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Vegan Organic Growing by Graham Cole, Vegan Views 99 (Winter 2003/4)

VV subscriber Graham Cole has worked on several large gardens since 1978. He is a strong supporter of the Vegan Organic Network, and will be the presenter on their forthcoming videos on stockfree organic agriculture.

The Garden in late Winter/Early Spring

During this dormant time we have the chance to reflect on last year's progress (success and failure), looking ahead to the new growing season and getting mail order seeds.

The wonderful weather last year continued well into the autumn and only since the new year have most parts of the country seen useful amounts of rain. All that vegan-organic material both in the soil and on top shows its value in retaining moisture and nutrients.

If shelter is available (cloche, frame or greenhouse) early sowings can begin. Even a window sill can provide a start. Most things can germinate at around 15C (60F) then good light conditions must be given to enable steady and sturdy growth. A small electric propagator to give gentle bottom heat is a useful consideration.

Early Sowings (protected)

Lettuce, Parsley, Broad Bean, Cabbage, Radish, greenhouse Tomato, Sweet Pepper and Sweet Basil the latter three needing higher germination temps of around 18C-21C. Also a few hardy perennial and annual flowers can be started now to help attract all that insect life into the garden!

Outside (as conditions allow)

Shallots, Onion Sets, Peas and Broad Beans.

At this time if you have bought your Seed Potatoes they should be "chitted" (sprouting) in good light to get good growing shoots. My favourite varieties are "Duke of York", a tasty "floury" early, which will also keep very well; "Edzell Blue" tasty early old variety making a comeback.; "Pink Fir Apple", a heavy cropping salad spud. For storing, if you have space, maincrop ones such as "Maris Piper", "Desiree" (as all reds less damaged by underground slugs), "Cara" and "Golden Wonder".

Harvesting Now (fresh or natural storage)

Leeks, Parsnip, Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Spinach, Winter Squash, Potatoes.

Plus protected autumn sown leafy stuff such as Winter Purslane, Parsley, Corn Salad, Mizuna and soon, Lettuce-all valuable nutrition this time of year to supplement the seed sprouts (alfalfa etc.)

Growing Mediums

B&Q Peat-Free (and animal free) Organic Compost for sowing (I add some sharp sand for this) and potting up-the most widely available medium for veganic gardeners.

Municipal Compost this is catching on at last in a lot of areas. Here in Hampshire we now have some called Pro-Grow which I am going to trial this year as a potting medium. It's main use is as a soil conditioner for the garden.

Allotments and Birds

If you are considering an allotment now is a good time to get one so you can get cracking in time for the main growing period.

We have our bird feeders hanging up near the soft fruit and fruit trees and while they are "in the queue" they perch on the branches and eat over-wintering aphid eggs and we have seen Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch as well as the usual Blue-tits and Finches.

Enjoy your Gardens, Allotments, Balcony, Patio space and the delights from them both edible and colourful!

Seed Catalogue

Suffolk Herbs, Monks Farm, Coggeshall Rd, Kelvedon, Essex CO5 9PG. Web: www.suffolkherbs.com.

Useful Information

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

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Cross-reference: Growing Fruit & Veg