I had never researched Biodynamic gardening/farming very much but I did know about the magic produced by aging manure in cow horns. I was introduced to “peppering” in a recent post in our Facebook Group, Garden Fundamentals, and had to have a closer look. If this thing works, it would be a cure for just about every pest problem in the garden.
What is Biodynamic Peppering?
Step one is to identify the pest you are trying to control. It could grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, squirrels, slugs or even weeds. I wonder if it works on nasty neighbors?
Step two, collect some of the pest. With small things like insects you need quite a few – the exact number is not specified. One is enough for large pests like squirrels and for weeds, collect a handful of seeds.
Step three, burn the material until you have ashes. It can be done on a stove, but a wood fire is best.
Step four, spread the ashes over the area you are trying to protect. Any existing pests will leave the area and new potential pests won’t enter the area. By the way, the ash is referred to as “peppers”, not to be confused with pepper fruit.
One other important point; this works best if it is done when Venus is in Scorpio.
Venus is in Scorpio
What does “Venus is in Scorpio” mean? It is an astrological reference to a particular time of year. A lot of biodynamics is controlled but the moon, other celestial bodies and even star constellations. The reasoning for this is not evident or explained.
The original instructions for peppering came from Rudolf Steiner, the father of biodynamic farming. Unfortunately, Rudolf never explained what he meant by Venus is in Scorpio and I guess none of his disciples ever asked him to clarify it. You can read an in-depth debate about what it means here, but the conclusion is that nobody really knows.
That is not as big a deal as you might image, because this process is so powerful it works even if you do it at the wrong time!
Controlling Weeds with Peppers
Here is what Rudolf Steiner said in one of his lectures on weed control. “You see the weeds growing rampant in a given year. You must accept the fact. Do not be alarmed; say to yourself: Something must now be done. So now you gather a number of seeds of the weed in question. For in the seed the force of which I have just spoken has reached its final culmination. Now light a flame — a simple wood flame is best — and burn the seeds. Carefully gather all the resulting ash. You get comparatively little ash, but that does not matter. Quite literally, for the plants thus treated by letting their seeds pass through the fire and turn to ash, you will have concentrated in the ash the very opposite force to that which is developed in attracting the Moon-forces. Now use the tiny amount of substance you have thus prepared from a variety of weeds, and scatter it over your fields. You need not take especial care in doing so, for these things work in a wide circumference. Already in the second year you will see, there is far less of the kind of weed you have thus treated. It no longer grows as rampantly. Moreover, many things in Nature being subject to a cycle of four years, after the fourth year you will see, if you continue sprinkling the pepper year by year, the weed will have ceased to exist on the field in question.”
Note that you need very little ash to control a wide area. That sounds a lot like homeopathic medicine which we know is complete quackery.
“You will have concentrated in the ash the very opposite force to that which is developed in attracting the Moon-forces” – I guess the ash develops anti-gravity forces? That is hard to believe, but even harder to comprehend is that these forces are “pest specific”. For example, a dandelion seed produces ash containing anti-dandelion forces while goutweed would produce ash with anti-goutweed forces.
Does Peppering Work on Weeds?
I couldn’t believe it, but I found a scientific study that tested this. It didn’t work!
Control Bunnies in Your Garden
The New Zealand Herald, which claims to be New Zealand’s best journalism, had a story called, Biodynamic ‘Peppering’ to Battle Bunnies. The article goes on to say, “After the township’s rabbit infestation made news across the country, Waitaki District councilor Jan Wheeler was approached by a Coromandel man (Peter Bacchus) with lifelong experience in the Rudolf Steiner-inspired approach to agriculture — biodynamic agriculture.” The town agreed to give peppering a try.
Unable to shoot or poison rabbits in urban areas, Wheeler said she had an “open mind” regarding alternative techniques. So it is not OK to shoot or poison rabbits, but it is OK to burn them into ashes?
Did it work? Wheeler was optimistic and said, “I think there has been a change“. Good thing they used some proper controls and took measurements to know if it worked!!!
I think the title of the article should be changed to, “Hasenpfeffer Solves Bunny Problem”
I also found reference to a second set of tests done by biodynamic proponents Gary Blake and Peter Bacchus to try and eliminate possums. They used a diluted mixture of possum ash and quarry dust (or was that pixie dust?), but unfortunately for them the possum population increased instead of dropping.
Peter Bacchus was also the expert who convinced the Waitaki District Council to use peppering to control bunnies. I sense a trend.
Does Biodynamics Work?
Vicki Hyde was one of the people who monitored the possum peppering research project and had this to say. “There has been little in the way of rigorous scientific testing of biodynamic claims. While biodynamic texts refer to tests done in the 1920 – 40s, few — if any — were conducted in a scientific manner. By far the bulk of evidence supporting biodynamic claims is anecdotal, where keen enthusiasts talk about how well they are doing. It is all too easy to find people who can make a claim, often sincerely, but that doesn’t make them right. After all, millions of people once believed that the Earth was flat” (and some still do).
If you find some scientific research testing biodynamics, please add a link to the comments and I will review it.
What do I think? When people use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to explain how their system works – I know it’s bull!