Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 16, 1972


Lecture 3, Part 3.11

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

The full text of this lecture segment




Continue to Lecture 3, Part 3.12

Back to Lecture Index Page


Contents of this Segment:

Biodynamic preparations; Importance of texture in soils; Sunflower stalks; Earwig traps; Jerusalem artichokes; Hollow stems; compost of seeds; Potatoes for cleaning new soil; Questions from the audience: Best oaks to use for leaf mold.



The Full Text of this Lecture Segment:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 3,

Fertilization, Part 11



A quick list of a breakdown for a compost heap, simply because it was one of Steiner’s and one of Pfeiffer’s pet matters, and I have never found it intensely interesting. But the exposition of their BD breaker-down is a combination of the juices of, and extracts from, and, for instance, with the Oak bark, the extraction of the tannin by setting it for three weeks, rather as you would do with Quassia chip. And it is these seven: Valerian, Nettle, Symphytum (or Comfrey), Anthemis (or Chamomile), Oak (or Wattle, wattle being Acacia), Yarrow, and almost any of the strong Lactucas. Now the juices, as a combination of those of extract, you can either do it as a, what you would call a “tea” matter by putting almost boiling water on the plant and then pressing it and getting the juices off. But this does not apply to the Wattle or the Oak, which you must do by at least three weeks extraction. And in some cases you would find that a little oil and old wine or vinegar will bring out the juices far better, but that is a matter more of tinctures.

For instance when you want to do Rosemary on Sage for the hair, with perhaps some... can’t think of it... you would use an Olive oil or a Sunflower oil in layers, with a little old wine or vinegar, and then place that in a container with a tight lid, and for three weeks, to keep shaking it continually, and pressing it. And in this way you will get the juices of the Rosemary and the Sage and the Verbascum. Verbascum brings out the most scintiillation of hair, particularly with blonde hair. It was the whole charm of Helen of Troy, the whole charm of the ancient Greeks, of their hair, right up to Elizabethan days, those three.

Now also, do realize that what one is talking about in the compost heap is just as much texture as matter. That texture in the soil, and this is hopelessly overlooked today, where everybody thinks of powder. And this is where the rototiller goes in the dust-bin, or the garbage-bin, because it doesn’t belong in the ground at all. If you like to use it on the surface, and make a nasty noise, do so. But don’t use it on your lower soils and never on your subsoil. You want texture down there, and that’s one thing a rototiller can’t give you at all. However, I’m not out to be put to prison by the manufacturers of rototillers, there may be a good one.

What you want in your soil is texture. You can’t have enough good texture. Great chunks of texture. Great chunks of compost. Huge stems rotting in the bed is what roots like; they adore it. You who are perhaps testing for the first time the use of eggshell with tomato seedlings, will discover when you come to lift these plants to plant them out, that wherever the eggshell is, even though you haven’t broken it up, whole bunches of it, you will find that all those roots have tenaciously got hold of the whole thing and have gone mad in it. And you will see this immediately, just as they do in the leaf-molds in the bottom of the boxes and so on.

So, I now mention the stalks of Sunflowers. You know the very big Sunflower, the single big Sunflower that has that enormous great stalk? This is invaluable on the compost heap. And, of course it will breed earwigs because that’s the kind of thing earwigs love to get in. But you can have your earwig traps. And in any case, if you use earwig traps in your garden, you will not have earwigs. Ever. It gets rid of them at once. Also, the Helenium. The stalks of Helenium also have a huge vital matter in them of herbal qualities, of juices. And I am talking about the Artichoke, or the Jerusalem artichoke, which is a Helenium or small Sunflower. And this grows up to sixteen, eighteen feet high and is a very over-looked and underrated vegetable that you can leave in the soil throughout the winter and use every day or any day that you want. A delicious dish, raw for salad, or brais√© in a casserole, is beyond words of deliciousness. Some people loathe it. It’s the ideal food for diabetics, because it contains in sugars, only a form of insulin, would I have to say? Inulin, thank you.

Homs in general, the homs of a potato, the homs of any... You realize that a hom means a decadent stem of any plant. The homs of peas, the homs of all the beans are all invaluable on the compost heap, even apart from what one has said about live green matter. They do produce texture.

Now, an experimentation which comes very much out of my own experimentations, and which I will offer to you to use as you will. I have discovered a matter over a period of thirty-odd years. You understand that there has been a huge regeneration recently of what you call sprouted wheat bread, and sprouted cereals and all sorts of things. And before that came about, I was experimenting, of course, with endless types of compost heaps, to a madness and insanity. And it struck me, that the very essence of things was connected with seeds. And I used to find that certain nut-shells and hard-shelled fruits would suddenly produce extraordinary results in growths when, you know, composted. And I made tests upon crushed seeds, composted. Crushed Sunflower seeds and crushed seeds of the Foxtail Lily and suchlike. And at all times I found an enormous impetus, which came from no other form of compost. So, this is, in a sense, a future vision, but it is one for your thinking. That it would be very interesting for you to try endless experiments of little compost heaps of seeds, of crushed seeds, of broken seed of different kinds. And you will find enormous results from these composting kernels.

Don’t forget that whenever you make your preserves, when you make your peach preserve, your apricot preserve, or your plum preserve, there is no more superb method of adding a flavor to that preserve, but using the kernels of the stones. Crack your apricot stones, crack your plum stones. It may take you an unearthly time with a hammer, and you may end up with a lot of dessicated bits, but the flavor that comes out in that jam, and the pectos that it gives to that preserve is an enormity well worth the labors a thousand times over.

I am afraid I am inclined to run into side-angles.

To clean new soil, nothing is more excellent than growing potatoes. It’s a very old-fashioned recipe. When you have virgin soil, and you want to clean it, grow potatoes. Largely because the growth of the potato does mean keeping at your cultivation, and therefore, of course, your soil is vastly improved. So, if you do want to build new soil, the operation of growing potatoes is an excellent plan.

That is, briefly, a list of the plants that will produce you the best compost with the utmost matters concerning them, and that will bring about huge controls and vitality of fertility in the soil. Would somebody kindly tell me the time? Thank you.


We ought to go on to questions. We ought to go on to questions. I’m sorry.

Q: I have one: When you talked about the Oak mold are you talking about the California Live Oak, or the deciduous Oak?

A: I am, of course, referring principally to the deciduous Oaks. Quercus rubra, and many of the other Quercus. But it also does include the whole family of Oak, of Quercus, including all the evergreen Oaks as well. They all contain a similar characteristic in their deposit, but all deciduous are vastly preferable to all evergreen.




Return to the top of this page