Monday, 28 September 2009

Home Gardeners Barrel Compost Trial

Deb Cantrill and members of the Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group.


– To investigate if it is possible to make a smaller version of barrel compost (also known as cow pat pit) so home gardeners can easily make their own.

Investigate the possibilities of using other manures to bring in a range of animal influences into the home garden.


Literature search on methods used worldwide.

Set up 3 different sized composts in 3 different sized bottomless containers. Unglazed terracotta pots where chosen because they could easily fit into a home garden and are also durable. The bottom is simply removed with an angle grinder. There is also a possibility of making a container to suit. They are easily removed when compost is complete allowing the space to be planted. Peter Proctor was using clay bricks in India.

Cow manure

Egg shells

Rock dust (Fisher creek)

Biodynamic preps


50 litres

200 grams

500 grams

4 sets 8 gams

1/2 wine barrel

63 x 45x 56 cm

25 litres

100 grams

250 grams

2 sets 4 grams

Terracotta pot

47 x 30 x 38 cm

12 litres

50 grams

125 grams

1 set 2 grams

Terracotta pot

40 x 30 x 28 cm

The process started on May 2nd 2009.Cow manure was collected from Claret Ash Farm. The manure was measured out. The 3 portions then had the egg shells and rock dust added and where ‘kneaded by hand for 1 hour.

Mixed by 5 people. Each mixed 10 litres for a time and then passed it on repeated for the hour.

Mixed by 2 people—1/2 each kneaded for 1 hour.

Mixed by 1 person for 1 hour.

After the hour each was placed in its appropriate container, biodynamic preparations added, covered with a damp sack & waterproof lid.

JUNE 4th 2009 All 3 pits were inspected and mixed well with a fork. All looked much the same—the smallest was a little wetter & middle one a little dryer but after mixing the moisture evened out. The tops where smoothed and sack and waterproof lids replaced.

AUGUST the pits were inspected. The smallest compost was ready and removed to storage. The others left to mature a little more. The 25 litre compost was ready two weeks latter. The 50 litre compost is still developing but very close. 14/9/2009


All 3 pits matured displaying the same properties of humus development. Highly recommend that home gardeners use this method to produce their own therefore always having their own supply at hand.


Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group is planing to run this trial again in Spring to investigate the seasonal effect. 10 litres of manure will be used in the small barrel, making an easy 1 bucket measurement. It is also hoped Home garden members will quickly take up the method.

Next autumn we will plan a trial using different mixes of manure to bring a more diverse range of animal influences to the home garden.

Deb Cantrill is an experienced biodynamic orchardist, gardener and educator. Establishing Nirvana Organic Farm in 1983.Deb is the Coordinator and preparation maker/distributor for the Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group.

Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Team: Chris Banks, Jan Sedunary, Robin Tait, Simon Martin, Martin Fry, Wendy Morris, Yi-Ting Wu, Cathy Smallridge.

Fact Sheet

Home Garden Barrel Compost

Also known as cow pat pit, ccp or manure concentrate.

Barrel compost activates the soil and soil organisms, encouraging better soil structure and quicker breakdown of inorganic and organic substances. It is used to spread the ‘compost’ influences especially when converting farms.


The development Barrel compost grew out of concern with pollution of Strontium 90 s from atmospheric atomic bomb tests in 1958. Maria Thun and Dr Ehrenfried Pfeiffer collaborated trialing various substances then cultivating plants. An unambiguous result was obtained by growing plants with eggshells and ground basalt; the plants did not incorporate or store any radioactive Stontium90. They then set about a way to bring these two substances to the biodynamic farm. Further experiments and trials saw the development of the barrel compost.

Peter Proctor has developed its use especially on larger farms in Australia and NZ where there is little compost used. In India he has developed wide usage of the preparation. Although the barrel compost is made in a similar fashion all around the world the quantities of compost preparations, egg shells and basalt used vary although the amount of manure was around 50 litres End uses also vary see table below.

Very little is written about its use in the home garden. Deb Cantrill recommends it use for home gardeners on compost heaps, worm farms and to make the whole garden ‘compost’ by guiding the breakdown process especially where heavy mulch are used to protect the soil from heat and dryness. Many of the uses in the table below are also applicable.

Home Garden Barrel Compost.

*This was developed by Deb Cantrill and the Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group to encourage and enable home gardeners to have their own supply thus increasing its frequency of use on the home garden.

To make the Home Garden Barrel Compost

  • Bottomless Container* Terracotta pot with bottom cut out.
  • 10 litres (1 bucket) good quality firm cow manure
  • 1 x 2gram biodynamic compost set
  • 125gm Fine rock dust e.g. fish creek
  • 50 gm ground egg shells


    1. Dig a hole 150cm deep and place bottomless container in hole and back fill up sides of container.
    2. Mix cow manure, rock dust and egg shells using a hand kneading action for 1 hour. You will observe quite a change.
    3. Place manure mix in container, add compost preparations as per usual.
    4. Cover manure with a damp hession sack.
    5. Cover container with waterproof lid.
    6. After 1 month fork over manure, smooth out and cover again.
    7. Check every 4 weeks or so. It should be ready in 3 months.
    8. Remove to storage container and store as per 500.

Preparing the Barrel Compost for use

CCP is generally applied in the afternoon. For a home garden take 20gm and place in 5 litres warm water. Stir as per 500 for 20 minutes and apply to selected area as per 500.








Soil spray

Influence of compost preps during conversion

At least 15m


20 min


Afternoon 3x


1kg /40l per acre

100g/portion 500


20gm /5litres





In conjunction with stirring 500.

Getting effects of 502/507 over the land

Last 15 min of stirring

Last 20min



100grams per acre

50g per gal



Used on the soil around all fruit trees

as a soil inoculants or soil conditioner

Before mulching trees

1kg/40 litres per acre


Foliar feed on all fruit trees

Strengthen the plants against possible fungus or insect attack

Every 14 days before and after flowering

1kg/40 litres per acre


Tree paste on bark of fruit trees

Strengthen the bark. This can bring good soil micro organisms up onto the tree

1kg/40 litres per acre



Dip roots of all young trees, shrubs or grapes prior to planting

Encourage new root development

1kg/40 litres per acre


Soak seeds prior to sowing

Encourage root development

Soak for 30 minutes, dry off , sow immediately

1kg/40 litres per acre



Dip seed potatoes before planting

This seems to protect the potato against blight

Dip potatoes and dry before planting.

1kg/40 litres per acre


Soak cuttings

Assist root development

Soak overnight prior to planting

1kg/40 litres per acre



Inoculate compost heap

Poured into holes along top of the heap. Or

Sprinkled into successive layers while building the heap.

1 kg/40 litres for each 5 meters of compost


Liquid manures

Add compost preps influence

Stir 10 minutes




Used as one component of the sequence of BD sprays of 500,501,502/507 and 508

Brings the effect of all the preparations onto the land over a short period. Gives Strength and quality to plants

1kg/40 litres per acre


When green manures are turned in

Add compost preps influence- guide breakdown and humus formation.




When compost is applied



On winter furrows



Inoculants in dairy shed effluent, mainly with flowforms

Add compost preps influence- guide breakdown and humus formation.

20 minutes

240g /40 litres/

1 bucketful per 5,000 litres

1kg/1weeks effluent/100 cows



Compost tea

Brings in bacteria & fungal activity- humus + trace elements + soil life

20 minutes

150g per ha for smaller areas, 75g per ha boardacre


BAA Biodynamic Agriculture Australia

PPNZ Peter Proctor various NZ publications

PPI Peter Proctor ‘Biodynamic agriculture in India

MTL Maria Thun ‘Gardening for Life’

AHBG Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group.

*See HOME GARDENERS BARREL COMPOST TRIAL . Adelaide Hills Biodynamic Group

Monday, 4 May 2009

Autumn Preparation Making

Once you start it’s hard to stop & get good photos

But….it was a perfect Adelaide Hills Autumn Day. The evening before saw 20+ mm of rain fall but the dawn saw a perfect day that allowed us to get our annual preparation made efficiently and with lots of conversation and catching up.

First up the compost preps, we collected some nettles to make 504 and stuffed them into their terra pot, next we made 505, .503, 506.We went to retrieve 502 which had been made lasts spring and had been hanging in the walnut tree all summer but it had disappeared. It was finally located down the hill – last weeks storm had broken its string and set it free All the compost preps except 505 where buried in Deb’s garden to transform over the winter.

The manure then arrived to fill the horns, we tried this new technique of putting a straw down the horn to prevent the air gap but gave up on this thinking it was useful for machine filling and our hand method did not require it.

It was then off to the burial pit down the valley to bury the horns & finally bury the 505 down in the swamp.

Next we were supposed to stop for morning tea but it did not happen instead we got stuck into the next job at hand being the making of 3 different sized barrel compost /cowpat pit. Being still inspired by Peter Proctor’s Indian experience we set about mixing the manure by hand for and hour. We use a kneading method which is such a wonderful unexpected experience .After the hour the compost preps were added to the 3 pit and our experiment had begun.