First of all, may I please read you two quotations which are extremely potent to what the whole attitude of this approach is? This is Lindsay Robb in an address called “Altius Sitius Longius”: “We have lost that essential unity with the soil. The break in this relationship is first indicated in the disregard for spiritual values and sense of obligation and obedience to the creative powers of the universe.”
The other one is Robert Graves in an address which he gave at the Massachusetts Institute, and he titled it “The Defense of Human Culture”: “The decline of a true taste for food is the beginning of a decline in national culture as a whole. When people have lost their authentic personal taste they lose their personality and become the instruments of other people’s wills.”
What is agriculture? What is horticulture? They’re both identically the same. They are the delight of the discovery of creation and Nature in man’s productivity and his surroundings. Agriculture is predominantly that area of culture whereby man grows a quantity of food on less cultural abilities. Horticulture is the fine art of agriculture. And from our point of view of approach, agriculture and horticulture have no division. They’re connected. That in a sense, all agriculture throughout the world should never be so vast as to be out of the manipulative balance and hands of man’s technique. I shall try to bring about a small sense of the approach of the techniques of this method.
You realize that in planting an orchard with maiden fruit trees, which means one year, it is essential to plant those trees with a total vision in the life of the orchard, both the stock and the scion, the delight of the orchard, and its produce. And that for the well-being of those trees it essential that they begin in the nursery soil of the earth. And that any matters that are going to be given to them to produce greater and greater fruit crops with more and more pruning are a matter of time. That in the beginning they must know Mother Earth as a child when born must begin on the simple, and gradually evolve. We’re a little inclined to overlook this in the construction of a garden today simply because of course, we’ve become very mechanical and divorced from Nature.
But it must be totally appreciated that the techniques of this method demand an evaluation of cycles. In other words if you like to put it, that which doesn’t exist: time, period of growth. Gardens grow. A garden does not happen in one year. And the enchantment and the productivity unquestionably grows, and should grow. And that should be the vision from the start: the permit of growth. In this one expresses what is capable in this era that is a little frightening when you look at it very plainly and obviously, and don’t endeavor to escape what
we are doing with the world. But in this vision it is enormous. It is one of the greatest things that we can possibly visionary encompass at the moment. It means a recovery from all the destructivity that is going on. It is possible. And the vision leads into it and will solve itself. And this vision is this: that when man enters the procedures of God and creation in line with this thinking, with this approach, he opens up the fact that he is going to live and perform, think, emanate, and evolve his land in goodness. And that having entered the scene with this vision, Nature and creation, with its endless productivity, flows through his work and brings about matters and cornucopias of produce of which he has no thought or vision whatever.
It is not well to start by placing all the problems of finance, and pest, and disease in front of you and saying, “How can I start?” For in the very first place you must know that when grass grows lushly, when shrubs grow, when plants grow, when flowers bloom, and birds fly, and birds sing, the air becomes cleansed of perniciousness. And the breeze blows through the trees as they breathe and becomes cleansed. And whatever man does to desecrate this is balanced if we stop in time and commence this other approach of cleansing and allow it to be.
You must also be aware that botanically it is irrefutable that where the sea has an area of discontinuity and meets the land you have a salt margin of sand, which is not soil. And that only such a thing known in terminology as sedge will grow. And so is the botany of God so perfect that this sedge will grow for some period of cycles and in growing produces, as Nature always does, more than it requires and after it has grown for some time, soil has begun to be produced and sedge cannot grow anymore and grass can, and does, and does take over. And after a period soil has begun to become lush and herbage enters into grass, and then come all the other life matters of creation: birds, animals, insects, and cultured soil begins. This, of course, goes on forever. That is just something of a very tiny entry into what is the vision of this matter.
Indeed Steiner’s view of this terrible word, ‘biodynamics,’ leaves everybody sitting. And organic growing- which of course, never existed until 1895- has been growing. Agriculture and horticulture- we know about the Chinese of 5,000 years ago, followed by, of course, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the ancient Greeks and up through the enormous Italian and French and western cultures- has evolved in this way and, of course, dis-evolved. But what such people as the philosophical people of fifty to a hundred years ago found was: “Oh, but surely man is trying to run Nature.
He is telling Nature how to live, what to do.” And of course, at no time is this possible. We are children, and when we’re ninety we’re much more children than we are when we’re two. Or, God help us if we’re not. And the view of these philosophical people when they saw vast road tracks and endless machinery and a whole lot of attributes that gave one no vision but divorcement from creation. They said to the people at large, “Excuse me, but just a minute, should we not look where we’re going?” And the whole methods and thinking of these people which very much included my tutor, Rudolph Steiner, was, “Let us look into the great true knowledge of the science of creation.”
And this is exactly what this vision is: that the whole world is governed by a pulsation very largely what we call the procedure of the planets, which you must realize goes much farther than that, of course. But that this pulsation is like breathing; it is in and out, relaxation and tension, the Sun rises and the Sun sets, the Moon rises and the Moon sets, and the cycles come and go but none of them, mark, none of them are ever a repetition. You know perfectly well that nineteen seventy-two is not at all, so far, like nineteen seventy-one was, nor any other year. It is a cycle of which we know something about, but it is not a repetition. It is another cycle. And of course it’s not only the year, it’s not only a month, it’s not only a day, it’s not only an hour; it is every moment. There is no time. And that the view of these thinkers is, that there is throughout life and creation, balance. The balance that comes from day and night, hot and cold, love and hate, this and that, yes and no.
And that when you seek deeply into the great science of this matter, you can dissolve the balance of all problem. That there is, throughout Nature- and referring of course now to garden, horticulture- there is throughout Nature plants which like plants, and plants which don’t like plants at all. Birds which prefer certain birds and don’t allow other birds in their area but keep out over there. Likewise with insects, and, of course, likewise, human beings. “I simply must see that person, I can’t live without listening to him. They absolutely fascinate me. I don’t know what it is. Oh my God, no I’m sorry, I really can’t bear that person.” This is all biodynamics: relationships and disrelationships. In some cases unaccountable, but always completely real. And, of course, they change. They change all the time. Nothing is static. Indeed, when I got my pencil and paper as a reasonably well brought up child should, and started to write all these matters down while Steiner was going on: “Get those printings away, you idiot! Don’t you understand that I’m trying to give you a key!”
And so, you see, these matters are very deep, and that behind the whole matter of the garden, first of all, is definitely, without question, a spiritual approach. If you like to call it soul, what does it matter? And that from that you begin to enter a balance which is entirely different. You realize that you have not taken a piece of ground which you have bought for with some money and said, “That’s mine, I’m going to do this. Put a fence ‘round. That’s mine. I’m going to grow that, and that, and that.” It doesn’t work, because we belong to totality. You can’t divorce yourself from totality. Or, at least you can if you’re prepared to pay the piper, and we’re not.
However, the vision of this biodynamics is this mathematics of understanding the true science of Nature, of becoming visible and aware of the laws that operate between relationship and disrelationship. You understand that in a sense that the Moon is magnetic, whilst the Sun, in a sense, pushes. And that when you become visible of this fact, the moment that you start the art of horticulture- for it is an art, but let us remember that we are dealing with life, that all other arts are man’s toys of the nursery- inventions of music, of painting- which are our exposition of our happiness of living, and a beautiful thing. But the moment that you enter a garden, my God, we’ve got to beware! We are dealing with the souls of things, that are alive, that live their life and are capable totally of living without our interference, and that we are the students of them.
And therefore, the whole vision of biodynamic growing is that you enter the garden because you love creation. You just want to grow fruit and flowers and you love the smell of soil, and creativity, and culture, and all the exquisite things that God gives us to live upon, and look at, and listen to, and enjoy. And that whereas stupidly, at one time, we were told, “Oh, a rabbit will eat the lettuce. That caterpillar eating the cabbage. Oh, poison it. It is monstrous!” The white cabbage butterfly, if you met it at the Belgian Congo, you’d fall down on your back and say, “That is the most exotic butterfly I’ve ever seen in my life!” And of course, it flies all over the place and everybody goes pfssst; and the thing was created by God, and it has a caterpillar, and what’s more is it goes through a most exquisite procedure of a butterfly laying an egg which turns into a caterpillar, which turns into a chrysalis, which turns into a butterfly. God, it’s an inimitable magic for any child to watch, and any child watching it goes into magic, for it is. And therefore, when you understand the true science of creation you have a little room for the butterfly in the garden. You want a little room for it, and you want a little room for the lizard and the beetle and the aphid, and you will never grow a lettuce without having a slug, and if you do, the lettuce isn’t worth eating!
Now, I’m not really being stupid at all, I’m trying to bring in a vision of matters which constitute man not being divorced from creation. And if somebody will jump up and say, “Oh, but my garden is devoured!” Yes, and that’s very probable. But remember this, if we approach this matter with goodness, with all intent of, it will balance. It may take some cycles to get rid of the gopher, to deal with a huge host of snails that come from your neighbor. But how much more delicious to think that you’re going to put it in balance instead of making war and destruction against creation. And this is the vision. And it is possible. It is not only possible, it is delirious; because when you do approach your garden in this way you have so many flowers, so much fruit, and so many vegetables. You haven’t even enough friends to give them to. And this is truth. Because your soil, your air, becomes fertile and rich, and beautiful, and when the world becomes beautiful, it doesn’t require outrageous destruction.
That’s, very briefly, a momentary statement on what biodynamics is after. You must understand that what one is saying is today, if somebody is ill, that they go to the pharmaceutical and they get something which puts them right immediately. Well, most of you know that you’ve got three more things gone wrong with you the next day. And that the whole matter of good food is that all the herbage and fruits contain, with them, the medicines that keep the balance of our sustenance correct; that we don’t need sudden revolutionary things to get rid of some sudden revolutionary matter. There is also the fact that when you have produced cultured soil, you have in that cultured soil, life and birth that flows through the plants with beautiful juices, and those beautiful juices are strong, and they are, as creation meant them to be, a matter of sufficientness for eating. What I’m referring to is this, if you go and, forgive me, I’m not decrying emporiums or anything else, but, if you go to an emporium and you buy white bread, you can sit here and eat it all day and in the evening you’re a little more hungry than you were in the morning. When an insect, or a bird, or an animal eats vegetables which have been grown upon artificial soils, false, out of timing growth, which have not beautiful juices in them, it is exactly like they’re eating the white bread. They go eating it like mad and they are totally unsatisfied. So what do they do? Exactly what human beings do, they breed like fury. And you get what is called pest. And there is no pest in biodynamic organic growing because you grow plants that bring birds and insects that control other birds and insects and each other within reasonable balance, if you’re prepared to allow so much percentage of your garden and your lands to be shared with Nature as God obviously ordained.
And how much more delicious is life, and for children to go into a garden and discover strange little insects that today nobody ever sees or knows anything about! And birds, and how wonderful to wake every morning with that fantastic greeting that birds give when one starts them off. It’s very obviously a kind of huge oration to Aurora, of the birth of a new cycle every day. What a fantastic thing is this, and how utterly outrageous when we remove it from our lives without reason. For what delight is there in a motorcar horn?
Well. I mustn’t go on inconsumately on such a line, but I’m endeavoring to place clearly why and what biodynamic horticulture is really after. It’s after beautiful food which you can eat fresh from the garden, absolutely fresh. And how enormous is this word fresh, for is it realized that a carrot, a potato, a bean, a pea, taken from the garden and eaten within an hour is just like a fish caught from the sea and cooked, and eaten. And an egg, after two or three days is not new-laid. Fresh is a huge difference. All of us, everything in the world has an area of discontinuity, and that area of discontinuity is, as it were, an emanation. It is what is the colour of a flower, the appearance of a fruit, the bloom on a leaf. And that emanation is so fragile that within an hour or two of death, as you would call it, the article collected begins to expire, dehydrate, lose enormous values. It is ascertained amongst great scientifically-thinking people that the bloom on any fruit or vegetable is the most important nutritious part that exists. Therefore, fresh food, straight from the land, straight from the area where it’s grown is vitally more important than unfresh food in any form.
Also, it begins to come into a vision biodynamically that the air of an area, the atmosphere, produces the soil, produces the locale, and that the fruits and the vegetables that will, and do, grow in that area belong to the people who live and breathe and emanate in that area. And somehow there is a marriage of those matters, and it is important to conjecture into this; that it is also far more deliriously delightful to go into your garden and collect a basket full of something and have it for lunch and share it with others. What it is…well, it’s many magics, but magic is something that you can’t put your thumb on. And it is a magic. Even your own egg from your own hens is quite different to any one that even a great personality would give you. If the president sent you some eggs they couldn’t be better. But these of course, are not just vagaries, they are considerable realities. And, very frankly, we do all have to admit that we’ve a great deal forgotten what fresh food and fresh fruit is.
How are we for time? Is it time for coffee? It’s time for coffee. I say it’s time for coffee. And I suggest that as soon as we’ve had coffee I will get on to the subject of the evening, which is cultivation.
…Cultivation then. I would like to talk to you deeply about soil because it is very obviously a subject, however deeply we delve into it, we find it more and more intangible and delicate. The word astonishes students at the university. If one mentions the word delicate connected with the soil, which of course, they call ‘dirt,’ they can’t understand at all what one is getting at. I would say to you right this moment now that soil wilts more quickly than any plant. It bruises more easily than any fruit and very few people are aware of this matter, and it’s very vital. That soil is a myriad variations. There are no two soils alike, or ever will be. That fertility is something which happens in soil, and when fertility happens in soil, magic proceeds. I put it like that because cultivation, culture, can and does, produce fertility in soil; and fertility can be lost in the most beautiful of soils within a few moments by casualness, carelessness, and a strange word that I hardly believe in, ignorance. Bruising and wilting and all such matters are part of the unculturization of the fertility of soil.
What I am, in a sense, suggesting to you is that fertility in soil is a matter of producing a life force in a subject matter which almost anything can contain, and that is why hydroponics have entered the scene and, of course, have proved ineffectual. That you can actually grow in sand, that you can grow in leaves, that you can grow in all sorts of emaciated nonsense by producing life in it temporarily or momentarily. And it’s a huge matter of deep discovery, observation and sensitivity how, and in what form, and to what extent we can, may, and should produce fertility in soil. This is also connected of course, in cultivation. That’s why I’m going to talk about cultivation.
In the first place, in talking about the fertility that comes through cultivation one must come to an understanding on this matter: that all plant culture by man loses certain vital qualities of original nature. That all origin plants are far more full of vital matters than are the more and more cultured; and of course, as you go into hybrid, less and less, vitalities in plants. In other words, a statistical matter is, for instance, the lactucarium, in grams, extracted from the sativa and the Leontodon. And it amounts to this: that from the sativa you would get anything from nine to eleven grams of lactucarium. Whereas from the Leontodon, which is the origin of course, of garden lettuce, you would get anything from fifty-two to sixty-eight grams. And of course, this is no extracted, identical matter. I mean that they’re all, all plants in a sense, are relative to this degree. You would probably know, for instance, that Anthemis, from which chamomile comes, and which its common name is, that if you extract the chamomile from the garden Anthemis you get an almost useless antidote as a skin lotion. But if you go to nature where this poor plant is trodden and walked upon and thrives much the better for it- interesting note- you will get a most wonderful skin lotion in chamomile, and this applies throughout. It’s a little bit of reference to the subjectivity of what I was touching on before the coffee interval, and that is about strength of origin of nature, and man removing it by the fact that everything he does in the garden is not truly for totality. It’s partly for selfishness, and therefore only has a part of the enormity of totality connected with it.
Therefore, it must immediately be obvious that all weeds- and of course, all plants are weeds- are the greatest nutritious givers of soil. For all soil is made of dead everything, dead mountains, dead fish, dead animals, dead beetles, dead snails, dead leaves, dead sticks, dead trees, dead humans. That is soil: life into death into life. All the sticks and leaves that fall in the fall, in the autumn, are the soil of the seedlings of next year, with the cycle of the rising Sun with the rising Moons. I touch on this because I’m going to speak towards the latter part of the cultivation about the Greeks and what they discovered about certain plants and their uses in the manufacture of soil. Now what this all amounts to is that through this vision of plants and cultivation you may take almost any soil you like, sand, impossible stuff that looks like nothing, and cycle by cycle, you can bring about different growth that will bring about different growth that will bring insects that will bring birds that will bring animals that will bring new weeds that will bring new growth and all the time is an evolution of the vision of creativity, productivity. More lush and more lush just as the sedge made grass and then herbage, so your garden can begin on arid nothing with mustard and cress and radishes, and in no time, lilies, tomatoes, and raspberries.
Cultivation enters the scene somewhat on this line because this is the most basic matter concerning it. It was the ancient Greeks who were such enormous observers of nature and they discovered a certain matter, and this matter was that all plants grow better on a landslide than in the beautiful alluvial soils of a valley where they’re level. Wherever there has been a movement of soil and it is upraised, they discovered that wild plants, all plants, grow better. And then they made tests to see what this was, and if it was true, and they discovered that it totally was. And so, they found out that it was due to two important matters. The first one was perfect drainage, connected with pulsation. The more movement capacity you have in your soil, the more capacity you have for culture. And the better drainage that you have, the better pulsation will take place in the depths of that soil.
The second one was that a certain amount of warm air is an attribute to the roots of plants. Let us just assess a matter very quickly to understand why this is, and what the difference is. Plants, whether they be weed, vegetables, flowers, or what, they’re all plants that are going to bloom and fruit and seed. They all are covered with little tiny, minute hairs, and these hairs are breathing the warm, moist gases that are given off either by the soil or the air. In other words you must think of every plant. When you think of its roots you must think of its leaves in the soil, and
when you think of the top you must think of its roots in the air, and that puts it in a better balance to what we usually think. And you mustn’t think of a stalk and leaves and blossom and seed as all being separate entities, of course they’re not; it’s a whole cycle of evolution of which the plant is not aware that the blossom is the high spot, or the fruit is a high spot, or anything else is a high spot. In fact, as you understand, the only difference is us who happen to chop off the flower of a cauliflower and boil it alive, or take the beautiful lily bulb of the onion and eat that, or cut off the heart of a lettuce just when it’s going to burst madly into bloom. All of that is just man’s attribute and we must remember not to diagnose the plant world on our uses of it. In other words, in a certain sense, quite clearly, plants live by breathing warm, moist gases out of the soil into the air, and out of the air into the soil with the alternate planetary pulsation of breathing or sucking. Therefore, it is quite obvious that when a landslide is far more open to the cycles of pulsation, the plant growth is more realistic, more voluptuous in its response. For the plant growth, remember, is not like human beings who have very much become divorced from the cycles of nature. We are not aware at the moment, of what the stars and the Moon, and the night is doing. We are divorced in a little wooden room of great charm. But plants do not all go to bed every night and go to sleep and get up in the morning and have coffee, and turn on the television. They sleep in huge periods, total, day and night. Sometimes only with the moon, of course, at night when it is declining. But when the Sun is inclining and the Moon is inclining, they are awake, vitally, day and night, growing like profusion, like mad! And breathing and pulsating with it all. And that there are nocturnal plants, and nocturnal insects, and nocturnal birds, and nocturnal people! And one must not instigate divisions of this. This is biodynamics, this and that.
Now. When the Greeks discovered this matter about the landslide, they did a test, and they took the beautiful alluvial soil of a valley and they raised it and put plants on it, and sure enough, the plants grew better! For those two reasons, very obviously, as they discovered. Whereupon, after a short time they got rather tired of making that landslide by hand and so, they got a whale bone, or a piece of wood, and they went along and kind of made a furrow which threw up a tilth of soil of which they placed the seeds and the plants. And later on they managed to get an oxen and put some thongs on him and one of them pressed the wooden thing into the ground and the other one pulled the oxen madly and they made what they called a furrow in a field. And of course, today we have all these giant machines that go tearing ‘round the place causing the creation of dust, and that’s exactly what they’re doing but none of them know it. They’re making landslides everywhere. And this is the whole procedure of the basis of the French intensive method. What I want to bring about is the vision of what happens by having a raised bed. That you get beautiful drainage and warm, moist air to the roots. And you must use hot beds in the winter, to bring about this matter of emanation of the summer. And of course, the use of horse manure, gases, for falsifying the matter in areas where you’ve got intense cold. We will discuss all that later. Now, in this discussion of cultivation of soil, it is terribly important to realize that the deeper the cultivation of the soil, the better is the pulsation, the movement that takes place with the cycles of growth, that brings about growth. And into this vision has to come the thought of worms, and we will talk much more of this later, but you realize that there are no implementations of man that will go down more than so many feet. On the contrary, there happen to be a great variety of biodynamic plants which do this matter.
Now worms do not go, of themselves, into sub-soils, they remain in the moveable parts of soil, and will not enter the sub-soils, which are congealed. However, the roots of certain plants, such as rumex, dock, such as lucerne, which normally goes down- oh, lucerne is in your language, alfalfa- normally it will go down twenty-five and twenty-six feet. In problematic areas it’s often known to go fifty and sixty. Now what happens immediately, and of course you realize I’m talking now about nature’s cultivators, which biodynamics all entertains. And they are endless. All of the family of the carrot and the parsnip are deep-rooteds; rhubarb will go twelve and fourteen feet. And all of these go down into the sub-soils, through sub-stratas, which are absolutely congealed, and the moment that the roots begin to aerate the sub-soils and go down, the worms travel down with the roots and say, “Thank you, that’s lovely! Beautiful, home!” and down they go. And the moment that worms operate in soil they do two things, they cultivate like fury, and they also fertilize like mad. You realize that all those little worm casts that you see on a lawn, or on the golf links are two varieties only of worm which like to come up out of the Earth to do their duty. And that’s exactly what the worm cast is: it’s a manuring. But there’s only two out of something like sixty-odd worm families that do that. The rest all do their duty down in the soils. And all of this is a huge, and enormous matter of cultivation, so the average modern commercial farmer roars with laughter at the organic growers and says, “They’re always talking about worms.” It’s a vastly underrated subject and not overrated.
However, you do, of course, realize that amongst all the other methods in the world, climatic is a huge cultivator. Frost and snow is one of the soil’s most beautiful cultivators, it lifts, it aerates, and purifies. And indeed, of course, we all know that some of the most beautiful garden soils of the world, farm soils of the world, have been created, of course, entirely of glacier. The whole of Long Island, where I established two quite considerable gardens for millionaires, was in that area, and that at one time the Hudson glacier carried, from the Appalachians, all those wonderful forest soils mixed with the minerals from the rocks, dead birds, fossils, and snail shells, and insects galore of which we’ve never known anything about; carried them all down in this huge receptacle and gradually as it swept out into the Atlantic, deposited it all and built this wonderful compost, soil of life, into death, into life, out of which any farmer can receive a fortune if he merely cultivates and grows.
Clearly, the pulsation that is going on all the time, breathing, is a creator of cultivation, that the very fact of plant life becoming prolific, is a cultivator. That if you produce in your ground beautiful cultured plants, lush, they are actually magnifying the culture of your soil by their breathing, by their causing breathing, by their causing insects, by their causing worms, and their manipulance of the soil. And when anybody tells you that you will exhaust your soil by producing crop after crop, they have got exactly the wrong tack, because the more lush that you can get your crop, the more lush is your soil when your crop comes out; if not, your systems are incorrect. If your systems are correct your soil is improving all the time and I am prepared as I have been during my life in horticulture to tell you that I can show you any beds that I have produced crops in for four years with three crops a year that those beds are better when that crop comes out than when it went in. This is a continual mathematical building up of the lushness and the luxury of fertility in soil. And that’s a difference; it’s a big difference.
Now, fertility can be lost if you allow a soil to become arid. Fertility can be lost if you allow a soil to become bound. And at all times your soil must be kept cultured with growth, with moisture, and with nutriment. And dependent upon this is the use of cultivation and fertilization. Fertilization, covering mostly the word, utterly forgotten today, and not observed at all, texture. The texture in soil is two-thirds of the whole answer of fertility, because of dew and capillary. Literally speaking, may we say, of course it’s not correct, but I’m using terminology, that dew does that, and capillary does that. Now you cannot get capillary, and you will definitely interfere with dew, if you lose texture in soil. Here enters the scene of rototillers and all these inconceivable madnesses that are supposed to avoid us labor. And the moment that you powder any soil below a few inches you have lost, totally, capillary. Capillary comes about by textured undersoils and a fine soil on the surface. You will not get capillary in any other soil at all, ever. And of course, it also affects dews enormously because of the breathing of the growth that is taking place in the ground.
Now I must go back to cultivation, to furrow, and the plow. There are times of the year of the cycle, when different procedures of cultivation can, and should, take place. And now you will see that I’m beginning to express how easy it is to damage the fertility of soil. As easy as it is to damage a beautiful bloom of an orchid, or a strawberry, or a fruit. It is just as easy.
In the period of the declination of the Sun, is dormancy and sleep in the world when the whole of the atmosphere says to the world, “Sleep and rest now, you must relax if you want the spring and tension to come, you must go to sleep, and rest.” And so all the soil sleeps, and the fertility of the soil sleeps. And at that time you can do mostly what you like with it. You can dig it, you may turn it, you may loosen your subsoils, and you will not damage it, you will aerate it and do it good. If you do that in the height of the inclination of the Sun you will destroy it. The procedure of the turning of the soil for aeration must take place in the dormancy. The only other procedure which you can use to aerate the soil during the inclination period, or the equinoxal periods, is to turn it very quickly and quickly, to bring about it’s surfacing for capillary again. If you do that instantly, you will not cause destruction. But observe, that if you wish to aerate soil properly, for the whole purpose of what the aeration is the landslide, you must be rough, you must leave it rough. You must turn your soil in great sods, in chunks, that all the airs, and the snow, and the frost can get to it and cleanse it, and purify it, and aerate it. If you do that in the summer you will destroy the creativity of the soil. But, at all times, to maintain pulsation in the soil, creativity, you must keep that surface of loose soil open to the operation of the pulsations. And for this purpose you must use your hoe, your rake, or your light fork very delicately. But preferably the French intensive system overrides the whole of these matters by causing the plants to do exactly what you would do with implementation.
And it also takes the place of the entry of what came about fifty years ago known as mulching. Mulching still remains a predominant matter in orchards, soft fruits, and rhubarb, and asparagus culture, where you cannot use the French intensive system so well, if at all. But I am talking very much for flower and very much for vegetable culture in French intensive beds at the moment. That’s what I’m focusing on. Therefore, what one is saying is this, that there are very definite times of year when very definite techniques of cultivation can be used. And that is that your digging and opening up of the soil can take place only in the dormancy period. It can take place in the other periods providing that you restore the soil immediately to its operative position, that you do not leave it open, and that you plant it immediately, and set it under way again, and keep it moist.
Now you have different soils for potting, and potting soil is literally one-third sharp, one-third compost or leaf mould, and one-third turf loam. That is an ordinary constitution of what potting soil is. When you have those soils in bins for your greenhouse work or your potted work, you can, at no time, disregard those bins of soil. They have got to be kept fertile. If you do not look after them, if you do not moisten them, if you do not keep them at the right moisture and protect them from too heavy rains, or such like matters, they will lose fertility. Do we understand that you can go to a desert, you can find the most fabulous alluvial soils, come from rock, and mineral, and compost; beautiful mineral soils. And you can moisten it and it will produce nothing. Fertility is not there. Fertility is a life which is put in either by Nature, or us. And here enters the enormous propensity of this matter which is so delicious: that human beings are required, and loved by Nature, to be in the garden. There is much that Nature, of itself, needs man as a partner, as a benevolent, and requires and loves him for his duties, in magnification.
The planting out of plants, the taking of strikes, the manipulation of landslides, which only enormous storms will bring about. And in the observation of a garden you become aware that Nature is watching you whilst you’ve been digging. For do not delude ourselves, for even the scientists have recently discovered that they can find criminals by plants, by their reaction to somebody who has been in a room where a crime has been committed. That the sensitivity of plants- of course you have to have a human instrument to bring about an ordination of what it’s saying, of a graph- but the sensitivity of plants is so much more than any sensitivity that we have, that when you do that to somebody and they flinch, and their eye flickers to protect it. Plants have infinitely more than this. And that the response of plants in a garden, and a farm, and growing, and the love and adoration of people that they share, not just with their plant because they want a turnip or a lettuce, but this huge emanation of the exhilaration of living, of the spirit of life is what the garden, air, and plants are aware of. And don’t let us delude ourselves that we can go into the garden with a commercial aspect and say, “I’m going to get two thousand dollars, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to have two thousand dollars. I’m, I’m, I’m so sorry, did you hear me?” And of course, they’ll all change and it won’t go right, or rather, it will probably be that you’ll get two thousand dollars, and all that goes with it. And that’s not very much what we want.
With cultivation of the soil, enters the scene that which brings about cultivation and improvement of the soil immediately. And this constitutes very much, a collection of plants known as the bacterials. The bacterials simply means that on the roots of certain plants are little nodules called bacteria, and that those nodules are, and were assessed, as you know, by your Virgil in his Georgics3, are assessed as the most vital food elements in soil for bringing about beautiful crops. In fact, as you know, the Greeks would sow fava bean, or lucerne, and when it was lush, plow the whole thing in. And as they plowed it in they would sow fava bean, or lucerne, on top, in it. And when it was lush, and beginning to be spring, plow the whole thing in and sow the cereal. And the most fantastic crops of cereal. As you know, the Greeks had better cereal than we have today, by far. Those bacterial plants are this category: the fava bean is predominant; broad bean it’s commonly known as throughout the world, but you know it in America as fava bean. Its root is simply covered with bacteria and the lush growth of this bean, that will grow anything from five to eight feet high, and is a huge nitrogenous compost maker.
It is also one of the most predominant of all the plants for controlling fungoid problems in soil, that and seaweed. Plants grow in soil in which the nutriment quality of this plant is added as a compost, either the fava bean or seaweed, will cycle after cycle, grow out of fungoid troubles such as mildews and so on. And certainly into the area of verticillium and its adjuncts, of which, as you know, there are something like eight present families. Do not imagine that by growing fava bean or lucerne and plowing it in that you will eradicate the whole of this matter in one cycle. But step after step the soil changes, the ecology of the atmosphere changes, and your growth changes, and you do become totally free of it. I have proved this even here at Santa Cruz; we’re extremely prone in this area and I have solved it in the area of tomatoes and other matters which are, as you know, acute with verticillium and fusarium; and we have totally eradicated it. Whereas for two years we couldn’t grow a fruit for that reason. The other bacteria-rooteds are, next to the fava, is lucerne, or alfalfa. After that comes the whole bean family, the whole of the vetch, or pea family, and, of course, the whole of the clover family. They are all bacterials, and you can use those in orchards after the establishment of an orchard, for bacterial production. You can use them in the land where you want a garden rich and nutritious.
And the best way of using these plants is to grow them from the beginning when they are lush, to cut them off at ground level, to make compost of all the green matter – and I must assess this matter to you immediately and for all time, that all green matter is ninety-eight times the worth in compost, in the manufacture of soil to all dead matter. In other words, dead stalks, dead flowers, dried up leaves, dried up anything, dead anything, is incomparable compared to green matter, lawn mowings, hedge clippings, weeds- weeds of all things that contain all these nutritious qualities of which I’ve been referring to tonight like the Lactuca, like the Leontodon, are absolutely rich in the soil-giving elements, totally. And these bacterial plants that I’ve just mentioned, if all this top is cut off, and individual compost heaps made of this matter, and labeled, you will have compost that will biodynamically control disease and what we will call pest problems, because of their controlling attributes when placed in the soil. Now when the bacteria, if cultivated into the soil, that bacteria does not decompose, it grows in soil and therefore continues, almost like you might say, a spawn and produces a huge fertility in the soil. Hence, you begin your profusion of going from arid into culture. And within six months you can grow lush vegetables, have beautiful weeds, birds and insects, where before you had arid nothing, and from that step you can go on up into the garden of Eden, forever.
The method of the French intensive bed is this landslide, or raised bed, and the winter time, in order to make it fertile and productive, you place stratification, for you must realize, that all soil is stratification. It’s whole years of beetles, of birds, of manures, of dead leaves or sticks, of mountain rock, of different procedures which have gone on for eons of quarter centuries, centuries, and so on, that have produced stratas of soil. Stratification is part of capillary, it’s part of the whole vision of a landslide, and it’s part of the excitement of plants hunting for different fishes, like breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. They go a little way down, and of course, the moment a seed is born it knows perfectly well what is down there, and what’s over there as well, and will make towards whatever it is enjoyable with. But the moment that it starts to grow down, and it gets into a nice bit of stuff, it’s very happy and it begins to make roots into some leaf mould or some bone meal or some manure, and suddenly it says, “ Oh, golly! sniff, sniff What’s down there? Wonderful!” Down it goes, and through strata, through strata, through strata, and gets more and more excited, and of course, the whole plant is reactionary to this matter. So that stratification is a huge vision of the preparation of the French Intensive bed.
And underneath, for the benefit of, an un-maritime climate shall we say, a climate that has too many winter changes, and is too cool to be achievable, you may place a green compost, which will start to rot within ten days causing combustion. Now combustion immediately starts warm, moist gases. This is exactly what plants live on, they go mad about it. So you have this green matter at the bottom, and on that green matter you have a little soil and on that soil you have some totally fresh manure. And just what is manure? Manure is green matter worked out by the machine of an animal into compost. And that also sets up a huge combustion when it mixes on top of this green stuff, with some warmth, and starts up a whole thing of brrruuuggh! And warm, moist gasses are simply erupting through this soil, through this bed all the time and the plants get madly excited of what’s going on down there in this huge dish of breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. And that causes a growth, which normally speaking you would get in the summer, you can get in the winter. That is something of the vision of a French intensive bed.
I just want to talk very briefly for two minutes about seed raising. Very few people realize why you sow seed in a little tiny, shallow box, preferably wood. And it’s simply because of a huge law. Shock of extermination- and I’m using a word merely symbolically- shock of death, produces a plant to become prolific. This exactly what pot plants are and why we grow plants in pots, cinerarias, primulas, cyclamens; why on earth do we grow them in pots? For the very simple reason that at a certain stage of growth the plants roots all touch the side of the pot and they say, “Oh God, help! I can’t get any further!” And the plant says, “Really, we must do it then.” And they flower. And they flower like mad. Now if you have a cineraria or a primula in a pot it will make a certain amount of foliage and once that foliage is growing, and going to go on growing like mad, suddenly the roots touch the sides and it gives the signal. Now if you had that self-same plant in a bed with plenty of soil ad lib, the roots would go on growing and the leaves would go on growing and their huge, great voluptuous growth all going on, and finally, it says “Well, I suppose it’s time to flower, I don’t know, but we may as well try.” But the pot plant, meantime, has had this terrible notification from the roots, “I can’t go on!” And it immediately blossoms, and it blossoms much more than the one in the bed because of a huge law of the vision of end causes proliferation. If you bark-ring a fruit tree in the fall, that fruit tree will blossom like a lunatic the next spring, and fruit like mad because it must proliferate like mad, because you have bark-ringed it which means that the flow of sap has been stopped. It’s just the same if you want a hyacinth for Christmas, you must lift that hyacinth bulb much before you should. In other words, it doesn’t grow fully into the summer, you lift it before you should and it gives it a terrible shock, and immediately the hyacinth forms inside the bulb, ready for the first moment when any roots at all can make it proliferate again. And by this means you will get the flower at Christmas, long before you should. In other words, the whole vision of this matter is that shock of death means proliferation. Do you see something inline with humanity?
Well, as you see, I never know what time is and we just go on like lunatics.