View Full Version : Starting a garden and need advice!

May 6th, 2012, 02:06 AM
I am fairly new to gardening, having only helped my Mom garden years ago. Last year I grew my own herbs in our enclosed porch and was successful, but did not really consider the potting soil and fertilizer I was using and where it derived from.

This year my husband and I have decided to start our own garden in our yard (we do have an apple tree that supplies us fruit but that requires little care from us :)). We have dug up a nice plot in our yard and just started a compost bin and collecting grass and leaves outside as well as vegan food scraps from the kitchen. Our soil is decent, nice and dark, but there is the dilemma of what fertilizer and/or compost to use or if we even need any while we build up our own compost pile. I have gone to three different garden centers and talked with numerous gardeners (none vegan though but one vegetarian) and none seem to be able to help with how to keep our garden vegan. I refuse to use animal manure or chemical fertilizers and I certainly won't use the "organic" fertilizer full of blood and fish guts and bones. There are a few vegan friendly fertilizers like kelp meal and rock phosphate at these garden centers but they seem to be for specific problems or types of plants. I have decided that we are just not going to use fertilizer this year and see how it goes as it just seems so complicated with how to get the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus etc with these vegan fertilizers as none are "all purpose". Has anyone who gardens been successful not using any fertilizer at all?

Now the other dilemma of the compost. Our soil is going to need some kind of extra boost, food if you will, to get our plants going. One option for commercial compost while we wait for our own compost pile to build up (which takes several months from our research) is from our city's sanitation facility/complex. They have a program where people can bring their grass clippings, dead leaves, twigs and branches etc and dump them in a certain pile. This pile is then composted into another pile over several years and later sold to the public for a small fee. It is a continuous operation. It is called a green manure. Here is the catch. Several local restaurants contribute to this compost pile by delivering their leftover scraps of food that would otherwise be thrown. Included in these scraps is some dairy and meat scraps. This food is carefully composted/broken down and the compost pile periodically tested for salmonella and other bacterias etc (by law and federal regulation as this is a government owned facility). My issue is, if we were to buy compost from there, even just once while we build up our own vegan compost, would this still be contributing to animal slaughter and agriculture? I really do not like the idea of using that compost (I guess it would be along the same lines as using the organic fish guts) but there just do not seem to be any other commercial composts that are remotely vegan out there (at least locally that wouldnt cost an arm and a leg to ship). I am getting truly frustrated with how complicated this is getting to be. I just want to grow some of my own vegetables and control what goes into the making of them. I havent even gotten around to where we are buying our seeds yet. Sighs. We have a little bit of time as we can't plant until the end of May up here but I want to be ready and do this right.

I would love to hear from any other gardeners and how you manage all these issues. Do you use fertilizer and what kind? What about compost? How did you get started? I have searched the forums but have not been able to find much yet.
It really amazed me how we were treated at these garden centers. Although most of the workers we talked to were polite and tried to work with our situation, two were particularly rude. The minute I mentioned bieng vegan and my concern with using manure or other animal derived materials, they changed completely from being helpful and engaging to suddenly having other customers they needed to get to and not wanting to talk to us. Ugh.

ps we are going to grow carrots, onion, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, and peppers this year.

May 6th, 2012, 02:48 AM
Our soil is decent

Problem solved.

May 6th, 2012, 12:11 PM
Thanks Risker. The thing is, I dont know anyone who has a garden that doesnt work the soil with at least some type of compost or fertilizer to give it the nutrients it needs. I am not sure if I want to risk just throwing some seeds in there and seeing what happens. The soil is not the greatest but it is a good consistancy not clay or sand like either so maybe theres hope.

May 6th, 2012, 01:20 PM
Maybe you can get some ideas here http://www.veganorganic.net/

I mostly just use my homemade compost and seaweed meal on the garden, but I don't grow that many veg.

May 6th, 2012, 03:24 PM
Thanks harpy! How did I not find that website in all my searching!

Can I ask what types of vegetables and or fruits you grow? Has the seaweed meal made a big difference and does it have to be used only on specific vegetables or types of soil or did you just start using it regardless because it's vegan? Id love to hear more about your gardening experience. Thanks so much for the helpful link too!

May 6th, 2012, 05:50 PM
Hey, I do this kind of stuff for a living =D
Sadly, the people I work for use soils that, while entirely organic, include things I don't personally agree with.
I do recommend coir (it's the husks of coconut, ground up. It helps plants flourish), and greensand (it's a sand filled with minerals and nutrients, generally a marine sediment). If you have a good amount of earthworms in your soil, it will generally be better all around (both because they enrich it, and because their castings are incredible for it). People might disagree with this one (although I don't consider it exploitation, some might), but if you need a little extra nitrogen, bat guano works well, just be sure you know who you are getting it from and how they attain it (the man we get it from goes in after the bats have migrated out and does not disturb them or their ecosystem). I don't enjoy working with bat guano, because it is really strong, but it helps.
Last but not least, it is important to build up your soil every year, even if it is already good. I say try a few different brands and see what works best for you.
Good luck!

May 6th, 2012, 05:56 PM
We don't have much that's edible growing out there at the moment - just things rhubarb, herbs, wild strawberries, apples... stuff that seems to fend for itself.

When I have grown more veg I have mostly done it in containers - then it was stuff like tomatoes, salad leaves, cucumbers, courgettes (zucchini), nothing too challenging.

I used a seaweed based feed for the tomatoes - think I gave some of the meal to the rhubarb as well when I first put it in. It is meant to be fairly good as a general feed I think http://www.organiccatalogue.com/Soil-and-Plant-Care-Feeding-Seaweed/c60_165_168/index.html

I have had reasonable results using this as a growing medium in containers http://www.fertilefibre.com/growing-media/vegan-approved/ - maybe you can get something similar there? I think it can also be used as a soil improver.

I am not really the person to ask for gardening advice as our garden is more like a very small wood and the main crop is hedgehogs :) - I know there are people around who grow veg though. (Paging CedarBlue!)

May 7th, 2012, 11:11 AM
Thanks Muvesz and harpy! I will definitely take your suggestions into consideration! My garden does have a lot of earthworms present so that is a plus. Yesterday I saw a robin walking around in our bare garden we just recently dug up. He/she was pulling out earthworms and it had just rained. I might consider the seaweed meal depending on how things go. Our tomato plants will be in a separate area than our other vegetables so maybe I will experiement with them first. I have never heard of greensand or coir but I will do some more research on these. I do buy coconuts on occasion and I wonder if I would be able to grind it up myself with my blendtec?
Thanks again guys for all your help! This is an area I wish a vegan would write a book on!

May 7th, 2012, 04:49 PM
VON have a couple of books in their catalogue - don't know if they're any good, perhaps you could talk a library into trying to get them for you? http://www.veganorganic.net/pdfsnew/merchandise.pdf

Coir is what the vegan compost I mentioned is based on, seems to work OK. If you make some compost from veg. peelings and so on you may not need the seaweed, I don't know - I was reading something that suggested some people think you shouldn't need it. You can also do stuff like making liquid feed from comfrey or just weeds - just put them in a bucket of water, cover, and wait for them to break down.