Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 16, 1972
Lecture 3, Part 3.10
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
The full text of this lecture segment
Contents of this Segment:
More on comfrey; Fava bean; Chickweed; Chicory; Rhubarb; Alfalfa; Pulsation; Clovers; Leeks; Sonchus; Senecio and the beneficial birds; Plantain; Nasturtium as control of white fly and as compost ingredient; Mustard as antidote to acid soils.
Villa Montalvo Lecture Series
Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 3,
Fertilization, Part 10
Symphytum is the heading of the organic, biodynamic garden without question. I had mentioned previously, and I still emphasize it, and it goes without argument, that anybody who uses Symphytum either as a tea, or as a drink, or as a salad, or as a cooked vegetable will have health for every day of their life, and an exceptional health at that.* That it has many other practices as well.
The Fava bean, as a huge builder of bacteria in the soil from the root, and is one of the hugest and biggest nitrogenous manufacturers. It is also one of the most exorbitant of texturizers, as nettle is.
Trigonella is vaguely of the Clover family, but it contains matters that no other plant does contain. As a weed in a compost heap, or as a separate compost, cannot and must not be overlooked.
Chickweed, Stellaria media, the little Chickweed: I did purposely put a piece in, and I am going to bring Bracken next time, by the way. I’m sure you do all know Chickweed. Stellaria tells you―it has the little white flower―covered with it. When you get a plant of this in the garden, it’s suddenly out there, three days “Oh, my God. Where are my plants?” And that is Stellaria media. A fantastic compost maker.
Bracken I’ve already spoken of.
Chicory: very largely for being a deep rooted, and making it possible for worms to operate. I think that I didn’t mention just now when I was discussing about deep-rooted plants―such as Rhubarb, which goes down fourteen feet, such as Lucerne, which goes down thirty to sixty feet―that these plants sending roots into the subsoils, into the sub-subsoils, cause the worms, which normally do not penetrate even the subsoils at all, cause the worms to immediately start operating down the roots, and thereby operating the cultivation and the fertilization of the soil. So you see how important deep roots, deep-rooted plants are, all the Heracleum family, that is the parsnip, the carrot and so on. How important they are to inter-place them in the garden in beds, with shallow-rooteds. Because wherever you have a shallow-rooted bed of lettuce, you want a deep-rooted in order to produce this aeration of the subsoil, to get the cycles and the breathing operating. The whole thing that we’re talking about the whole time is pulsation: breathing of soil, breathing of plants, happiness of living.
The Leontedon: deep-rooted, again. The Dandelion.
Lucerne, and all the Clovers. Peas. The whole of the Vetch family.
Rhubarb: I’ve just mentioned.
Leek. The leek for the simple reason―of course it’s a delightful vegetable, but totally apart from that―it makes the most conglomerate fiber, root, imaginable. Huge area of root per-plant, that texturizes your soil instantly. And you should leave the root area in the ground, and turn it in, and this will fiberate your soil for texture, so that the moistures can take place, and bring about fertility with the fertilization.
Sonchus, or Sow thistle, Milk thistle: Twenty percent protein, doesn’t mean a thing, of course, but it does. Also, Sonchus and Senecio, remember, particularly for bringing all the birds of the Finches, the Warblers, the birds that do utmost good in the garden, and delight, as well, and no damages whatever.
And then, of course, that tremendous family of Plantains. Utterly overlooked. And anybody who pulls a Plantain out ought to think twice, for most of the Plantains are far more valuable in the garden than most of the plants. Far more valuable. They are twenty percent protein. And in that twenty percent protein, like the Sonchus, it is full of oil. Enormous quantity of oil in the Plantain, which, when these plants get in the compost heap, or as individual compost heaps, all have their relative controllers and feeding matters that you will come to identify and play.
Perhaps the most surprising of all is the use of the common, the true common Nasturtium. This is the whole control of whitefly in the garden. You will never have whitefly wherever you have your Nasturtium. Wherever your problems are, even in a greenhouse, where you may get terrible epidemic of whitefly, that even the burning cone sometimes doesn’t eradicate, Nasturtium will drive them away, and does. However, far beyond that use, is its use as a compost maker. It is the quickest breaker-down of all the green matters. I myself, in South Africa, did experiments over three years, in growing Dahlias, prize Dahlias of the Lotus family, entirely on Nasturtium, which I grew on all the wild banks, where I could grow nothing else. On rock banks. I just scattered wild, ordinary Nasturtium seed, produced acres of Nasturtium, green, juicy matter. Pulled it all up in full lush growth, and lined all the trenches of the Dahlias, with this, and had blooms that surprised even the President―Prime Minister, I mean. The two Plantains of the utmost importance are Plantago major, and Plantago lanceolata. Many of the others have far less. And you must note, that many of these herbs that we are talking about, certain members of the families have infinitely more qualities than others.
For instance, particularly with the Equisetum. With the Equisetum it is arvense that is the important one. Now, how to tell it? Now you see, what a huge subject this is. We could spend practically the whole night discussing Equisetum because it is a fascinating subject anyway. It’s a wonderful plant to hold up banks, by the way. Wherever you have a bank which runs away or falls down, Equisetum will prevent it, as of course, will other plants, but Equisetum is excellent for it. Now, the way that you can tell Equisetum arvense is this, and it’s the only one, and the whole use of it is anti-fungoid. It’s a complete anti-fungoid plant because it grows on the rottenest drainage imaginable. It has to be, because otherwise it would be prone to fungoides, and it isn’t. And the only way which you can tell arvense from the rest is that all other Equisetums have little brown or black collars where the stuff all comes out of the stem. You know, it has this mad stem, with all this frilly growths. They all have black or brown, the arvense has green, and you will nearly always find it in rather gravelly, stony, pasturage places. All the other Equisetums grow in rather wet, boggy, moist places. But all the Equisetums only grow on ghastly drainage.
And here is the whole vision of what Biodynamics is: Something grows on appalling drainage and overcomes a problem, being understood becomes a joy. And this is the whole truth of what this vision is. So that the Equisetum, used as a juice, overcomes any fungoid trouble on plants, such as mildew. Oh, I’m sorry, of course. It’s Horsetail. Horsetail, or Muletail, or Donkeytail. But I believe it’s Horse.
Now, two invaluable plants: Many people suffer from over-acid soils, and you’re inclined to suffer from acid soil with an enormous quantity of use of leaf-mold, for instance. And, for instance, Walnut leaves will produce an extreme acidity of soil, and of course, pine, pine needles do, and such like. The immediate combat of that problem is to use Mustard and Shepherd's purse. They both bring about an immediate sweetening effect. So you can say “Well, I don’t like the idea of lime. What can I use?” You can use Mustard, and you can use Shepherd’s purse. Make a compost heap of them, and you will sweeten your soil immediately. Reduce acidity. Again, certain members are far more potent than others. It’s a huge family. I haven’t got a particular name to give you at the moment.
I do want to give you...
[* Ed. Note: Symphytum, comfrey, is no longer regarded as appropriate for internal use, as it was in the early 1970's.]