• Nicola Revill

Green Fingers

The essence of growing plants has been very much the same for hundreds of years, sow a seed, feed and water and remove pests to allow the growing plant every chance of success and hey presto, a new plant is produced. But what if, like me, you are vegan?  Well, when you start to look into it, it becomes a myriad of dilemma’s at every turn! Decisions about manures, fertilisers and plant food all raise concerns about its origins and its impact on the environment.  I advocate a no kill policy in my pursuit of growing my own fruit and vegetables but that isn’t always enough and my decision to not nuke pests and kill slugs and snail hell bent on eating my salad leaves it not always a sufficient approach to vegan gardening. Fertilisers often contain products from the slaughterhouse floor, including blood and bones and many farmyard manures can be contaminated with infectious diseases such as E coli and listeria.  I always strive to buy non-animal products but I also like to think my powers as a consumer also extend to my choices as an amateur gardener, even small changes will be hugely beneficial to animals and wildlife that extends beyond my own humble plot while also hopefully producing clean, ethically produced crops that are safe to eat. In my own quest to be avoid shop bought fertilisers and composts that might contain traces of animals (plenty do) I have started to produce my own compost including saving grass cuttings, vegetable peelings and used coffee grounds and teabags from the café (we use only loose tea and plastic free tea bags) They all get added to a dust bin and turned every so often  till it has decomposed to a black crumbly mix. I will also attempt to make my own comfrey tea (nettles can also be used). To make a comfrey fertilizer concentrate, pack comfrey leaves tightly into a container, weigh them down, cover, and let them rot. In about 3 weeks, you will have a liquid fertilizer concentrate that can be mixed with 15 parts water to 1 part comfrey goo, the high potassium levels are particularly beneficial to fruit production, so my strawberry plants should be very thankful. I have been warned the ‘tea’ will probably have a very pungent smell but this is proof it’s producing lots of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium liquor. I will also be sowing ‘green manure’, a fast-growing plant sown to cover bare soil, ideal for when summer crops have been exhausted,  their foliage smothers weeds and their roots prevent soil erosion which is great news for avoiding the dreaded weeding. When dug into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure. Mustard cliente is a good green manure, as is mustard, phacelia and buckwheat. All those lovely worms should also assist by dragging the nutrients underground. Dissuading animals that visit my garden is also a way to help allow a plant to thrive, but I always believe in leaving nature to take its own course, I feed the birds and leave food scraps such as the outer leaves of lettuces or brassica’s or apple cores as a sacrificial offering to any hungry slug.  By not upsetting the natural ecosystem, I hopefully will encourage beneficial pollinators and predators to my garden.  I am fully committed to vegan gardening but I am still learning and try to educate myself daily on my choices as a food consumer as well as a gardener.

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