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Vegan Organic Growing - the Basics

Vegan Organic Growing - the Basics

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Published by Vegan Future
A Vegan Organic Network leaflet which tells you how to successfully grow crops without the use of artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures or animal remains from slaughterhouses

Find out more at http://www.veganorganic.net
A Vegan Organic Network leaflet which tells you how to successfully grow crops without the use of artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures or animal remains from slaughterhouses

Find out more at http://www.veganorganic.net

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Published by: Vegan Future on Nov 11, 2011
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02/03/2012

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Vegan-Organic Information Sheet #4 (60p)
 Vegan-Organic Growing -The Basics
Growing with concern for people, ani-mals and the environment
Organic growing involves treating thesoil, the growing environment and the world environment as a resource to bepreserved for future generations, ratherthan exploited in the short term. Vegan-organics means doing this without any animal products at all, which is not dif-ficult when you know how.
 All soil fertil-ity ultimately depends on plants and min-erals - these do not have to be passed throughan animal in order to work.
Fertility canbe maintained by plant-based composts,green manures, mulches, chipped branch wood, crop rotations and any othermethod that is sustainable, ecologically benign and not dependent upon animalexploitation.The guidelines below do not attemptto be fully comprehensive.
The extent towhich you adhere to any system really de- pends on you, your conscience and circum-stances.
We can only do our best with ouravailable time and money. The Vegan-Organic Network has now publishedcomprehensive Stockfree Organic Stan-dards, which are available to commer-cial growers and can also be used as areference for home growers. Of course,no one person or organisation knows ev-erything about the subject, so constantco-operation and updating of ideas andinformation is needed. Whilst conventional cultivation relieson synthetic chemicals and animal prod-ucts, traditional organic production alsogenerally relies on animal wastes and by-products. Both involve the exploitationof living creatures, and the inefficient useof land, water and energy resources. Ve-gan-organic methods minimise thesedrawbacks. Many people who are notthemselves vegan or vegetarian are com-ing to appreciate that animal-free grow-ing is the most sustainable system: it isthe future of organics.
Vegan-organic information sheets 
areproduced on various topics by the Ve-gan-Organic Network, and are aimedmainly at those with allotments, kitchengardens, or other small growing areas,although many of the techniques will alsoapply to larger-scale situations. We wel-come feedback on this information sheetand any other related topics.In adopting these methods you willcertainly not be alone! Various groupsexist to help out and many are listed be-low. Whether or not you grow some of your own food, it is still possible to sup-port the Vegan-Organic Network andother organisations that promote animal-free growing, and thereby lend a hand inthe movement towards a cruelty-free and
 
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Worms thrive in mulches.Drawing by Christine Mackay
environmentally friendly world. Theoption of buying animal/cruelty-free food is open to very few of usat the moment, unless we are for-tunate enough to live near one of the small but increasing number of commercial vegan-organic producers.There are one thousand million rea-sons for growing vegan-organically; thisbeing a conservative estimate of thenumber of sentient creatures killed just in the UK every year to providefood and raw materials for the UK population.Here is some advice about grow-ing your own crops.First of all, remember to use appro-priate protective clothing; some materi-als such as limestone, can irritate the eyesand skin, as can some plants such as com-frey (not to mention nettles!)
Preparing the soil
Most bacterial activity and soil organismslive in the top few inches of the soil help-ing to create drainage and build up fer-tility. Constantly digging the soil andexposing it to erosion from the elementsdisturbs the natural balance resulting inthe loss of availability of organic matterand the breakdown of soil structure. When cropping you need to constantly replenish soil organic matter levels by theaddition of plant-based composts,mulches and by using plants grown toimprove fertility, i.e. green manures. With the exception of green manures,digging is not necessary for incorporat-ing materials as organic matter spread onthe surface will soon be drawn under by  worm activity and plant nutrients willbe available at root level and not be bur-ied out of reach.It is advisable to dig heavy clays asexposure to frost and rain can result in amore workable soil, especially over win-ter. Compaction, caused by standing orrunning the wheelbarrow over the soil when it is too wet, can be avoided by making permanent beds that are neverstood on. These can be timber lined asraised beds, with soil from the paths be-ing placed on the beds to raise them. Where soil has been compacted it may be loosened by forking. When clearing land for the first timeit is important to remove all the peren-nial weeds such as bind weed, couchgrass, ground elder and horsetail whoseroots are deep and wide spreading. Dan-delions, docks and thistles have a longtaproot. You remove them through a pro-cess of digging a trench, at spade depths
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across an area. Work backwards by push-ing the soil continually forward, almostlike a sieving process so that you can in-spect every part of the soil and removeall the weeds. Do not stand on your new soil tilth! Finally when all the weeds areremoved rake the soil level with the back of the rake to reduce hillocks andmounds. All weeds will re-grow from asmall piece left in the ground so it isimportant that you are thorough. After digging, the soil will soon becovered by germinating weeds blown inor brought in by birds etc. therefore it isimportant to manage weeds so that they do not outcompete the crop. Weeding isa constant task for the vegan-organicgrower but it is always easier to hoe small weeds when they are at the white stringy stage rather than having to uproot estab-lished weed clumps by hand, which isfar more arduous. Weeds are not all bad as they containnutrients that have been brought to thesurface level via the roots. Rather than waste this valuable resource, annual weeds (if not seeding!) can be compostedand perennials can be chopped andadded to water to make a liquid feed, asoutlined below.
Mulching and no dig
Mulching is the method of applying or-ganic matter to the soil surface, provid-ing a constant supply of material to break down, suppressing weed growth, ensur-ing more even soil temperature and mois-ture. Mulch can be applied at any time
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Field-scale mulching at Organic Growers of Durham

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