Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 2, 1972


Lecture 1, Part 1.4

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

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Contents of this Segment:

Cultivation; The delicate and fragile character of soil; Protection of the mystery of fertility; Wild nature is more potent in its vitality and resistance than garden plants; The virtue of weeds; Life into death into life; the Vision of the gardener can transform dead soils into fertile soils; Discovery by the Greeks that plants grow best on a landslide; Drainage; Breathing of soil.


Full Text of this Lecture:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 1,

Cultivation, Part 4



Cultivation then.

I would like to talk to you deeply about soil because it is very obviously a subject…[which], however deeply we delve into it, we find it more and more intangible and delicate. The word astonishes students at the university. If one mentions the word delicate connected with the soil, which of course, they call dirt, they can’t understand at all what one is getting at. I would say to you right at this moment now that soil wilts more quickly than any plant. It bruises more easily than any fruit, and very few people are aware of this matter, and it’s very vital.

That soil is a myriad variation. There is no two soils alike, nor ever will be. That fertility is something which happens in soil. And when fertility happens in soil, magic proceeds. I put it like that because, cultivation, culture, can and does produce fertility in soil. And fertility can be lost in the most beautiful of soils within a few moments by casualness, carelessness, and a strange word that I hardly believe in, ignorance. Bruising and wilting and all such matters are part of the un-culturization of the fertility of soil. What I am in a sense suggesting to you is, that fertility in soil is a matter of producing a life force in a subject matter which almost anything can contain. And that is why hydroponics have entered the scene, and of course, have proved ineffectual. That you can actually grow in sand, that you can grow in leaves, that you can grow in all sorts of emaciated nonsense, by producing life in it, temporarily, or momentarily. And it’s a huge matter of deep discovery, observation and sensitivity, how and in what form and to what extent we can, may and should produce fertility in soil.

This is also connected, of course in cultivation. That’s why I’m going to talk about cultivation. In the first place about talking about the fertility that comes through cultivation, one must come to an understanding on this matter. That all plant culture by man loses certain vital qualities of original nature. That all origin plants are far more full of vital matters than are the more and more cultured, and of course, as you go into hybrid, less and less, vitalities in plants. In other words, a statistical matter is, for instance is the lactucarium in grams, extracted from the sativa and the Leontodon. And it amounts to this, that from the sativa you would get anything from nine to eleven grams of lactucarium. Whereas from the Leontodon—which is the origin, of course, of the garden lettuce—you would get anything from fifty-two to sixty-eight grams.

And of course, this is no extracted identical matter, I mean that they’re all… All plants, in a sense, are relative to this degree. You would probably know, for instance, that Anthemis, from which chamomile comes, and which its common name is, that if you extract the chamomile from the garden Anthemis, you get an almost useless antidote as a skin lotion. But if you go to nature, where this poor plant is trodden and walked upon and thrives much the better for, interesting note, you will get a most wonderful skin lotion in chamomile.

And this applies throughout. And it’s a little bit of reference to the subjectivity of what I was touching on before the coffee interval, and that is about strength of origin of nature, and man removing it by the fact that everything he does in the garden is not truly for totality. It’s partly for selfishness, and therefore has only a part of the enormity of totality connected with it. Therefore, it must immediately be obvious that all weeds—and of course, all plants are weeds—are the greatest nutritious givers of soil. For all soil is made of dead everything: dead mountains, dead fish, dead animals, dead beetles, dead snails, dead leaves, dead sticks, dead trees, dead humans. That is soil: Life into death into life.

All the sticks and leaves that fall in the fall, in the autumn, are the soil bed of the seedlings of next year, with the cycle of the rising sun with the rising moons. I touch on this because I am going to speak towards the latter part of the cultivation about the Greeks, and what they discovered about certain plants and their uses in the manufacture of soil. Now, what this all amounts to is, that through this vision of plants and cultivation, you may take almost any soil you like, sand, impossible, stuff that looks nothing, and, cycle by cycle, you can bring about different growth, that will bring about different growth, that will bring insects, that will bring birds, that will bring animals, that will bring new weeds, that will bring new growth, and all the time is an evolution of the vision of creativity, productivity. More lush and more lush, just as the sedge made grass and then herbage, so your garden can begin on arid nothing, with mustard and cress and radishes, and in no time, lilies, tomatoes and raspberries.

Cultivation enters the scene, somewhat on this line, because this is the most basic matter concerning it. It was the ancient Greeks, who were such enormous observers of nature. And they discovered a certain matter. And this matter was that all plants grow better on a landslide to the beautiful alluvial soils of a valley, where they’re level. Wherever there has been a movement of soil, and it is upraised, they discovered that wild plants, all plants, grow better. And when they made tests to see what this was, and if it was true, they discovered that it totally was. And so, they found out that it was due to two important matters. The first one was perfect drainage connected with pulsation. The more movement capacity you have in your soil, the more capacity you have for culture. And the better drainage that you have, the better pulsation will take place in the depths of that soil.

The second one was, that a certain amount of warm air is an attribute to the roots of plants. Let us just assess a matter very quickly to understand why this is and what the difference is. Plants, whether they be weeds, vegetables, flowers, or what, they’re all plants that are going to bloom and fruit and seed...



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