Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 23, 1972


Lecture 4, Part 4.3

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

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Contents of this Segment:

Continuation of description of vegetable clamp; Decline in commercial seed quality; Chadwick's cherry tomato; Benefits of saving your own garden seed.



Full Text of this Lecture Segment:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 4,

The Totality of the Garden, Part 3


… and that it must have no mildew. You then want three bricks or stones, and a chimney of any sort, about as wide as that. Any chimney thing that’s tall enough. And no matter what the size of your vegetable crop, whether it’s potatoes… And they will all keep perfectly in this clamp. You now, having collected those vegetables, make sure that they are reasonably not sogging wet; they can be moist, but not wet. And this is therefore done on a reasonable day. And you pile all these vegetables onto this straw bed. And the size of the clamp must be adjustable to what the quantity of your vegetables are.

And as you begin to place these vegetables on the straw, you now place your three stones in the middle and you place your chimney on those stones so that it’s lifted off the straw base. And the vegetables all pile up around the chimney, holding it in place as it goes up. And eventually you have a great pile of potatoes or carrots, or beet, all piled on top of each other, without the tops, and of course, reasonably clean. And no damaged vegetables to go in at all. Any damaged vegetable will set off everything around it. Just the same in the fruit store: no damaged fruit. And inspection in the fruit store regularly to remove such.

Now, having put the whole of your vegetables on this pile, you now cover them with clean straw. And on top of that clean straw, you place a huge canopy of any kind of soil. But before you now close the soil and build a whole canopy of it, you place, at any side which is suitable for your approach, what you would call a door. You may use a piece of wood, a board that size, or six bricks, or a metal thing… anything you like, should be placed at the bottom on one side of the vegetables. So that it rests sitting on the straw bed and standing up. Therefore when all your soil is placed, you’ve now got a door which you can go at any time of the three or four months storage and open it. And with your basket fill it with potatoes or carrots, and then put the door back, and the whole thing is closed up.

And in this way those vegetables will keep just as when they were lifted. They will not dehydrate, and they will not rot, because the chimney, with the air going up it, will keep a draft coming from under the sticks, going right through the thing and passing out. That’s the method of clamping. There are other methods of clamping which are much more simple. You can even collect your vegetables in the spring time. That clamp is usually used throughout the winter. In the springtime you could actually get your carrots or your beet and just place them in a ring with the root pointing inwards, and cover them with sand. And that is adequate for a couple of months. But the clamp is better.


Referring again to the subject that we were on before: of growing from seed.

Here’s a whole bunch of catalogues. And every one of these firms I’ve dealt with from time to time. And in other countries of the world, and a good many countries of the world, I’ve dealt with firms from these catalogues, as most people, of course, have. I’m sure that you must be becoming aware that, after two years... You have bought some particular seed, and you buy it again. And you say, “Well, I don’t know what I’m doing… I must be doing something wrong because this crop is not what it used to be.” And quite frequently you’ll find a falling off of germination. And, for instance, I bought some cherry tomato five years ago, seed, and I grew some very excellent cherry tomatoes. And I took my own seed, fortunately, and have cultured that particular seed of that cherry tomato for five years. And the flavor and the crop have both increased in production enormously. In fact, it’s been assessed as one of the finest flavored tomatoes to be had in America, and certainly one of the biggest croppers.

Now when I bought seed again the next year from the same source, to raise a further quantity, from the nurseryman, the germination was the same, but the crop was absolutely, totally inferior. And in fact, it was so inferior, that when it came to fruition and ripened, the whole crop of plants had to be taken out and composted as useless. Fortunately, we had taken our own seed. And our own plants were producing a better tomato than the previous year, with a better flavor. And everything was fine, and we went on from there. Meantime I tried again out of interest, and there was a further set of inferiority. This is due to what you would call over-commercial, over-mechanical, over-chemical methods, and lack of hand labor and interest, individual interest in the acumen of things.

Now there’s no question that many of the seed firms of America are absolutely top of the world. They are really doing wonderful production. But they are all, to some degree, falling prone to the problems of over-scientificalization, and over-chemicalization, very certainly.  And there is a depreciation in matters generally, particularly in flavor and quality, particularly here.

And it is in this matter that I would suggest drawing your attention to, as far as possible and as frequently as possible, to focus upon obtaining your own seed from your own plant. It is also, must be regarded as very important that a plant has an emanation; that an area of soil, of atmosphere, of climate, has an emanation. And that those two become adjunct, and that they don’t belong migratorily to each other.

In other words, apart from a vegetable such as the potato, it is not suitable, it is less suitable, to bring in seed from a different area, from a different climate, from a different soil. With the potato it becomes essential because it is a nomadic. It prefers a migratory procedure, of which I’m going to discuss later, because I want to talk about individual plants and vegetables to some degree. However, the majority of plants do grow and thrive and improve better by becoming acclimatized to an area, and a soil, and an atmosphere.  And there is no question, that if you use the biodynamic relativities of matters, you will quickly overcome—and far more quickly than importing your seed—you will quickly overcome the local problems. For instance, in this area, or rather I mean the coastal areas, of fungoid matters. You will overcome those very quickly by managing your own seed matters. They become… Having become biodynamically relationed with other plants, the next year they do not give way to the epidemics that they did the first year. And they will gradually grow out of them. In fact, very quickly grow out of them.

Whereas I have found, in many parts of the world, particularly in the Bahamas, that seed continually brought in falls prone, more and more, to the rural problem. Not only that, as I say, you will find that growing healthily, on pure healthy, live soil of great fertility, you will find that your own seed is vastly superior in its production. 

We have an instance on hand, where we had bought seed of sweet pea. And because we were dealing with very high cultured… two sweet peas known as Love Song and Blue Swan, a beautiful delicate pink and a wonderful blue. It had become so cultured that we only got a fifteen percent germination. And this seed is terribly expensive; I mean really expensive. And having written to the firm about it, and expressed a shock at having only fifteen percent germination, the whole order was repeated free of charge. And a note in it, as much as to say, “We know as much. Thank you.” And very kindly, the order was, as I say, refunded in seed again. And again, fifteen percent germination, just the same.

Now, we were shocked at this, because we realized that there must be something wrong with a seed that should give you eighty-five percent germination, only having fifteen. So, we did this for two years. And on both occasions, both years, the same thing happened. And the same order was repeated free of charge. We then took our own seed to see if there was a way out. And we jumped immediately to eighty percent germination of those two particular plants.

And indeed, this year we have grown nothing but our own sweet pea, of which this is only a culling, actually. And the whole thing has been: longer stems, better blossoms, and certainly better scent. And the whole problem of fungoid has gone out. I just bring those up as matters, not because they happen to deal particularly with us, but because they are instances which prove unquestionably the importance of centering upon getting your own seed.



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