Propagation and Fertilisers for Vegan Gardening


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Propagation and Fertilisers; by Vegan Organic Network

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Propagation and Fertilisers for Vegan Gardening

  1. 1. Vegan-Organic Information Sheet #1 (60p) Propagation and Fertilisers Growing with concern for people, animals and the environment Organic growing involves treating the soil, the growing environment and the world environment as a resource to be preserved for future generations, rather than exploited in the short term. Veganorganics means doing this without any animal products at all, which is not difficult when you know how. All soil fertility ultimately depends on plants and minerals - these do not have to be passed through an animal in order to work. Fertility can be maintained by plant-based composts, green manures, mulches, chipped branch wood, crop rotations and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically benign and not dependent upon animal exploitation. The guidelines below do not attempt to be fully comprehensive. The extent to which you adhere to any system really depends on you, your conscience and circumstances. We can only do our best with our available time and money. The VeganOrganic Network has now published comprehensive Stockfree Organic Standards, which are available to commercial growers and can also be used as a reference for home growers. Of course, no one person or organisation knows everything about the subject, so constant co-operation and updating of ideas and information is needed. Whilst conventional cultivation relies on synthetic chemicals and animal products, traditional organic production also generally relies on animal wastes and byproducts. Both involve the exploitation of living creatures, and the inefficient use of land, water and energy resources. Vegan-organic methods minimise these drawbacks. Many people who are not themselves vegan or vegetarian are coming to appreciate that animal-free growing is the most sustainable system: it is the future of organics. Make your own seed mixtures Mixtures for seed raising and potting can be time-consuming but are worth the effort. Seed mixtures need to drain freely, allow for aeration so that they can warm up quickly and have the ability to retain moisture. They need to be free from weed seeds, pests and diseases. A fine texture ensures that they make good contact with the seeds. They do not need high levels of nutrients, just enough to sustain the seedlings for four to seven weeks. •1•
  2. 2. Stéphane Groleau Potting shed at Hardwicke • Two units sieved green waste compost (at least 12 months old). • One unit perlite. • They experimented with adding bark as a peat alternative but found that it diluted the mix. 1. Basic soil-free mix for seedling modules: • Two units plant-based compost. • Two units peat or peat alternative (see below). • One unit sharp sand or vermiculite or perlite. 3. Basic mix for free-standing transplant ‘blocks’: • Two units plant-based compost. • Three units peat. • Two units coarse sand or vermiculite or perlite. 2. Tolhurst Organic Produce has had success with: Photograph by Stéphane Groleau With home-made mixes it is impossible to be sure of the suitability of each batch, as the ingredients will vary from one season to the next. The following mixes should be suitable for raising seedlings but have not been rigorously tested: To the above three mixes you can add the supplements of: • 1/8 unit base fertiliser (see below). •2•
  3. 3. 1/8 unit seaweed meal. 1/8 unit lime. 1/8 unit colloidal phosphate. However, seedlings will still grow without these supplements. • • • The ingredients must be mixed well to form a uniform end product. First weigh out the units in buckets. It will be necessary to sieve coarse materials. Spread the contents on a clean, hard surface and mix in the same way that you would with cement using a spade or shovel, piling them up in a heap and turning it in. For larger quantities, it is worth using a cement mixer. Seed mixtures are better if they are six months old. sand. To the above mix you can add the supplements of: • 1/8 unit base fertiliser (see below). • 1/8 unit seaweed meal. • 1/8 unit lime. • 1/8 unit colloidal phosphate. However, plants will still grow without these supplements. Animal-Free Base Fertilisers Base fertilisers are very different from supplementary fertilisers in that the nutrients need to be released slowly so that they are available to the plant throughout its development. Supplementary fertilisers provide more readily available nutrients, e.g. potash boost from comfrey extract. The bean-based fertilisers listed in Make your own potting mixtures Potting mixtures are generally for plants growing for a longer period (several months before trans- Table 1. Bean-based fertilisers (NT = not tested) planting e.g. asparaN P K Release gus) or permanently in Alfalfa (lucerne) meal 2.5 0.5 2.0 Slow pots. They can have a 6.5 1.5 2.4 Slow to medium coarser texture and Soya bean meal 2.8 NT NT NT need short-term and Lupin seed meal long-term nutrient Castorbean meal 3.0 NT NT NT supplies. Faba bean meal 1.7 NT NT NT Basic recipe: • Two units mature plant-based compost or leaf mould. • Two units garden topsoil. • Two units coarse Field peas meal 1.0 NT NT NT Wood ash 0.0 1.5 5.0 Fast Sugar beet extract 5.0 2.5 NT NT Seaweed meal 1.0 0.5 8.0 Slow Colloidal phosphate 0.0 6.0 0.0 Slow Rock phosphate 0.0 8.0 0.0 Very slow •3•
  4. 4. Table 2. Seaweed fertilisers Name of Product (Supplier) Maxicrop Product descriptions Additional info. Use Contact info Maxicrop original – liquid seaweed extract Maxicrop concentrate - concentrated liquid seaweed extract Maxicrop Viva – liquid seaweed extract for seed dressings Maxicrop seaweed meal – soil conditioner and compost activator Applying to the soil for trace elements and additions to propagating media Liquids are foliar spray and root drench Marinure & maerit (Glenside) Marinure - liquid seaweed extract Maerit – concentrated seaweed extract As above Foliar spray and root drench Glenside Organics Ltd – contact J. Robertson, Block 2, Unit 4, Bandeath Industrial Estate, Throsk, FK7 7XY. T 01786 816655 Seagreens Seagreens agricultural purée Seagreens agricultural granules As above Foliar spray/seed soak Seagreens Ltd – contact S. Ranger, 1 The Warren, Handcross, West Sussex, RH17 6DX. Meal – soil conditionin g Granules – soil conditionin g, compost activator Maxicrop (UK) Ltd – contact M Garner, P.O. Box 6027, Corby, NN17 1ZH. k T 01405 762777 Table 3. Potash fertilisers Name of Product (Supplier) Cumulus (W.L. Dingley) Product descriptions Cumulus K Use Additional info Applying to the soil for mineral deficiency and additions to propagating media •4• Kali vinasse, sugar beet industry byproduct Contact info WL Dingley – contact B. Urbanski, Buckle St, Honeybourne, Evesham, Worc. WR11 7QE. T / F 01386 830242.
  5. 5. Table 4. NPK base fertilisers Name of Product (Supplier) Product descriptions Cumulus W.L. Dingley Cumulus 5-5-5 Cumulus 5-1-10 Cumulus 5–1-4 Applying to the soil and additions to propagating media WL Dingley – contact B. Urbanski, Buckle St, Honeybourne, Evesham, Worc. WR11 7QE. T / F 01386 830242. 5F’s Fertiliser Fertile Fibre Pelleted fertiliser 5-5-5 Applying to the soil and additions to propagating media Fertile Fibre- contact Matthew Dent, Fertile Fibre Ltd, Withington Court, Withington, Hereford, HR1 3RJ. Use table 1 can be made at home by grinding them into a fine dust. The process of making alfalfa meal is described in peat alternatives. The base fertilisers in tables 2-4 are available commercially and the manufacturers have signed declarations that they are animal-free. Peat Alternatives Peat is to be avoided on ecological grounds. The journal New Scientist reported that 455 billion tons of carbon is sequestered in peat bogs worldwide. That is equivalent to about 70-75 years of industrial emissions, making conservation of peat bogs as important an issue as saving the rainforests. Coir dust, a mixture of short and powder fibres, is a by-product of the coconut fibre industry. Most coir (sold usually as blocks) comes from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indo- Contact nesia and Central America and is not encouraged because it is felt that this valuable source of organic material should stay within these countries. Plant-based compost with additives Plant-based compost is rarely used as the sole potting medium since it is too porous and has too high levels of soluble salts. Therefore it is prudent to add either perlite, vermiculite or sand (see the Iain Tolhurst recipe above). You can make the compost element yourself. Best composting practice involves: • using select ingredients, including crop wastes, grass clippings, legume-rich hays and straw; • mixing plant-based ingredients: 2 part ‘greens’ to one part ‘browns’; • composting plant-based materials and leaf mould separately; •5•
  6. 6. • building a heap of sufficient volume; at least one cubic metre; • turning the heap to assist with aeration; • monitoring temperature rises; • covering the heap or windrow to prevent it from becoming waterlogged; • allowing for the compost to mature (approximately one year). increases air space, and decreases the water-holding capacity of a mix making it a suitable alternative to peat. Its pH is generally 5.0 to 6.5, it is low in soluble salts, and it will probably require more nitrogen base fertilisers if used in a mix. The product is available in B&Q’s animal-free multipurpose organic compost, which is also GM-free. Stéphane Groleau You can also Al f a l f a buy J. Bower’s (lucerne) New Horizon meal Peat Free OrAlfalfa meal ganic Comprovides nutripost as this is ents, which are available from released slowly. most garden Alfalfa must be centres and the processed bemanufacturer fore being has signed an used in growanimal-free ing media. declaration. Dried alfalfa The product is hay is ground made from and passed green waste through a 2 and has been cm screen. Salad tray, Growing with Grace described as a soil conditioner as the Water is added and the alfalfa is allowed quality cannot be guaranteed. However, to decompose for twenty days. It is then the sieved product has been used success- air-dried for another twenty days before fully by commercial stockfree-organic use. growers in propagation. Comfrey leaf mould Composted pine bark Compost breaks down through a largely Composted pine bark has high lignin bacterial process, whereas autumn leaves content, making it slow to degrade. Bark break down through a fungal process. lightens the mix, increases bulk density, The compost heap is covered to provide •6•
  7. 7. Stéphane Groleau the ideal aeration and moisture condi- and is available from West Riding Ortions for the bacteria, but the leaf mould ganics in the product Moorland Gold. bin is left open to the elements. Autumn Unit 3, Near Bank, Shelley, leaves consist mainly of hemi-celluloses Huddersfield, HD8 8LS. T 01484 and lignins which, when broken down, 609171. provide an excellent alternative to peat. Leaf mould Plant feeds takes about I d e a l l y, three years plants to break should obdown. tain all Leaf their remould quirecontains ments little in from wellthe way of nourished nutrients, soil fed but finewith plantgrade leaf b a s e d mould composts, that has turning in decomgreen maSalad in soil cube, Growing with Grace posed for nures, three years can be mixed to make com- mulching and/or chipped branch wood. frey leaf mould, which is a useful ingre- However, you may find that your green dient in seed composts. Fill a dustbin house crops, vegetables and pot plants with alternative layers of 10 cm of leaf may benefit from supplementary liquid mould and chopped comfrey leaves. feeding. We suggest various dosage rates Leave until the comfrey leaves have dis- but you may wish to experiment - reappeared, which can take up to five member that you can apply too much months. If the mixture turns soggy, turn and this will damage plants, e.g. adding out the mix and build it up again, add- comfrey juice to seedlings can cause maging further dry leaf mould. If it is too nesium lock-up in older plants. dry, add water. Seaweed feeds Filtered run-off peat It is possible to make a liquid feed using Peat filtered from reservoirs is acceptable seaweed meal. •7•
  8. 8. weed leaves or comfrey leaves. • Nettles give the best multipurpose feed and comfrey alone will give a feed rich in potash, which will be excellent for tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes. • Cover with water, cover the container, and leave for two to Making planting cubes with compost four weeks. at Growing with Nature Try a dilution rate of about one part brew to three parts water and use it monthly Seaweed meal contains all trace elements on house and bedding plants. but some authorities believe the amount • Strain through a sieve or old stockof available nitrogen and/or potash is low. ing to keep back weed seeds and bits of A richer feed can be made using green plant material, which will block your leaves, but for indoor plants the prob- watering can. • This feed, used fortnightly, is of lem is it stinks. course also excellent for vegetables but needs to be diluted more: about ten parts Plant tonics, e.g. comfrey liquid • Take any size of container (e.g. a wa- water to one part leaves. VON members ter butt with a tap) and fill with any or have found conclusively that liquid nettle all of the following: grass cuttings, nettles, feed brings on vegetables at least as well Stéphane Groleau • Put three flat tablespoons of seaweed meal into two litres of water, preferably in a glass bottle. • Leave to marinate for two to three weeks or more. • Every month in the growing season feed plants with one mugful of this brew in two litres of water, shake the bottle well before use. •8•
  9. 9. as chemical-based liquids when used at the same rate. The pong problem is not too hard to work around, since once the brew is diluted and applied to the soil, the smell disappears after a few days. So it is pos- Table 5. Mineral deficiencies Deficiency Phosphorus Potassium Magnesium – calcium Sulphur Boron Copper Indicator Very dark green leaves with a tendency to develop purple colours, stunted. Yellow streaks in the leaves. Yellow drying and reddening of older leaves while veins remain green. Younger leaves turn yellow and then all the leaves turn yellow. Soil test canker/curd browning. Top leaves wilt and do not recover. Preferred remedy Tunisian rock phosphate. Calcined aluminium phosphate rock (Redzlaag). Wood ashes in the compost heap. Limestone. Dolomite limestone. Gypsum /calcium sulphate. Foliar feed epsom salts (for acute magnesium deficiency). Magnesium rock (including Kierite). Gypsum. More compost less lime. Seaweed meal. Seaweed meal. Iron & Manganese Pale green leaves. More compost less lime. Seaweed meal. Molybdenum Soil test. Seaweed meal. Cobalt Soil test. Seaweed meal. Selenium Soil test. Seaweed meal. Zinc Same as copper, may have a bitter after taste. Seaweed meal. •9• Last resort Sulphate of potash. Sulphur. Direct application 2 at 3g per m for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only. Direct application for extreme cases only.
  10. 10. sible to feed pot plants outdoors and bring them in the next day but ensure that they will not be harmed by any change in temperature. Adding minerals Mineral deficiencies (table 5) can be confused with plant diseases. The use of mineral amendments is not sustainable, because mining and the transportation is fossil-fuel intensive and opencast mining destroys local environments. At the same time, occasionally growers have to make compromises to avoid crop failures, which may justify one-off applications. However, if other recommended practices are followed for improving soil fertility (plant-based composts, green manuring, mulching and chipped branch wood), vegan-organic systems should not rely on mineral amendments. Good luck! Let us have any feedback or ideas of your own. Remember to use appropriate protective clothing by the way; lime and comfrey, for example, can irritate eyes and skin. Books Readily available handbooks, which are not wholly vegan but provide good vegan alternatives are: The Organic Bible by Bob Flowerdew (ISBN 1856265951) and The New Organic Grower by Elliot Coleman (ISBN 093003175X). Weeds by John Walker is an earth-friendly guide to tackling weeds and making good use of them. Published by Cassel (ISBN 1 84403 061 X). The following books are available from The Vegan Society, Donald Watson House, 7 Battle Rd. St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN37 7AA. Tel: 01424 427393. shop: Abundant Living in the Coming Age of the Tree by Kathleen Jannaway (ISBN 0951732803) – towards a vegan, self-sustaining tree-based culture. Forest Gardening by Robert A de J Hart (ISBN 1900322021) – turn your garden or allotment into a vegan-organic, permaculture-based mini-forest. Permaculture: A Beginner’s Guide by Graham Burnett – apply the principles of sustainability and working with nature to your land, your community and your life. Plants for a Future by Ken Fern (ISBN 1856230112) – pioneering book that takes garden• 10 •
  11. 11. ing, conservation and ecology into a new dimension. Information about growing edible and other useful plants. The Animal Free Shopper (ISBN 0907337252) – The Vegan Society’s guide to all things vegan includes a section on garden products. Seeds and Supplies The Organic Gardening Catalogue, Riverdene Business Park, Molsey Rd, Hersham, Surrey KT12 4RG, UK. Tel: 01932 25366. Seeds and products such as fertilisers and compost listed as organic and animal-free. Suffolk Herbs, Monks Farm, Coggeshall Rd, Kelvedon, Essex CO5 9PG. Tel: 01376 572456. Chiltern Seeds, Bortree Stile, Ulverston, Cumbria LA12 7PB. Tel: 01229 581137. Wide range of seeds including uncommon and unusual vegetable varieties. Tamar Organics, Unit 5A, Westbridge Trading Estate, Tavistock, Devon PL19 8DE. Tel: 01822 834887. Excellent organic seed supplier. Organisations HDRA, Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry CV8 3LG. Tel: 024 7630 3517. Demonstration gardens and education centre at Ryton, which is presently being expanded. Some of their advice is based on animal products but this can be adapted. Members receive a quarterly magazine, Organic Way. Movement for Compassionate Living, 105 Cyfyng Rd, Ystalyfera, Swansea SA9 2BT. Tel: 0845 4584717. MCL produces a quarterly magazine, information and books on cultivation, cooking, etc., emphasising locally grown food and crueltyfree sustainable methods, especially the growing and use of trees. Plants for a Future, Blagdon Cross, Ashwater, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5DF. Tel: 01208 872963. Researching ecologically sustainable vegan-organic horticulture; an excellent resource and information centre. The website contains much useful information. Spiral Seed, 35 Rayleigh Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex SS0 7DS. Have publications, vegan-organic information and ideas including lots on vegan permaculture, very useful as most ‘permaculture’ involves animal exploitation. The website is a mine of information. • 11 •
  12. 12. The Vegan-Organic Network The Vegan Organic Network is a registered charity (registered charity number 1080847), providing education and research in vegan-organic principles and has an international network of supporters. VON supporters enjoy a wide variety of contacts and can obtain advice on cultivation techniques. The magazine Growing Green International is sent to supporters twice a year. For more information and details of how to join, please contact: VON, 58 High Lane, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9DZ Email: General enquiries and advice on growing: Phone: 0845 223 5232 Email: Website: Vegan-Organic information sheets This is one of several sheets produced on various topics by the Vegan-Organic Network. These are aimed mainly at those with allotments, kitchen gardens or other small growing areas, although many of the techniques will also apply to larger-scale situations. We welcome feedback on this information sheet and any other related topics. The information sheets currently available are: #1 Propagation and Fertilisers; #2 Growing Beans for Drying; #3 Growing on Clay Soils; #4 Vegan-Organic Growing - The Basics; #5 Fungi - FAQ: #6 Gardening for Wildlife; #7 Growers' Guide to Beetles; #8 Green Manures; #9 Chipped Branch-Wood; #10 Composting. These are available on request. Please send £5.00 per set, or 60p each (£6 and 75p respectively if outside the UK). The sheets are also available free on our website. Issued March 2005. This advice is given as guidance only, with no responsibility for any results, due to the nature of the processes involved! • 12 •