Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 2, 1972


Lecture 1, Part 1.9

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

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Contents of this Segment:

More questions and answers from the audience: Agriculture and Horticulture; All farms should be based upon the love of the land; Monoculture; Hybridization; Decline of seed quality; Control of gophers through companion plantings.


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Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 1,

Cultivation, Part 9



Q: Was there one particular point in your life when you were struck by the complexity of nature, and came to this “Biodynamic Vision?” I’m not sure exactly what that is…

A: I understand exactly what you are saying. And my answer is: Every moment of every day I am unutterably struck by the simplicity of the laws, which are so simple they’re totally invisible.

Q: Were you struck at some point in your life by this? That was my original question.

A: Yes, very definitely. After the war.

Q: Could you define the difference between agriculture and horticulture?

A: I say that, in truth, there is no difference. Other than that, agriculture is extensive lands for large productivity for goods, regardless of fine culture, whereas horticulture is primarily the great culture of the art itself, not necessarily for produce. You don’t mind if you get six lettuce or ten lettuce from a garden. But if it’s agriculture, you’ve got to have a thousand. That’s the best answer I can give. I love to combine the two because I cannot see any difference. It’s the same approach. I feel that all farms, all agriculture, should be the love of the land, the love of productivity, and should be very biodynamic in the fact its aspect should not be, “I am growing five miles of strawberries because I need twenty thousand dollars.” You see, this is what causes problems immediately. Or rather, it’s not the biodynamic aspect. Answered?

Q: Could you explain a comment you made earlier with regards to the proper planting of growth…

A: Yes, it is the answer. You see, I am talking about a system. I’m talking about a technique of culture; that is a vision. And that that technique brings about balances. That you can only grow deep-rooteds with shallow-rooteds to bring about worm culture. Do you understand? It’s a huge intercogging. That it doesn’t seem that man was ever meant to grow twenty miles of one thing. And if he does, twenty miles of some caterpillar is going to be delighted.

Q: Do you grow any hybrid vegetables down in Santa Cruz?

A: Well, of course you are entering on a slightly dangerous subject, but the answer is very definitely, “No.” We are… And I want to talk about this later, very much, because it’s become an acutely interesting subject. That even since I’ve been at Santa Cruz, five years, we have found the seed that we have been buying from excellent seed merchants—and America has wonderful seed nurseries—that we have definitely found a huge degeneration in some varieties particularly, enormous. And we have been doing very considerable tests in culling and taking our own seed. And I want to talk about this because it’s tremendously important. You see, the Greeks told us: Hybridization. You may do it the once and then you must stop. And that’s exactly what we have not done today. We hybridize, and then hybridize again, and then it’s finished. You may cross something for the first time if you like, and your result will be inferior. But you can’t do it again. That is my only answer on that at the moment.

We will be dealing with it later. In any case, I must add something to this because it’s such an interesting subject, I find. We must always understand, sometimes we think we’re running away and destroying the world, and "What the heck are we going to do about it." And suddenly you’re aware of a huge law. And you see, what you’re saying about… is a huge law, and you find that with hybridization… You see, you can hybridize Camellias. And they are hybridized today like mad. And what happens? The way of propagating a Camellia, particularly a Camellia that you love, is by taking a strike. You can’t take seed from it because it won’t reiterate. It won’t come true to what it was. So you’ve got to take a strike. And what happens with a hybrid Camellia? It’s a mule. It won’t strike. Nature turns around and says, “I’m very sorry. Don’t you realize that you’ve broken the law? You can’t do it.” And it won’t root.

Q: Do you rotate crops…

A: Oh yes, decidedly. Far more inter-relationship planting rather than rotation.

Q: Could you share your secret on gopher control this evening…

A: Yes, certainly, if you’re not all too exhausted and tired. The growing of certain plants is very obvious. The Euphorbias are utterly detested by gophers, and if you grow plenty of Euphorbia… The Euphorbia marginata, I am mostly referring to. I grew this in Africa where I had the white mole as big as that. And you can tell what that did in a garden. It is so bitter a plant… It is a plant, of which there are something like fifteen members of the family… And remember that the Pulcherima pulcherissima or the thing with red leaves… Poinsettia, thank you. The Poinsettia is a Euphorbia. Now all of those Euphorbias are, in a sense, desert plants that have a milk juice in them. Every one of them has this milk juice. And that milk juice is a kind of laudanum, and it’s practically poisonous. And when you have the tiniest cut, and you put any Euphorbia on that cut, you will suffer for a whole day with agony. Now when a gopher bites it, he gets exactly the same thing. Therefore if you grow this plant, and he eventually bites it several times, they will vacate. Also the Ricinus, as a hedge around your property, when you’ve got it out, will certainly prevent them coming through, the root of this plant and the seeds.

And of course, as you know, gopher snakes are invaluable; they really do get the gophers out. Another temporary one for getting gophers out of the garden, is to put fresh fish in the runs, when you open them. That will get rid of them for a few weeks but not for further. However, the elderberry will get rid of both moles and gophers out of the garden if you collect the growth of this shrub and push it up the runs. They cannot tolerate it. And in fact, it was a very old-fashioned habit, from about the fourteenth century onwards, in the early spring, to go round and pluck Sambucus, which is elderberry, and to beat all the bushes and plants of the garden with it, quite lightly like a duster. And caterpillars and aphids and all the undesirables would keep away. They just don’t like it. And of course don’t forget that another very potent plant in this matter is Artemisia. Artemisia vulgaris, Artemisia maritima, and Artemisia absinthium: All three of them are much detested by gopher and grow supremely in this locality. Now, those are all what you would call biodynamic controllers, if you’re prepared to grow them and use them as hedges.

Q: Is there a common name…

A: A common name for what, gopher? A common name for Artemisia? Yes, wormwood. The ones that the American Indian used as a [remedy] against poison oak. It has a very, very, strong, potent smell. It grows everywhere. And most of the Artemisia that grows locally is absinthium, which, believe it or not, is what Absinthe is made from, and they use a tremendous amount of it in whisky. I don’t drink it.

Q: Inaudible

A: Ricinus or castor oil. Yes, castor oil bean. The annual not the perennial, but both are proficient in the same thing. Also of course, you do realize, that a very excellent way to manipulate a garden against these matters is to dig out your paths, which are going to be permanent paths, and put in no end of glass. They won’t get through that. It’s a very good use for broken bottles and tins. If you set it in about two foot six to three foot deep, they really can’t get through that. They’ll get through a road, but they can’t get through broken glass.




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