by Jaspal Singh Chattha
Barrel Compost is cow manure mixed with basalt powder and crushed eggshells, inoculated with six biodynamic preparations (BD502 to 507) and then allowed to ferment.
Maria Thun prepared it in a barrel and coined the name. Peter Proctor called it CPP manure, (Cowpat Pit manure) because he fermented these ingredients in a pit lined with bricks. This Barrel Compost, whether made in a barrel or a pit, has multiple uses and is very convenient to spread and reap the benefits of biodynamic preparations. It stimulates and activates soil organisms. Trials have shown a significant increase in quality and yields of crops.
Spring is the best time to make Barrel Compost, though one can make it in all seasons, if the weather is congenial. It takes three to four months for it to ferment and mature. Once ready, it is stored in an earthen pot, a barrel or a wooden box, covered with a damp cloth and kept moist in a cool place. The barrel or pit is then refilled with a new batch.
When selecting a site, choose a well-drained location with some sort of overhead shade or roof to keep out the direct sun and rain. Do not choose a site under a tree as roots take away nutrients.
When using a barrel, knock out the flat, circular ends and bury the remaining portion deep enough so that your hand reaches the bottom with ease. Pack soil around the barrel to ensure that rain does not get in.
When using a pit, construct it three feet by two feet by one foot deep. The bottom of the pit is bare earth and the sides can be lined with wood or terracotta bricks. A mixture of cow manure and mud can be used as a mortar if constructing with clay bricks. Do not use cement or concrete blocks. The soil dug up from the pit should be placed around the pit to provide adequate drainage.
The quality of the Barrel Compost depends greatly on the quality of the cow manure. Organic fodder should be fed to the cows. A good ratio of greens and hay leads to firm cow manure. Cows should not be fed grains or mineral supplements a week prior to collecting their manure. Remove stones, leaves, twigs or any unwanted material from the manure.
Barrel Compost Ingredients
60 kilograms of cow manure (approximately four buckets)
500 grams of basalt powder
200 grams of eggshells crushed into a coarse powder
Heat the eggshells in an oven to make crushing easier
2 to 3 grams each of the compost preparations (BD502-507)
500 milliliters of water (rainwater preferred)
Spread 60 kilograms of fresh cow manure on a clean floor or a plastic sheet. If it is too firm, sprinkle water over the pile. Dust 500 grams of basalt powder and 200 grams of eggshell powder evenly over the pile. Knead and mix thoroughly for 20 to 30 minutes. Some farmers mix these ingredients for an hour. Keep adding water if required. By proper mixing, the consistency and aroma of the manure changes due to aeration. Place the mixture evenly into the barrel or the pit. Pat it smooth and flat. Make five holes in the pile, two inches deep and as wide as your thumb.
You are now ready to add the various biodynamic compost preparations. Place two to three grams of BD502, 503, 504, 505, 506 separately into each of the five holes, then cover each hole with the manure mixture.
BD507 (Valerian) is a liquid preparation and needs to be mixed with water. Take a clean, empty two-liter bottle and pour 500 ml of water into the bottle and add 10 to 15 milliliters BD507 to it. Close the bottle and hold it horizontally in your hands at chest level. Shake it gently in a rhythmic pattern creating waves in the bottle. Mix for five minutes. Make two new holes and pour half of the mixture into them. The other half is sprinkled over the top of the pile in the barrel or pit. Cover with a damp cloth. Keep the mixture moist and away from direct sun and rain.
After a month, turn over the fermenting mixture with a garden fork, mixing it in the barrel or pit. Add water if required. Pat it down and cover it again with the damp cloth. Repeat this procedure every week to hasten a homogeneous fermentation.
It can be used as a ground spray: one kilogram of Barrel Compost to 40 litres of water per acre. Let this mixture stand overnight prior to application, then stir for 15 minutes, alternating directions every few minutes. If necessary, strain this liquid through a cotton cloth and spray as required. Barrel Compost can be added to any liquid manure and sprayed frequently on pastures, vineyards, orchards, field crops and gardens. It is also advisable to spray this fermented compost prior to plowing in green manure. This spray is of great benefit to farmers when they are converting their land from conventional to organic and/or biodynamic pastures and gardens.
It can also be used as a soil or foliar feed on all crops at all stages, except those close to harvest. Spraying can take place every seven or 14 days. It is best to spray in the evenings.
Barrel Compost can be used on the soil around fruit trees as a soil inoculant or soil conditioner. Use before any mulching. When used as a foliar feed on fruit trees, it strengthens the plants against possible fungus or insect attack. It can be applied every 14 days before and after flowering. To stimulate cambium growth, apply a Barrel Compost slurry to the bark of trees. This strengthens the bark and brings the good soil microorganisms up onto the tree. The slurry can also be used as a pruning paste to stop sap from bleeding and to help healing.
While stirring 30 grams of Horn Manure (BD500) with 15 liters of water per acre, add 300 grams of Barrel Compost to the mixture during the last 15 minutes. It can also be added to any liquid manure (approx. 50 grams of Barrel Compost per gallon).
It can be used as a root dip for all young trees, shrubs, stem and root cuttings or plants prior to planting or transplanting. This encourages new root development. Cuttings can also be soaked in a slurry overnight to enhance root development.
Before planting, seed potatoes can be soaked in a Barrel Compost slurry for one hour and dried. This slurry can be used to soak all seeds for 30 minutes prior to sowing.
Barrel Compost can be used as an inoculum when building a compost pile 15 feet long, 6 feet deep and 5 feet high. Mix two kilograms of Barrel Compost into 40 liters of water, and stir for 15 minutes. Sprinkle this mixture on each layer while building the compost heap.
It can also be used as a spray to deoderize chicken coops, cattle sheds, stables and pigsties.
A well-made Barrel Compost has a fragrance similar to forest soil. It has families of beneficial microbes and is laden with growth-promoting hormones. The vibrant energies of the BD preps enliven this compost mixture. It has such a diverse range of uses, I often refer it as a “Mother Compost.”