Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 9, 1972


Lecture 2, Part 2.3

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

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Continue to Lecture 2, Part 2.4

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Contents of this Segment:

Influence of the moon; Pricking out; Need for continuous growth; Potting soils; Spacing on transplants; Ideal temperature of water; No overhead watering initially; Golden rule for covering seeds; Sensitivity of plants; Stratifications; Evening transplanting; Holding plants only by the leaves; Spacing of plants in the final beds.


Full Text of this Lecture:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 2,

Propagation, Part 3


Now, you have weeded your seedlings. You have sown with the inclination of the moon. I’m going to discuss the cycles in a little while. The inclination of the moon has gone to full moon; it has caused a voluptuous growth, and now the moon starts into declination after full and the plants start to sleep by night. It is time to prick-out [transplant]. At no time must your seedlings stop growing. If you, by careless technique, make a plant stop growing, a toughness will enter, and nothing will ever quite right that plant again. It will not be a perfect plant. There is no need to do this ever. The proper technical procedures and you will have the perfect culture.

Therefore, the correct time to prick-out is on the declining moon when the plant top sleeps, and the root will have the option to establish itself. So that as the plant enters two nights before the new moon you will again get a voluptuous growth with an established root, and no stoppage of growth.

The pricking-out is now done in a change. That is, you again have your leaf base, the same leaf base. You have, onto that leaf base, whatever the particular plant happens to enjoy in fertilization. Either a stockpiled manure or a little dash of bone-meal or a little dash of wood ashes, sprinkled as a layer, a strata. And into your “a third, a third, a third” you mix a little of that material which the plant likes. It’s generally speaking a manure, stockpiled manure, or a wood ash or a bone-meal. It could be some compost, extra compost. And it could be a variation, of course, on the sharp, the turf loam, and the leaf mold, in variation.

Now that is mixed together and the pricking-out is now done at just about double the distance of what they were. In other words, not quite touching, but very close again. Because still, they are baby children and they love to be together, and they love each other’s gentle, warm breathing. And they love to have the control that those plants are going to make of a temporal control over the soil by their moist breathing.

Now at all times, both the seed and the pricked-out seedlings should be watered with tepid water, never cold water. You should have a bin or a tank in your greenhouse or in your frame, or if you are going to do it out-of-doors with a covering, get a can of water, preferably rain water, and put enough warm water or hot water in it to produce it tepid. This is very important. Second note on that: When you have pricked-out, do not water overhead with a rose. And do remember with your seed sowing, your first seed sowing, that when you water those seeds, which you must do regularly, the watering must be done with a rose upside down: not pointing down, pointing up. And the water, instead of doing that, which is what you must never have at any time, does that, gently, the utmost gentility. All the beautiful old-fashioned water cans were made that way for the greenhouse, as you will remember, or I mean, those of us who are getting old.

I left out an important gold note about seed sowing. Covering of seed, golden rule: You should cover correctly. If you cannot and do not succeed in covering correctly, under-cover and never over-cover.  If you under-cover, you can always sprinkle if the seed becomes visible. If you over-cover, you are liable to stop germination. And you will certainly stop the impulse of the moon’s magnetism that brings about the germination. You’ll see the reason for this when we discuss it a little bit later.

Now that is the pricking-out. And when you have pricked-out into those boxes, remember that if you had one box of seedlings you should now have at least four boxes of pricked-out seedlings. And now the moon goes into inclination again, and this little plant grows like fury because of what happens. It has suddenly said, “Good gracious, I was in perfectly ordinary soil, and now there’s breakfast. How lovely, ummmmmm.” And every plant is so sensitive that the moment that any breathing of the plant takes place it is aware of everything that is in the soils around and below it, and, of course, in the air above it.

If you disbelieve me, just plant a bed of zucchini, or anything you like for that matter. But plant a bed of zucchini there and do nothing on the outside but leave all the soil plain and put a pile of manure on the ground over here. And just leave it for two months. And after two months, dig a trench around that zucchini bed and what will you find? You can start here and go there and you’ll find nothing. The moment you get in line with the manure, the whole of the roots are all underneath and coming out in the manure. They know precisely what’s over there. No argument about it. They knew the first day and they were off.

So all this breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner business is very important. Now, into your bed where these plants are going to grow and produce the vegetable or flower for you, you must now put all the desirements of their meals together. Breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner in stratifications, or if you don’t want to take the time and the labor of stratifications, then work all of those materials into the bed soil. But do have a raised bed and do have it on a compost seating for good drainage, and for combustion.

Now, again, when the moon has reached full inclination, those plants are growing like mad and breathing, and the little roots have got to the bottom. They’ve gone into the leaf mold, and they say, “Wow, how lovely. Oh heavens, I can’t get any further. Gracious.” And they will start—if you don’t do anything—to bolt, which means to go to seed, to flower. But that’s what they will do at once when they can’t grow any more. And this is the time that the moon now is going to go into declination, and the plants again, this time are going to sleep at night again.

Realize that on the inclination of the moon, the plants are living in the day and they are living at night. They do not go to bed, they do not stop. It’s one huge vociferation of growth. And then when the moon declines, regardless of what the sun is doing, there will be the sleep at night and the gentle breathing. Now is the time to perform the operation of carrying them from the pricking-out boxes to the final bed. And this should be done, preferably, in the evening. If you can’t do it in the evening, early morning is best. Never in the daytime, and always avoid wind. Wind is a disastrous destroyer of fine roots and delicate hairs.

Never touch your plant with your hands anymore than you could possibly help, and the only place that you should ever touch a plant is never on the stem or the collar or if possible the roots, but by the very tip or edge of one of the leaves. For this can and will repair; the other will not. It may sound pedantic , but it’s part of culture. And culture is always further vision.

Now those plants should go out into that bed in the French intensive system, so that as soon as possible the foliages, when it begins to grow, will all be touching over the bed, making then a complete thermal control of a half-inch under the soil and two inches above, so that no winds, no sun, no changes can take place. It’s got a beautiful thermal control and will keep breathing. No mulches and no disturbances and no even…



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