Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 2, 1972


Lecture 1, Part 1.10

An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms

The full text of this lecture segment




Continue to Lecture 2

Back to Lecture Index Page


Contents of this Segment:

Alan Chadwick patiently answers additional questions from the audience: Trapping gophers; Deer problems; Cover crops in the orchard.


The Full Text of this Lecture Segment:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 1,

Cultivation, Part 10



... and it’s a good way of using them in paths. And of course, it’s excellent drainage for a path.

Q: What about traps?

A: Well now, you see, you’re talking about destructibility and traps is the answer if you want to save an orchard and if you started a garden… You see, the gopher is, as you know, a terribly ancient animal, and it possesses the area where it’s been, you know… where it’s lived. I personally, I will go to the extent of the earth to try to tell somebody or something to behave. And the last thing I ever want to do is to destroy it because it’s my loss, not its. Do you understand?

Q: Inaudible

A: Correct, yes, I agree with your thinking, but it still doesn’t undo the biodynamic outlook which is to balance things up. There is one other, that I haven’t told you. … I was about to say it. … Ah, I’ve got it. Now you must have noticed that the Amaryllis belladonna grows fluently all over this part of California. Do you know why? When the Spaniards came here, they started vineyards and orchards and peach, in particular, and apricot and nectarine. And the gophers ate the trees. And the Spaniards happened to know that the belladonna Amaryllis, which is the most exquisite eye lotion, which will very quickly destroy your eye, it is so potent. I’ve been in the theater and I assure you actresses use it and practically go blind from it. It does make absolute sparkle like lunatics. This bulb is extremely poisonous. It did not grow in California at all. And when the Spaniards came and found their trees being eaten, they brought the belladonna Amaryllis and they planted it all amongst the orchards. That’s why you see it so fluently in orchard areas and on edges around orchards. Belladonna Amaryllis is the pink lily that blooms in the summer. [Naked Ladies?] Well, I wouldn’t know it by that term. [laughter]

Q: How dangerous are these plants that chase the gophers away?

A: Well, yes. The bean of the Ricinus is decidedly so. And so you’ve got to be a bit careful. If children pulled that off and ate it, they’d certainly have to have some castor oil. Quite. So you’ve got to beware.

Q: Will these work on ground squirrels too?

A: I’m not sure. I haven’t really met the ground squirrel in life very much. You know, I haven’t lived with it and I don’t know what its food is. So I can’t answer that; I don’t know. I do know that when the gopher actually ate the Amaryllis first, because it had not met, and the gophers here had lived upon the Cimithis*. The Cimithis is a very rare bulb, which happens to grow prolifically in California. And was once found in Ireland, and drove every botanical European off his head with delight. Cimithis is that lily that blooms here in the summer that has the finest of stems that you can’t see, almost, with little tiny white star-like lily blooms on it, with a wonderful scent at night. Do you know it? It has a quantity like a candelabrum, or rather like an [ ]. And this plant is called Cimithis, and was known to the Greeks. There’s no other name for it, no common name, and it’s a family entirely of its own. It has no relatives whatever. Now the gopher, as you know, builds a well and puts bulbs and roots down it as storage for the dormancy period. And it used to collect the Cimithis by hundreds, and I have actually found them, and Ornithagalum, and placed them all down in this well and then live on them during the dormancy period, which is its method. And of course, when they planted the Belladonna, the Amaryllis, the gopher, not having known it before, did the same thing, and apparently died. So although the Spaniards didn’t mean it to die, it certainly did. And thank goodness.

Q: How do you keep the deer from eating the roses?

A: They say that the deer are much more frightened of noises than anything of sight. There was an old-fashioned method in California of a string hedge with some sort of noise like tin cans. And when they bump it, those cans go, and the deer will bolt. I do know that the use of blood meal and bone meal on plants, where the smell is potent… They won’t come near. They’ll keep right away altogether.

Q: The deer here at Montalvo are tough…

A: I see. How about a good dog?

Q: We have people and deer and dogs on all sides…

A: People I have no cure for at all. None. I lived with students, and I know exactly what you mean.

Q: About cover crops. I raised a cover crop in my orchard of vetch and rye. And I cut it down to ground level and composted the green stuff. The question is: What do I do now? Should I try to water it and grow a second crop from the same roots, or should I till the roots in?

A: What type of orchard? [A mixed home orchard.] I see. And does that cover crop go up to the stem of the tree? Does it entirely cover the ground right up to the tree, or do you have aerated area? [No, it covers the ground right up to the tree.] You would be advised to have an aerated strip so that aeration can take place to the surface roots. Then you may, or can, run a cover crop into continual shooting by cutting it down and letting it shoot up. But you should, in this case, apply wood ashes once a year, after the dormancy period, before the spring shooting, to that area which is cultivated, to produce the required nutriment to the soil that would balance the nitrogenous reactions in the other area. I would strongly recommend you to look up Wickson, “California Fruits” on this subject, and you will get a huge summary of knowledge on that matter of his endless experiments on this, and which proved to be best. There is a huge knowledgeability there.  And I have put these matters to the test, also. And that’s my answer to that.

Q: You wouldn’t till the whole orchard?

A: Definitely not. Not unless you were having some bad fruiting problem. If it was proving satisfactory, by no means.

Q: Where do you get all of that wood ash?

A: Ah, now. Let us deal with that in Fertilization, because Steiner himself taught me the whole of this method, and it’s very interesting, and there is a whole world of knowledge connected with it. So we will deal with wood ash in Fertilization.

Well, thank you so much, Mr. Chadwick.



[* Ed. Note: The Cimithis of California is commonly known as Indian Soap Plant.]




Return to the top of this page