Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 16, 1972


Lecture 3, Part 3.9

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

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Contents of this Segment:

Stratify compost pile with layers of greens, then kitchen swill, then a complete covering of soil; Benefits of sour milk as a compost starter; Live lime as foundation of vegetable clamp to expel rodents; Keep compost moist; Turning is not necessary; Special composting plants: nettles, comfrey.



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Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 3,

Fertilization, Part 9



...You can also use dead matter, sticks, leaves, grass, straw, lawn-cuttings. All that can go into this area of what I am referring to as green matter, which is the reference to weeds, hedge-cuttings, prunings, and so on, and so on. If you have real roughage matter in the way of sticks and orchard prunings, they should go at the bottom of a new heap.

Having got a good layer of green stuff, and it doesn’t matter what thickness this is, you now want to have collected kitchen swill. Swilling out of saucepans is invaluable. Boiled vegetable water that you haven’t drunk. Steiner taught me to throw away the vegetables and drink the vegetable water. I always put the vegetables on the compost and drink the water. However, some people like to do the reverse and then visit the doctor.

So, whichever you do, or do not, want goes on the compost heap. And all this should go in a bucket or a bin. And it’s quite advisable to keep it for two or three days and let it get what you’d call nice and bubbly. And into it goes banana skins, eggshells, bones, fish heads and all, all, all matter indeed from the kitchen, even a certain amount of paper, if you like. But be careful of lead print and so on, you know, on newspapers. A certain amount of paper is perfectly useful for making textural qualities.

The one thing to avoid, of course, is any form of glass or broken china. Get this in the garden and you’re in for trouble. All that belongs in the paths. And don’t forget that all tins are invaluable. Those for bringing on shrubs and trees in, as containers, and invaluable for drainage at the bottom of beds, deeply, or, preferably, in paths. And anybody who has great trouble with gophers or moles, if you build your paths of broken bottles, which are permanent paths, of course, but if you build them two-foot-six, or three-foot down, using the soil for valuable matters, and throw all your bottles, and china and broken stuff in the bottom, and tins galore, you will have excellent drainage, and the gophers can’t travel about the garden. They will be stopped by it.

That’s just a matter of using everything that there is, so to speak. You could also use, of course, any amount of paper and garbage in paths, at a depth. Now, having collected two or three days bubbly, you slosh this on top of all the green matter, and quickly get away. You must then have, or collect, whatever area is necessary in wheelbarrow, of soil. Light, good soil. It does not have to be fertile soil, it can be sand, it can be a loam, it can be stuff from under trees, it can be ordinary garden soil. But you don’t necessarily want manures or fertility in it. It is a covering that goes immediately onto the swill.

And, don’t forget that things like rotten fruit, all fruit peelings, old wine, and particularly, emphasis on sour milk. Sour milk will set off a compost heap quicker than any other matter. And, as I say, boiled out water out of saucepans, you know, the small amount that cleans the saucepan out. It is absurd to put all this in a garbage bin to be taken away. It’s invaluable in setting off your compost heap. And after that, as I say, cover the whole thing with soil, just a complete covering. That’s all that’s necessary.

And if at any time you do have an outbreak of fruit fly, or blue-bottle fly, or any of those things because of a lack of sufficient covering, or because something has interrupted the procedure, or you haven’t quite behaved and covered it properly, then don’t forget that the use of lime, agricultural lime, or basic slag plays its part immediately. If you’ve got fruit fly appearing, or fly attacking the scene, a slight covering or dusting of dry powder of either live lime, basic slag, or agricultural lime will stop that immediately. So, don’t think that because you’ve got a compost heap, you’re in for trouble in the vicinity. You’re not, ever. And this will also prevent slug and snail and rodents operating.

Just the same, whenever you make a storage of vegetables, always use some live lime underneath the storage, before you start placing the clamp, because it will stop all rodents and insects from attacking the matter. That compost heap proceeds in those layers ad lib. Do not put wood ashes, nor bone meal, nor manures. It goes on in those three layers. The moment the soil is on, you can start plonking weeds on.

Now, at all times, the whole of this heap has got to be kept moist—JUST MOIST. It does not… It must not be saturated and it must not run dry. So, whenever you’ve got time, it can be done in the daytime, some water sprinkling on it to keep it thoroughly moist. And this will start to fire each time that the layers go on. And you do not have to do any turning at all. The only turning you’ve ever got to do is if you decide that you don’t want any weeds to germinate.

Now, in nearly all cases, a good deal of weed seed will be eradicated by the heat of fermentation, but certainly not, by any means, all. In fact, the joy of the garden after several years, is that you have apples, oranges, dates, everything, popping up everywhere. And you are introduced to endless new plants, every year, that you haven’t suspected. And it’s a great charm and part of the garden. And, of course, they all go back on the compost again. And add, and add, and add. And in this way, you will find that the fertility of your garden increases every six months. As that compost heap is made out of the garden, out of the waste, going back into the soil, becomes a huge multiplication immediately. And you get growth from that compost that you did not have at all before. And when that goes back onto the compost again, and comes back into the soil, again, you have a new lushness, with new weeds, that bring new birds, that bring new insects, and total invasions of everything.

Now, the vegetation matter of this compost now becomes the huge interest. For, you understand, that not only can you inter-grow these plants that have relationships in balance of each other, not only do they bring different birds, and different insects, but by the very fact that the different herbages, the weeds and the plants of the garden, contain characters. They, in being in the compost heap or in individual compost heaps, will again bring an infusion of their own, as relators to plants, to insects and birds, and to diseases and so on, and to growth.

So, I’m going to run through a list of the plants which play principle in the composting: The nettle, and it is only Urtica dioica. Symphytum officinale. There are many other Symphytums, they all play parts, but the officinale is still beyond the rest. A huge subject in the Symphytum. It is, still unbeknown, in the last hundred years, the value of this plant, both to people, to livestock, and to the garden. It is the enormous manufacture of compost.

We have just had Doubleday research visiting us. They are the biggest organic research in the world. They have come to a decision and a total conclusion. They’re putting out their sixth publication of their discoveries. They have come to the conclusion, by experimentation, that it is possible to grow literally any crop, but a principle emphasis upon the potato, entirely upon the use of Symphytum, solely as the fertilization. I have used it for fifty years in every way. Yes?

What is the vernacular term for that?

For Symphytum? Yes. Comfrey. Comfrey is of the same family as Borago, Forget-me-not, Echium, and is of the Vereneciae family, the Veronica, or, in common name again if you want, a more common name than the common name, Speedwell. It’s a whole huge family to which also Cynoglossum belongs. And Cynoglossum is an interesting plant that we must deal with next time, not this.




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