn’t feel right. I trusted the lime to get it to stick. Plus, i felt it would allow the bark to breathe better, and I don’t think it matters if the rain eventually washes it off, either.

      As for experimenting with other methods of feeding and protecting trees through their bark, feel free to go ahead and take responsibility for that, if that is where you want to put your energies. Please make sure you label your experiments, so we all know what you are up to.

      I agree with your horticulturist on letting air stimulate the healing of pruning wounds and practice that myself. However, at some point you have to trust and surrender yourself to new information and I trust the knowledge of the Backyard Biodynamics ladies. I also recognise the paste is designed as both a nutrition boost and protector against disease, and without the oil, I believe it will remain breathable, so the stimulant for the healing hormones will still exist.

      The biodynamic farm in the youtube clip you mention is in Tennessee and the quartz comes from Arkansas, so your claim is academic. All the materials we used come from our bioregion. The intent of the people present was more important for the purposes of the exercise.

      As for the influence of stars, it was in at least one recipe I read, so it went in. Perhaps there is more to it than either of us are currently aware. I am not concerned about justifying the credibility of biodynamics.

      This is a Permaclture program, at an organic garden, seeking to introduce biodynamic principles. We did our best. That is enough.

      Rob.

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