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Vegan Organic Growing by Graham Cole, Vegan Views 96 (Spring 2003)

Growing food in a new garden (well two actually)

VV subscriber Graham Cole has volunteered to write a regular column on vegan organics. Graham has worked on several large gardens since 1978. He is a strong supporter of the Vegan Organic Network.

The idea behind this column is to give people advice and suggestions on growing fruit and veg. I'll start this in the next edition, but firstly, I'd like to tell you about my last year of growing to show what can be grown in Britain… Last year, I moved to a new estate in Hampshire where I'm employed to manage the gardens.

Arriving in February last year, I began the task to get 2 gardens underway - the one I look after as my job, and our home plot - both needing some vegan organic attention with the priority being to start a compost heap with good solid sides and plenty of varied organic material to get some heat.

The other things the fine weather in those early weeks allowed was planting - much of which I had bought with me: Strawberries, Apple trees (3 varieties "Fortune", "Sunset", "Pitmaston Pineapple"), Almond ("Ingrid"), Blackberry ("Ashton Cross" and "Fantasia"), Loganberry, Boysenberry, Fig ("Brown Turkey"), Grape (Fragola), Gage ("Early Transparent") and Pear ("Onward", "Fertility Improved") - the last 5 items going against the superb south facing wall I have in my own garden. If you have such a wall fill it with fruit! In addition this last autumn I have added Apricot ("Farmingdale") and Gage ("Reine Claude de Bavay"). I also put in Russian Comfrey (Bocking 14) for fertility - liquid feed and mulch. I have been growing this plant for 26 years when I first joined the H.D.R.A. - the U.K.`s oldest and largest organic gardening body. Being lucky to have a large greenhouse and cold frames I started seed sowing the following: Broad Beans, Lettuce, Parsley, Cabbage, Sweet Peas etc for planting out later when warmer and Carrots, Spring Onion, Beetroot direct into frames. The more exotic stuff was also sown in early March for cropping in the greenhouse - Sweet Peppers, Tomatoes (5 different types), Sweet Basil.

I then proceeded to prepare the ground as the temps rose, covering the soil with well rotted leafmould, the fruit cage with a flattened cardboard boxes/straw layer all through between the rows of Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Redcurrants, Whitecurrants and Gooseberries so no soil is visible, weeds are kept down, moisture is conserved and fertility is improved. Along with returning organic matter to the soil and rotation of crops the covering of soil is very important.

So, as the summer of 2002 progressed we did get some fine conditions and my usual practice of growing various flowers to attract insects (as well as the human eye!) amongst the fruit and veg began to take shape - particularly successful was the glorious blue flowered Phacelia growing between the rows of potatoes, rows of globe artichokes and around the edges of various plots.

Other flowers worth trying for wildlife and lifting the spirit are: Shirley Poppies, California Poppies, Echium, Calendula, Cosmea, Lavatera, Borage, Convolvulus Minor, Limnanthes Douglasii, Sweet Williams, Cornflower, Catmint, Fennel-Bronze, Lavender and many other herbs.

During the mellowing days of late summer and autumn when the harvesting and eating of the produce was in full swing, the sowing and establishment of Green Manures was underway. These plants are very important in covering vacant ground, particularly in winter, to protect the soil and raise fertility. I sowed White Clover under the Sweet Corn and between rows of some winter brassicas, Winter Tares on cleared ground and during the summer Buckwheat (also good for insects) and the before-mentioned Phacelia.

Bringing us up to the present, March 2003 I have planted a new orchard of apple trees (6 classic quality varieties), new rose garden, various specimen flowering trees, and begun to bring back to life the south-facing wall of an old Victorian walled kitchen garden by planting a Fig, Peach, Nectarine, 2 Pears and 3 Gages - just for starters!

The cycle continues as I sow in the greenhouse again, this year I'm going to grow some Cantaloupe Melons - always something to look forward to - for gardeners this year is going to be better than the last, always hopeful and optimistic and as vegans a tasty more compassionate future for LIFE!

Seeds obtainable from…

Suffolk Herbs, Monks Farm, Coggeshall Road, Kelvedon, Essex, CO5 9PG. Tel: 01376 572456. Email: www.suffolkherbs.com

Organic Gardening Catalogue, Riverdene Business Park, Molesey Road, Hersham, Surrey, KT12 4RG. Tel: 01932 253666.

Useful Information

Vegan Organic Network, Plants for a Future, and Movement for Compassionate Living.

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Cross-reference: Growing Fruit & Veg