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?
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.