Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 23, 1972


Lecture 4, Part 4.9

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

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Continue to Lecture 4, Part 4.10

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Contents of this Segment:

Questions from the audience: Pernicious weeds must be burned; Dealing with white fly by growing nasturtiums; Nicotiana afinis as an antidote to aphids; Vegetable rennet; Details of watering schedule; No pampering of wilting plants; Theoretical learning vs. practical experience; Moisten soil, but do not leach out nutriments by over-watering.



Full Text of this Lecture Segment:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 4,

The Totality of the Garden, Part 9



Questions and Answers after the Lecture:


Q: [not recorded]

A: I was only looking it up the other day.  I can’t even think where it is, there’s a whole answer on it. Am I right in saying that it should be forked up and dried, and then harrowed out?


Q: It’s pretty rough. It just raises heck with tomato plants. I know it just takes them over. It’s a parasite, isn’t it? …I don’t know how to get rid of it.

A: Weeding it out in its early stages is the safest and surest; weeding it out at its earliest stage. Yes, sure. It’s very repetitive. Of course the thing is to treat it as a pernicious, and to burn it, always, not, never to compost it. Same with the Convolvulus, or Bindweed, and such pernicious weeds as we would call them. The only possible way of dealing with these… You realize that in most cases, and it’s the same with dodder, you see, if you, what you would call plowing: chop it up, or spade it in, you will get a vast repetition of it. And the proper method, definitely, of dealing with these things is either to so overplant, of so voluptuously plant that you crowd it out, of which there are certain types of planting that you can do with. Do you understand? The other method of course, is a cultivation of throwing it up and aerating it and drying it and then using it for burning purposes.


Q: Is it alright to use prunings from Oleander in your compost?

A: It’s not recommended. They’re decidedly poisonous. The whole of this plant is poisonous. It is used today enormously as an artificial Almond essence flavoring. But as all ice-cream flavorings today are women’s nail varnish remover, and airplane fuselage covering, I suppose there wouldn’t be much argument.


Q: How do you get rid of whiteflies?

A: Oh, simple. —Sir, the answer (I’ll come back to that) The answer to such matters as Oleander, you see, is that you definitely want your pernicious stuff for burning, because you want your wood ash, and once it’s wood ash, you’ve got no problems left—

The one cure for whitefly, even the modern, scientific world, as you realize, apart from the fumigatory, has not got an efficient cure for whitefly. Biodynamics, a completely efficient, totally, one-hundred percent efficient cure for whitefly is the growing of the common Nasturtium plant. Just wherever you have the problem, grow Nasturtium, and within a year or two years you will never have any whitefly in the garden at all, but it will eradicate it immediately from the area that year. You will never have whitefly where you have Nasturtium, they can’t bear it.
Talking of whitefly, you realize it’s a member of the family of suckers. In other words, it’s connected with the aphid family. And the whitefly is not affected by Nicotiana, but the Nasturtium drives it away. On the contrary, the Nicotiana afinis eats and destroys all aphid in the garden by attracting it. The juice that comes from the Nicotiana is delirious. I told you about the scent, how it comes at night. It’s being given out through the hairs all day, and no aphid can resist the Nicotiana afinis, and simply flies to the plant to get this juice, whereupon the hairs close upon it and eat the aphid.


Q: Do you know of any vegetable rennets?

A: Yes, certainly, Galium; sure Galium rubrum. Or if not rubrum… Look it up in Ann Pratt, or Sourby or any of those and you’ll find it. It’s one of the Galiums. It is what all rennet has been made of from centuries.


Q: I’m a novice gardener, and...

A: So am I.


Q: I’m having considerable difficulty trying to determine a regular watering schedule of some sort for… I have a vegetable garden, many mixed vegetables of sorts, and I was at one time just watering for twenty minutes, I have furrows, and just flooding the furrows for twenty minutes and then I do that twice a week, just do that. And then the hot weather came, and that wasn’t enough, I decided, because things were getting a little wilty. But I decided, well maybe I’ll try going to flooding it for one hour...

A: Would you like to stop there, because I can tell you some important things. You are on the wrong track. You must go with nature, not against it. In the first place, you would be far better to follow techniques whereby you use the minimum waters. Secondly, you must realize this: As the hot weather approaches, and you talk about wilt, the more water that you give, the more it will wilt for certain. You’ve got to go with the cycle of the year, that as the summer, or the dry weather, rather, approaches, even though it’s winter, you must use less, and less, and less. Now when you prick out or plant out, you must water to the roots and then you must not pamper. You must not say “Oh, poor thing, it’s wilting. Pour water on it." It will wilt like mad. It’s got to grow strong. Do you understand? The child says “I’ve eaten a JuJube, I want two JuJubes.” You give it three JuJubes, four JuJubes. You’ll never stop it eating JuJubes. Do you understand? Understand that as your plants grow in the early stage they must have as much... the water that they need. But as the summer comes, you must go with the summer and tell it, it’s got to have less and less and less. It’s just the same if you play a game of tennis, if you run ten miles, and you go and drink three quarts of water, what do you go and get? Hiccups. Do you understand, you’ve got to wait. You’ve got to be moderate. You’ve got to say, “This is not the time to do it.” Do you understand what I’m getting at?


Q: My confusion is, whether it has to be more of an intuitive thing, or is there some way you can feel, like if you water deeply once every three weeks, or every four weeks, is there some way you can kind of feel or tell...

A: Sir, you see, you are dealing with a subject that is a very considerable one. Half a century ago, anyone who was going to take up an art or a craft became apprentice to it. They studied for two or three years with a reasonable master. And that study was manipulative, not theoretical, a little bit of theory if you like, but manipulative. And everything becomes au fait by observation and sensitivity, and technical ability with. Do you understand what I’m getting at? Those are very important matters. Today, we all think we can get a book out of the shelf, and make pastry, or play the piano, or paint a picture. It’s rubbish.


Q: Is it better in California, to water deep, just once a week, or twice, if that’s alright, in  California?

A: Impossible to give a really static answer here, but this should be understood: The French Intensive method of the cultivation of vegetables and flowers requires extremely frequent, very light watering. You do not want towhat did the American... What did the American Indian do with his acorns? Washing them through? LeachYou do not want to leach your fertilizations out of your soil. You want to marry fertilization to fertility. Do you understand? You want to moisten the soil and the fertilization to introduce fertility. This will bring about capillary and due operation. That any overwatering will produce leaching at once. That the deep system of watering applies to the old-fashioned gardener who wanted to produce big, old-fashioned vegetables, with huge areas of space around them. Do you understand?

Now, when you come to shrubberies, and fruit trees, they should be operated in the line in which you’re speaking: deep water, very occasional. Again, remember, that you must follow the cycle of the year. That you may think, you see when your blossom is on and it is dry weather, you may water, ad lib. And after the fruit has set, you may water, reasonably ad lib. But you realize what you’re going to do if you go on applying all that water when the fruit is getting ripe? You are going to go on getting wet fruit, watery fruit. You want fruit full of blood, of juice. Do you see what I mean?


Q: Yes, I realize, in trees. But in small plants?

A: You want to bring them on in their early stage, and then as they’re coming into fruition, as with cut-flower beds, as with the lettuce bed, or the cauliflower bed, as it is beginning to heart-up, or to flower-up, then you must lay off. Clear?




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