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From 7 September 2003 Issue

"Veganic" Gardening
M. Katz, Gentle World - gentle@aloha.net
Co-author of: Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm

At the weekly farmers market, I asked the many local organic growers if they used blood and bone to grow their produce. Most of them replied "yes." I didn't know what to purchase with our dollars: food grown with chemicals that endangers the fertility of the soil as well as our own health, or food grown in blood and bone which, somehow, repulsed me! I went on an organic inspection along with the local certifier, which made buying organic food less desirable because of my strong stance on veganism. I needed a solution to this problem. I never thought I would get my hands in the dirt with the worms (nor would anyone else I know ever think this of me), but I decided to grow the food (vegan-organic) for Gentle Worlds Vegan Paradigm Center on the north island of New Zealand, called Shangri-La.

We started with two large plots for vegetables which were a success -- watermelons beyond what we could eat, delicious sweet corn, excellent potatoes, and tomatoes to give away free to everyone we knew! Yes, the gardens could have been more successful, but it was enough to inspire me to want to learn all I could. We added more garden plots for next season. These 4 large garden plots are surrounded by native bush. The pristine rivers that come straight to us from the surrounding forest flow by the gardens as our irrigation source, if necessary. (It usually rains enough to water the gardens naturally.) We grow all our own vegetables, as well as watermelons. In addition, we planted hundreds of various fruit trees: mandarins, oranges and various citrus, avocados, pears, plums, apples, feijoas, blueberries, bananas, peaches, nectarines, cherimoyas, sapotes, guava, figs, loquats, macadamias and almonds.

Gentle Worlds Vegan Paradigm Center in Hawaii also has a vegan-organic garden, but it does not supply us with all our produce. Here we use a raised bed system with minimal tilling, which is more gentle on the earth and the worms!

The "Veganic" gardening system we use avoids chemicals, as well as livestock manures and animal remains from slaughterhouses/processing plants. Alternatively, fertility of the soil is maintained with vegetable compost, crop rotation, mulching, and other methods. We cover all four of our gardens with a thick layer of hay mulch or a nitrogen-fixing cover crop of lupines or broad beans (fava beans) and put them to sleep for the winter. By growing our food veganically, there is also a greater hope of eliminating transmittable diseases and bacteria. We find growing "veganic" to be a healthier and more compassionate alternative.

Soil conditioners and fertilizers that we use include: lime, gypsum, rock phosphorus, dolomite, rock dusts, rock potash, wood ash, hay mulches, composted organic matter (fruit and vegetable rinds, leaves, and grass clippings), green manure or nitrogen-fixing crops, liquid feeds such as comfrey or nettles, and seaweed (fresh, liquid or meal) for trace elements. Seaweed is best used harvested fresh from the sea as opposed to washed up and sitting on beaches. Marigolds have a root system that improves the soil and repels insect pests, so we plant them around the garden. For now, these are the methods we are using.

Returning to Hawaii, I went to a natural food store and found tomatoes with a sticker saying "Vegan Tomatoes"; organically grown with neem oil and vegan fertilizer. There must be others who feel similar thoughts and are demanding the growers to elevate the standards. I also received word that one of New Zealand's organic certifiers has recently modified their standards by not allowing the use of blood and bone anymore. I believe this is because of United Kingdoms problems with mad cow and hoof and mouth disease.

Veganic gardening in our magnificent setting in New Zealand has been fulfilling to my soul and beyond anything I ever conceived of before. For those interested in seeing pictures of the land, please visit the web site: www.gentleworld.org 

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