Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 9, 1972


Lecture 2, Part 2.4

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

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Contents of this Segment:

Thermal control; Continuous and accelerating growth of plants; Using young vegetables for food; Continuous harvesting; Selecting varieties of vegetables; Weeding of beds; Warmth in the seed beds; Dry off seedlings before transplanting; Water only to roots for two days after transplanting; No additional watering.


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Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 2,

Propagation, Part 4



…cultivation. The plants look after the bed. The gaseous explosion of the matters underneath and the breathing of the plant on the hairs on the roots and the hairs on the leaves will keep the whole formal thing living.

Now they have gone out in the evening, and by the very next morning growth will start. There will be no stoppage whatever. And they will now grow to fruition, and at the right time, according to what the plant is, you will crop. Now, what comes about of that is this matter: We said last time, and I repeat, if a plant stops growing, a toughness sets in. And out of that toughness never comes a proper rejuvenation. In other words, you’ve got to think in line of: raise from seed, begin to grow, grow, grow, grow, grow…, crop. It must not stop this acceleration. And this is the whole technical procedure of this matter. If the collar of a plant becomes choked, or a plant goes blue with cold, that collar will become tough. And it is the whole entry of the plant, so to speak. It’s like somebody taking you around the throat…, and nobody can stand it. It’s like having a tight collar.

And so you have got a thing that you would call acceleration, not only of the cycle. All this has been in complete combination of the understanding of the growth of nature that is going with the plant, or the plant has been going with it, if you like. But it is also a matter of a combination of vitality of soil. So that what you get is this. You sow your seed and you get: 1,2,3, prick-out. 4,5,6, [increasing in speed] plant out. 7,8,9,10,11,12 [faster and faster], crop. And so it’s a continual acceleration. And the plant is growing faster… And what happens is this: You get, in your vegetable, a beautiful, tender, succulent, juicy flavored vegetable. And in your flowers, you get this luxuriant growth. You get lovely color, excellent form, and no stoppage, no toughness. And this is what you’ve got to go for. And if you imagine that out of that French intensive bed… If you imagine that you are going to be stymied for any reason: You are wrong.

For I will tell you this. For instance, supposing that you have got a carrot bed, or a beet bed, or a turnip bed. You have sown the seed in the bed, not in the box in those three cases. And that bed has all been done in stratifications and formation. And that when you come to use that bed, you can pull those vegetables—and remember that you should use all vegetables young, never full grown at all—young, so that they are really tender and need literally no cooking. And raw they are delicious and full of vital vitamins and nutriment.

Now when you pull those vegetables, you should merely, what is known as, thin. And you can go on in a bed of beet, of turnip and carrot, for three to four months. Because the breathing and the closeness of that planting produces an intensive culture of growth whereby toughness does not enter the scene, even with considerable aging.

Now understand that, in line with this vision of technique, must go a constraint of yours of choosing your varieties. You must choose excellent varieties for these matters. I would recommend to you, in the lettuce world, Bibb; in the carrot world, the Chantenay. And all of these are what you would call the vegetables to be used in the young state, not to go to a full-sized, enormous, tough vegetable. All of these are unnecessary to cook at all. And cauliflower, the early snowball. The turnip, the flat white Dutch. All of these are delicious and grow excellently in this way.

The weeding of the beds in which permanent seeds are sown in the permanent beds is taken in exactly the same way as in the seed boxes, the pricking-out boxes, and the planted-out bed. You weed when the plants have started to get under way and try and chase the weeds, and that is the time to remove the weeds.

Temperatures regarding seed raising: a very important item. We have mentioned the use of tepid water. And likewise, it must be understood that the germination of seed requires more temperature than the growth of the young plant. In most case of the fine seeds such as, shall we say, tomato, Cineraria, Primula… Well, Cineraria and Primula you would need 55-65. Tomato 60-70 is best. Some need 65-80. Whereas the more ordinary matters such as lettuce, leek, cauliflower… 50 [degrees]. And, of course, you must always allow a ten degree drop at night. But, after germination it is well to make your plant strong and hardy, and to reduce that temperature over both, by ten degrees, day and night. So that your temperature for raising should be: those boxes placed on slats over heat. And after germination has taken place, to lay off a great deal of that heat and reduce it in order to have a strong plant.

Another note that is often overlooked. When you are going to prick-out or transplant any plant, particularly seedlings, give them a day or more without water. Dry them off, as it is called. And you will find that the take is very much better. When you have pricked-out or planted out, do not, not, repeat not, water overhead. Water to the roots only for at least two days. With boxes, a tin [can] with a lip made to it, run backwards not forwards, backwards between the plants is an excellent method for watering to the roots.

And the other method is that, when you are actually planting out, it is well not to have your soil… of course, you can plant a plant much better into a dryish soil rather than into a wet soil. And therefore it is far better to do so, because of the amalgamation of the soil amongst the roots. And that you should indeed have a bucket of water with you, and water the plants in as you go row by row. When I say row by row, I mean batch by batch into the bed.

And that it is very important not to cosset. When you have transplanted a plant, many people think, “Oh poor dears, they’re wilting.” Well, in the first place, they shouldn’t wilt. But if you happen to get a very hot, sunny day, it’s quite likely that a cauliflower or a lettuce would start to hang over a little, and everybody will want to rush out and give it water. It’s nonsense. You must not cosset a plant out. Why? Because if you do, you will start to make the foliage breathe, and that’s exactly what you don’t want. You want the foliage and the top to rest for a few days—and that’s why you have planted it in the declination—to prevent the plant from growing on top in order that the root should become thoroughly established. And so you must be, like you are with children, FIRM and SEVERE. They know, "You’ve got to wait." And then, when they are under way, then you can apply the proper amount of waterings.

Well, would somebody just give me the time? Thank you. Right.

Let us try and deal with the cycles quickly. It would be well to try and leave this out simply because it’s a vast subject and really takes a lot of time. But it’s impossible because this particular system…, and it’s one Steiner’s resuscitations of an ancient method. It began in the Chinese agriculture of five thousand years ago.





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