Friday, October 15, 2010

What is Biodynamic Compost?

"Biodynamic" means different things to different people.

It's not a laundry detergent ingredient to bring out dazzling fabric colors.

It's not the kid in the high school Biology class who aces all the tests.

Nor is it a member of the Justice League of America who just came out of the closet.

To graduates of the Rudolf Steiner college, "biodynamic" refers to: " agricultural method developed in 1924 in a series of lectures by Rudolf Steiner. It laid the foundation for a new way of thinking about the relationship of the Earth and the formative forces of Nature. Biodynamics became the first organized organic approach to farming. The ideal is for a Biodynamic farm to be a self-sufficient organism, enlivened by the biodynamic practitioner through the use of compost and spray preparations in cooperation with natural rhythms. The results of biodynamic agriculture are found in the quality of the produce, the health of the land and the livestock, and the independence from damaging modern agriculture practices with their use of herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides."

A good book that explains biodynamics in easy to understand terms is the John Jeavons classic, "How To Grow More Vegetables".

Slowly, biodynamics is graduating from the organic farm and extending into commerce.
Biodynamics is the underpinning for Malibu Compost, available in California and soon in Oregon and Washington.

According to Malibu Compost founder Randy Ritchie, "We windrow our compost on the farm (in Fresno). We let everything decompose naturally 100%. Which is why it has such a nice humus smell to it."

The compost is comprised of organic dairy cow manure and more. "We use biodynamic preparations which include different forms of composted herbs including chamomile, dandelion, valerian, stinging nettle and other ingredients," says Ritchie.

Malibu Compost passes the three tests I give every compost:
What does it look like?
What does it smell like?
What's the pH?

Unlike many inexpensive composts, you can't tell what it is comprised of. No chunks of redwood, no pebbles, nothing that is recognizable. Well-aged compost should have a fine brown/black consistency, which is what Malibu Compost looks like.
As noted earlier, there are no off-putting aromas to Malibu Compost...just a rich humus-like smell. I've smelled some composts that have an aroma resembling an overflowing urinal at Candlestick Park during the 4th quarter of a 49ers game. That's a lot of burning urea that could harm plant roots, if not allowed to age further.

And the pH? I brought along one of my pH test kits to sample Malibu Compost, unannounced, using a random sample. The result? A pH of 6.9-7.0. That's neutral; not too acidic or alkaline, perfect for most fruits and vegetables.

Listen to the full interview (6:26) with Randy Ritchie to find out more about Malibu's biodynamic compost:


  1. I'm glad you posted this, I saw this product at our local Ace and was really curious about it.

  2. Thank you ! I'm so tired of going to buy compost & finding nothing but ground up old fir bark in the packages. I do make my own, but it's not nearly enough for my needs, even with stealing the bags of leaves from the neighbors !

    Was going to ask where I might purchase it, but see Kristi (above) has given me a clue.

  3. I have a question....when you are making biodynamic compost, can old cow manure be used, like 10 years old that has just been sitting out in the fresh air in a pile, or does it need to be relatively fresh when adding to the standard biodynamic compost pile of manure, alfalfa and bacteria etc....?

  4. For the past 3 years have managed a 26 acre private estate garden in Malibu, California planted with collections of rare Palms, Bamboos, Orchids, Ferns, Cycads and a plethora of tropicals too numerous to mention as well as an orchard with over 100 citrus, stone fruit, apples and pomegranates. Plants were planted in native soil (clay, shale) mixed the what landscapers call 50/50 witch is 'topsoil' and semi-composted pine bark and other wood (or what I like to call: "I was a fence yesterday amendment"). The garden was lovely but many of the plants seems stressed and pests were out of control despite the guy who came every two weeks to spray various cocktails of pesticides. I brought Randy in a couple of months after I started and we began a comprehensive program of Malibu Compost (by the truckload) and compost tea drenches and sprays (110 gallons at a go!). Almost immediately the gardens began to respond in a miraculous fashion. No more pesticide guy and yet the pests began to go away. The palms greened up. The Cycads finally began to grow. The orchids began to bloom. The orchard suddenly began producing amazing fruit for the first time. But the most amazing part was the subtle but obvious change that everyone overwhelming feeling of life and health and positive 'energy' if you will. We also built a beautiful vegetable garden and filled the stone beds with Malibu Compost's Baby Bu potting soil (again, by the truckload). I can't even begin to describe the beauty of the produce that comes out of that garden. I know that I have been given a rare opportunity to work Randy's products in an almost unlimited budget fashion and that most home gardeners do not have this luxury. But, I am here to tell you that in whatever way you can incorporate these products into your home garden ....even if it means giving up your daily Starbucks to do will never regret it when you experience what happens to your plants. I cannot recommend these products enough. In fact, I am currently building raised beds in my own backyard and am going to fill them to the brim with Malibu Compost's Biodynamic Potting Soil.

    1. @ anonymous........... I truly believe that compost with large numbers of microorganisms are extremely beneficial to any growing situation, big or small, however I priced the product of which you speak & it was $600 per 2 cu.yds + delivery. Yikes!