Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 16, 1972


Lecture 3, Part 3.8

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

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Contents of this Segment:

Raised beds; Compost; Do not add manure to compost; Building the compost heap; Shady places are best; Warm gasses needed by plants are produced by compost; Life into death into life; Use compost at the moment of the height of its decomposition; Two and one-half to three months is usually enough time; Open the ground underneath; Green matter is best; Harvest weeds before they go to seed.



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Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 3,

Fertilization, Part 8 will produce worms, it will produce growth, it will produce breathing, it will produce humus. And this is what humus, in a sense, is. It’s fertilization matters with moisture.

Operation of cycle: The raised beds of the French Intensive system are produced in line with the whole of this thinking. That the method of watering a raised French Intensive bed is the highest form of culture that brings about the operation of humus: the marriage of fertilization with fertility. And that at no time do you leach out your fertilization with your water, you maintain it all the time. And growth is kept all the time. And at no time is the soil sealed. And in this way, the two inches above the bed and the half inch into the bed is kept at a temperal condition of growth, the very equinox of growing.

Compost: There are endless techniques of making compost heaps. Some people will say you can put manure in, you can put chicken manure in, you can put everything in. You should not, classically, technically, put any manure in your compost heap, ever. Manure is a separate item and should be applied separately, just as bone meal should be applied separately, as wood ashes, and even leaf mold should all be dealt with in their identities, separate. They should all be kept in bins, or bunkers, or piles. And remember that fertilization and fertility are one if they are kept moist. The one moment when you remove, and you either saturate or dry, you lose fertility. It is all-important to remember this.

The compost heap should be built in a shady place on opened ground, not on cement, not on wood, not on metal, not on anything but ground, open. It should not, preferably, be built upon the roots of trees, which will come up and feed upon it instantly. Try to keep out from right under trees. But a shady place, not in the sun is best. You can’t always be a complete chooser, but that’s the thing to go for. The area does not matter at all. The area should be adequate to the amount of compost that you’re capable of making. That it is well to make many compost heaps. That they should be closed frequently, and another one opened and set up.

Before I go into all the details of the plants, and the preparation of the compost, let us just discuss quickly the use of. Most people imagine that a compost heap is in order to make either soil or loam. Rubbish. Plants feed upon juices, upon warm gases. The whole reason of compost is texture in the ground that brings about warm gases, and the actual propulsion of warm gases out of decomposing matter. Now, if you have an orchard of apples, of apricots, or plums, and they fall on the ground, you will get all sorts of disease, of insects, of plague, all sorts of different things.

This is a procedure, that if you leave dead leaves on plants, other leaves will die. That plants do not like the dead leaves around them. Part of man’s delight to them is man’s labor, man’s manipulation with them, and they respond utterly to it, with utter delight. And that when you remove the dead flowers, again, the buds come open and last, and do not perish as they will if there are dead flowers. The buds even will die. They do not like it. They love man to assist and to share his life and to look after, with them.

In nature, only compost is made in certain, very rough ways. The whole garden and the farm is, in its own procedure, decidedly wasteful in this procedure. It needs and wants and begs man to enter the scene. The whole of man’s scene is to collect every scrap of everything: every twig, every leaf, every pod, every petal, and get it onto the compost. And within three months he has soil, decomposing compost, making gasses that will become soil. Everything that you need to bring about beautiful, healthy growth. Life into death, into life. Nothing, nobody, can ever sufficiently be strict in the garden and say “Pick up that leaf, get that little bit of grass, get it on the compost!”

When people pull up a weed and drop it, it is wasted. It dehydrates. The gasses go into the air, and just like the ash heap when all the flames and the smoke go up, your neighbor has it, and you do not. When it goes on the compost heap, you get every bit of it back, plus gasses. You cannot be sufficiently husbandry in the addition to your compost heap. Everything must go into it: every orange pip, every banana skin, every eggshell unless you want to keep your eggshells separately for the tomatoes, which you may.

So, the time to use the compost heap is at the height of its period of decomposition. Now, you will hear an enormous lot about chopping up machines, grinding machines, desiccating machines, and BD seter-off [Biodynamic compost starter, that is supposed to “set off” the decomposition process] and all the seter-offs and the chemical seter-offs and all the other matters. Well, a great many of them should go in the margin, they’re not important. I, myself, throughout about fifty years, have used very little of this. In fact, with most soils, I prefer the size of compost rather than a desiccation of compost. It’s far more valuable. If you place a plant in compost that is great stalks, such as Helenium, and so on, you will find that the roots of the plant prefer the rough, the really rough compost to anything fine. And of course, your capillary is much greater also.

Therefore, the time to use the compost heap is generally around two and a half, to three, to three and a half months. The winter is rather quicker, generally, than the summer because of dryness. However, if you keep your heap thoroughly wet, you would find, two and a half to three months is the average use of most of your compost. At that time it is decomposing and is full of matter. It will also be packed with insects, and you must not be concerned of this. It is also packed with germinatible seeds. And if you are going to jibe at this, then you must stockpile and turn your heaps, so that they are fired and destroyed.

My suggestion to you is, you want every seed possible to germinate, and to go back onto the heap as a weed. There are places where you can’t have it. There are times such as anemone beds and other beds, but then weeding is perfectly feasible and perfectly possible, and should follow. Therefore the period of using the compost heap is at the right moment, not when it is becoming soil. You can use some compost heaps, if you want to, as fine soil for sifting, for using as seed pans or pricking out, or for planting or for pot-work. Then you could use your compost heap at six months or a year even, if you want to. And you must label it to that effect: This compost heap is for potting soil. And you will leave it for a year. And you will know the date because at the date when you finished building it, you put a label in with the date on it, and you know exactly how long it’s been.

And you will find in every one of these compost heaps, if you’ve made it properly, when you come to use it and remove it, you will find it seething with worms, as many as twenty-thousand per fork-full. If they are not, there is something wrong. The place is an open piece of ground in the shade. And open up the ground, do not allow the ground to be a hardpan. Open it so that you get the breathing of the cycles of the soil. And simply layer in three layers. First of all, green matter is ninety-five percent above all other matter. So the more matter that you can use green, the better.

Never allow weeds to go beyond blossoming, literally, unless you want them for birds, in which case you must allow the seed. Sonchus, Senecio, allow to seed because the birds will come. And when the birds come and eat the seeds, they will eat all your grubs, and the balance will be kept. But normally speaking, with weeds, you want to use them at that time when they are at their fruition of coming into blossom. There are variations on a theme, as you realize. The Plantain is one of them. I’ll run through the list in a few minutes. A huge layer of green matter...




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