Weird Biodynamic Tree Paste

Today, I was reading California Rare Fruit Grower’s recommendations on how to take care of new grafts, and they warned that hot summer sun can damage young tree bark, so protect it using white paint, Kaolin clay, or bio dynamic tree paste. Any time I see “biodynamic,” I think of Rudolf Steiner, the father of the Biodynamic Method.

Rudolf Steiner devised some of the weirdest recipes I’ve ever seen for making soil remediation brews. For example, his cow horn manure preparation: “We take manure…stuff it into the horn of a cow, and bury the horn a certain depth into the earth…provided the earth is not too clayey or too sandy.”

He goes on to explain what this process does to the manure:

“…by burying the horn with its filling of manure, we preserve in the horn the forces it was accustomed to exert within the cow itself, namely the property of raying back whatever is life-giving and astral. Through the fact that it is outwardly surrounded by the earth, all the radiations that tend to etherealise and astralise are poured into the inner hollow of the horn. And the manure inside the horn is inwardly quickened with these forces, which thus gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving.”

–Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture Course

Therefore, the brew for biodynamic tree paste has a similar ethereal weirdness:

  • 2 parts silica or diatomaceous earth
  • 3 parts potting clay (or clay from your own soil, if it is mostly clay), soaked for 3 days in enough water to make a slurry
  • 4 parts cow manure (or certified organic cow manure, found at your local nursery or garden center)
  • enough rainwater to make all the former into a paste

To apply, scrub the tree’s bark, removing any scale insects, lichen, or loose material, and paint the bark with this mixture until it is well coated. In theory, the difference between this and the white paint or Kaolin clay is that it actually heals the tree bark or pruning cuts, fighting infestations and bacterial/fungal infections.

I specialize in stone fruit tree care, such as peaches, nectarines, plums. These type of trees often succumb to a fungus called cytospora and leucostoma persoonii, which proliferates more during wet weather. The bark will then peel away and ugly lesions (called cankers) will pop up with amber sap often covering them. See this photo:

When this happens, the tree must undergo surgery as described by The American Phytopathological Society (APS):

Surgically remove cankers. Cankers should be removed, and (if possible) burned, buried, or moved out of the orchard. Cankers on trunks and large limbs can be removed surgically in mid-summer when trees heal most rapidly. Surgery should be performed in dry weather with a forecast of dry conditions for at least three days. During surgery, remove all diseased bark around the canker and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of healthy tissue from the sides and ends, respectively.

The problem is, the cankers often attack the oldest parts of the tree, including the trunk and main branches. The APS describes the best hygiene to prevent and deal with this condition. There is no known chemical or fungicidal application that provides satisfactory treatment. However, if anybody can cure a tree, it would be Rudoph Steiner and his biodynamic concoction of tree paste. Want to give it a try?

To have your trees coated in biodynamic tree paste in Southern California, call Judy’s Homegrown. For large orchards, see this article from Applied Biodynamics.

For a free Judys Homegrown handout about Fungal Infection of fruit trees, click here.

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