Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 2, 1972
Lecture 1, Part 1.5
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
The full text of this lecture segment
Contents of this Segment:
Breathing of plants increases as a result of the breathing of soils; Cycles of plant growth; Raised beds as imitation of natural landslides; French Intensive Method; Deep cultivation; Worms; Deep-rooted plants; Frost and snow as natural cultivators; Glaciers; Plant growth creates fertility if the correct systems are used.
Villa Montalvo Lecture Series
Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 1,
Cultivation, Part 5
They all are covered with little tiny, minute hairs. And these hairs are breathing the warm, moist gases that are given off either by the soil or the air. In other words, you must think of every plant… When you think of its roots you must think of its leaves in the soil, and when you think of the top you must think of its roots in the air. And that puts it in a better balance to what we usually think. And you mustn’t think of a stalk and leaves and blossom and seed as all being separate entities; of course they’re not. It’s a whole cycle of evolution, of which the plant is not aware that the blossom is the high spot, or the fruit is a high spot, or anything else is a high spot. In fact, as you understand, the only difference is us, who happen to chop off the flower of a cauliflower and boil it alive, or take the beautiful lily bulb of the onion and eat that, or cut off the heart of a lettuce just when it’s going to burst madly into bloom. All of that is just man’s attribute, and we must remember not to diagnose the plant world on our uses of it. In other words, in a certain sense quite clearly, plants live by breathing warm, moist gases out of the soil into the air, and out of the air into the soil, with the alternate planetary pulsation of breathing or sucking.
Therefore, it is quite obvious that when a landslide is far more open to the cycles of pulsation, the plant growth is more realistic, more voluptuous in its response. For the plant growth, remember, is not like human beings who have very much become divorced from the cycles of nature. We are not aware at the moment, of what the stars and the Moon, and the night is doing. We are divorced in a little wooden room of great charm. But plants do not all go to bed every night and go to sleep and get up in the morning and have coffee, and turn on the television. They sleep in huge periods, total, day and night. Sometimes only with the moon, of course, at night when it is declining. But when the Sun is inclining and the Moon is inclining, they are awake, vitally, day and night, growing like profusion, like mad, and breathing and pulsating with it all. And that there are nocturnal plants, and nocturnal insects, and nocturnal birds, and nocturnal people. And one must not instigate divisions of this. This is biodynamics, this and that.
Now, when the Greeks discovered this matter about the landslide, they did a test. And they took the beautiful alluvial soil of a valley and they raised it and put plants on it, and sure enough, the plants grew better. For those two reasons, very obviously, as they discovered. Whereupon, after a short time they got rather tired of making that landslide by hand. And so they got a whale bone, or a piece of wood, and they went along and kind of made a furrow which threw up a rilt of soil of which they placed the seeds and the plants. And later on they managed to get an oxen and put some thongs on him, and one of them pressed the wooden thing into the ground and the other one pulled the oxen madly and they made what they called a furrow in a field. And of course today we have all these giant machines that go tearing round the place causing a creation of dust. And that’s exactly what they’re doing, but none of them know it. They’re making landslides everywhere.
And this is the whole procedure of the basis of the French Intensive method. However, we will go into that in our propagation period. What I want to bring about is the vision of what happens by having a raised bed. That you get beautiful drainage and warm, moist air to the roots. And you must use hot beds in the winter, to bring about this matter of emanation of the summer and, of course, the use of hortus or glass for falsifying the matter in areas where you’ve got intense cold. We will discuss all that later.
Now in this discussion of cultivation of soil, it is terribly important to realize that the deeper the cultivation of the soil, the better is the pulsation, the movement that takes place with the cycles of growth... that brings about growth. And into this vision has to come the thought of worms. And we will talk much more of this later. But you realize that there are no implementations of man that will go down more than so many feet. On the contrary, there happen to be a great variety of biodynamic plants which do this matter. Now worms do not go, of themselves, into sub-soils. They remain in the moveable parts of soil and will not enter the sub-soils, which are congealed. However, the roots of certain plants such as Rumex, Dock, such as Lucerne, which normally goes down—oh, Lucerne is in your language, alfalfa—normally it will go down twenty-five and twenty-six feet. In problematic areas it’s often known to go fifty and sixty. Now what happens immediately, and of course you realize I’m talking now about nature’s cultivators, which biodynamics all entertains. And there are endless… All of the family of the carrot and the parsnip are deep-rooteds. Rhubarb will go twelve and fourteen feet. And all of these go down into the sub-soils, through sub-stratas, which are absolutely congealed.
And the moment that the roots begin to aerate the sub-soils and go down, the worms travel down with the roots and say, “Thank you; that’s lovely; beautiful; home.” and down they go. And the moment that worms operate in soil they do two things: They cultivate like fury, and they also fertilize like mad. You realize that all those little worm casts that you see on a lawn, or on the golf links are two varieties only of worm which like to come up out of the Earth to do their duty. And that’s exactly what the worm cast is: it’s a manuring. But there’s only two out of something like sixty-odd worm families that do that. The rest all do their duty down in the soils. And all of this is a huge and enormous matter of cultivation. So when the average modern commercial farmer roars with laughter at the organic growers and says, “They’re always talking about worms....” It’s a vastly underrated subject and not overrated.
However, you do of course realize that, amongst all the other methods in the world, climatic is a huge cultivator. Frost and snow is one of the soil’s most beautiful cultivators; it lifts, it aerates, and purifies. And indeed, of course, we all know that some of the most beautiful garden soils of the world, farm soils of the world, have been created, of course, entirely of glacier. The whole of Long Island, where I established two quite considerable gardens for millionaires, was in that area. And that at one time the Hudson glacier carried, from the Appalachians, all those wonderful forest soils mixed with the minerals from the rocks, dead birds, fossils, and snail shells, and insects galore, of which we’ve never known anything about, carried them all down in this huge receptacle and gradually, as it swept out into the Atlantic, deposited them all and built this wonderful compost, soil, of life into death into life, out of which any farmer can receive a fortune if he merely cultivates and grows. Throughout the world those areas have been deposited and operated.
And of course, there are many others. And we must always remember that the enormous procedure of the cycles, of which we will talk next time… Clearly, that the pulsation that is going on all the time, breathing, is a creator of cultivation. That the very fact of plant life becoming prolific, is a cultivator. That if you produce in your ground beautiful cultured plants, lush, they are actually magnifying the culture of your soil by their breathing, by their causing breathing, by their causing insects, by their causing worms, and their manipulance of the soil.
And when anybody tells you that you will exhaust your soil by producing crop after crop, they have got exactly the wrong tack. Because the more lush that you can get your crop, the more lush is your soil when your crop comes out. If not, your systems are incorrect. If your systems are correct your soil is improving all the time. And I am prepared, as I have been during my life in horticulture, to tell you that I can show you any beds that I have produced crops in for four years, with three crops a year, that those beds are better when that crop comes out than when it went in. This is a continual mathematical building up of the lushness and the luxury of fertility…