Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 23, 1972


Lecture 4, Part 4.1

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

The full text of this lecture segment




Continue to Lecture 4, Part 4.2

Back to Lecture Index Page


Contents of this Segment:

Loofah sponges; Specimens of various plants; Comfrey; Watering depth and frequency; Decrease watering as plants come into fruit or flower; Drying off plants before transplanting; Time to cut flowers before the sun hits them in the morning; Collect berries when absolutely dry; Same with tomatoes; Bloom on fruit is essential to protect it; Fruit is best locally grown and ripened on the tree.


Full Text of this Lecture:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 4,

The Totality of the Garden, Part 1



As you see our flowers have very little look-in when Mrs. Gilbert is up here. I begin to feel a little bit like a conjurer rather than a lecturer, which is very much a better feeling. Well, you probably know what they are, but for anybody who doesn’t; they’re loofahs, a most wonderful thing for the bath for cleaning. It’s excellent for the skin. Steiner taught me this when I was about thirteen. And it brings up a wonderful vitality of the skin. As you realize, they are the intestines of a cucumber. They can be grown from seed. Anybody can grow them. I’ll put them here for further vision.

Just to run over some items: Here are numerous catalogues regarding seed matters. Nicholson, of Oregon, is the only one that I can really back as being organic. Some of the others are reasonably organic, but none of them are completely. This is a sample of bracken, for those who are not au fait with what bracken is… and I can hardly believe it; but there it is. And also there is an Ann Pratt, a green book of ferns, with a marker in at bracken. And, of course, Ann Pratt. Any of you who know these volumes of Ann Pratt: They’re absolutely unobtainable now. A most fabulous and beautiful compilation that deals with botany over a period of fifteen hundred years, and quotes and details of that entire period of time with practically every plant. So when you look up bracken with Ann Pratt, you will find that she goes back to Phoenician days. And they are absolutely fabulous to read, and absolute magic.

There are some dead sprays of bracken and some live sprays of bracken. I did ask them to get bracken mold, but they didn’t. But this does develop into mold, as you realize, within a year. And here is Symphytum officinale, comfrey. It is only officinale, which is the really robust grower. There are now six. And it was this, which a hundred years ago, when it was crossed with a Russian, with an Asian comfrey, produced one hundred tons per acre. There isn’t any question that those people who choose to use two or three leaves a day for life of this*, either as a tea, chopped up, or in the salad, or as a spinach, your health is quite a different matter to the average. It is an assessment. And of course, as a poultice for any bone trouble or break, totally invaluable.

Well, for the subjects today, I felt that—being our number four, our last of the series—I thought that we’d deal very much all over the place, and that we would give a larger time to questions at the end. First of all, if I may, I would like to talk a certain amount, a small amount, about waterings. The subject of watering and its maneuverments, in line with the technical procedures of which we have been discussing. It is understood that this method of growing brings about the utmost capillary, that is, rising waters. And with the utilization of that, the view should be light waterings, surface, almost daily, in the growing time. Now that is not a standard matter, this is a growing area time.

Understand that when you are producing, either a bed of vegetables, French Intensive system, or a bed of flowers, cut flowers, or even a decorative bed coming into flower, the method is, of course, to use all the water required during the growing period. But the moment that you begin to come towards fruition, you must reduce. And particularly with your flower boarders, your lettuce beds, your cauliflower beds, as they come into fruition, you must indeed lay off fast. Because otherwise what you will get is an acceleration of growth, which you have been aiming at all the time, and then, if you don’t make this change in your watering procedure, you will get an acceleration of growth out of blooming into seed, which, of course, you don’t want.  Therefore, the view is that you do this acceleration to a certain point of where your carnations, or your anemones, or your coreopsis is just beginning to come into bloom, in bud, in other words, you then reduce your waterings more and more and more, and then you must run as dry as you possibly can. And in this manner, you will get strong stalks. And your blossomings will hold very, very much better.

And also remember, in line with that holding, two other matters. That when you are going to transplant or prick-out plants, you must dry them off for a couple of days. Just as you must wean-off plants in a greenhouse into a cold frame before they can go out-of-doors. So you must, when you have plants in boxes to prick-out or to plant-out, you must begin to dry them off before they go out. In other words, they should be almost dry when you do your pricking-out or transplanting so that the moment they are pricked-out or transplanted you may water to the roots quite luxuriously, and they will get the volition of growth from this, and be grateful, and start to grow at once.

The other matter is that with your formal garden beds, for instance, and your cut flower beds, and your raspberry and strawberry areas. Now as you crop, you should do your crop throughout. And then, when your cropping is done, is the time to do your flood watering. And then you should wait again for your next cropping. In other words, if you have beds of flowers that you would cut twice a week, having cut, you should do the necessary watering. And then allow them to come into bloom again, not watering again in the meantime, cut your blooms, and after the cutting is over, do your watering.

Now all flowers should be cut before sunup. The moment the sun comes up, the flower has gone through the equinox period of the day, and is doing a live matter with pollens and nectars, and has ceased its rest of the night time growth. And is at its best, in keeping, if it is cut early in the morning. You may cut in the evening, late, if you must, but the early morning is the right time.

Now the very opposite, of course, applies to all berry crops. They must only be collected when completely dry from dew or other moisture matters. Otherwise they will not keep. So you’ve got a very opposition here. And also with ordinary fruit collecting, such as pears, apples, plums, peaches… They should only be collected when they are properly dry. Even tomatoes should not be gathered if there is moisture upon them. It is not only a fear of mildew, it is also a fear of damage to bloom. The bloom which is on the surface of the fruit will be damaged. And if this bloom is damaged, it is very serious. You  understand that no grape will make wine if you remove the bloom from the grape because it is the bloom on the grape that causes the—What’s the word I want? Thank you—fermentation. And it is the bloom on all fruit that is the great keeper of this fruit after it is picked.

Much of this has been forgotten today with the enormous commercial salesmanship of fruit, and the picking of fruit unripe. [This] leads to a matter, which I must speak of, of great interest. And it concerns very much the uses of fruits in a locality, rather than import and export. And it also concerns periods of crops, which I will again refer to in a few moments. But, that fruit, practically all fruit except pears, should ripen in the growth on the tree. This includes, of course, soft fruits such as strawberries and raspberries. Now what literally happens with fruit is this: During the growing time, acid juices flow throughout the fruit as a protective to the seeds, which is what the whole fruit is for, as you realize. It’s a clothing for the seed matters. Any problem with hearing at the back? Good. And all that is a continual flowing of sharp acids. Now only at a certain stage of completion, at a certain hour, on a certain day, the whole of those juices suddenly begin to change literally into what you might call sugars.


[*Ed. Note: Contrary to the general belief at the time this lecture was given, internal consumption of comfrey in not now recommended.]




[Text transcription 2015 by G. Haynes]




Return to the top of this page