$8 greens box

Greens don’t have a huge root base so they can actually live in pretty shallow containers. I saw loads of people affix rain gutters to walls and fences to grow lettuce, so I figured, why not a balcony railing? I found this gutter at Home Depot for $6 and the end caps for $1 each. What a steal! I just secured it with jute rope but I might switch to white zip ties eventually. There are some baby lettuces you can’t see, interspersed with my romaine lettuces I sprouted from kitchen scraps, and some flowers for color.

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I’m so pleased with this project that I’m going to go buy more guttering to wrap around both balconies.

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Veganic gardening products and ideas

As an ethical vegan, I try to incorporate veganism into all areas of my life. This means, in addition to avoiding meat, eggs, dairy, gelatin, honey, etc. in my diet, I abstain from wool, leather, and other animal-derived items in daily life. It’s pretty surprising how many animals products find their way into consumer goods (soaps, fabric softener, shoe soles, car tires, fertilizers,…) and you just have to do the best you can to avoid them and find reasonable alternatives, if possible.

Of course, veganism finds its way into gardening as well, through the avoidance of manure, fish meal, chicken dung, feather meal, bone meal, and blood meal in potting soils and fertilizers. There are loads of resources online to find out more about these byproducts and why they’re problematic. (Personally, I avoid these things because they’re largely byproducts of farmed animals and financially support and condone the animal agriculture industry.) What’s a little more difficult to figure out is what substitute products to use and where to find them. A lot of people make their own compost and then mix that, top soil, coconut coir or peat moss (coir is a little more environmentally friendly), perlite, and veg-friendly fertilizer to make their own vegan potting soil. That’s great, but for the lazier folks (me), it’s nice to find a pre-mixed commercial product. Don’t get tricked into thinking organic=vegan, either! A lot of organic products are worse because they rely on animal-derived products rather than chemical fertilizers.

Here are the products I’ve been using lately. EcoScraps compost and potting soil use composted food scraps and can be found at Home Depot and Ace Hardware stores. Liquid seaweed is a great source of soluble potassium and trace minerals. I purchased my bottle on Amazon, though I think it’s fairly easy to find in retail stores. As for fertilizer, I found this chemical fertilizer at my grocery store. There are more “natural” vegan fertilizer powders online, but being strapped for cash recently, I couldn’t justify paying $11 of shipping for a $14 product. I also vermicompost my kitchen scraps (worm compost), which isn’t vegan but is a choice I’ve made because the worms aren’t killed and I feel like it’s more sustainable and ethical to do that than to throw my veggie scraps into a landfill (and I don’t have enough space on my balcony for a traditional compost pile).

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The last thing I’ll touch upon is pest control. I try my best not to kill insects, but at some point you’ll just get overrun with aphids if you get too peace- loving. There are a few options, here:

1) Purchase ladybugs or lacewing larvae and set them loose on your plants. I’ve tried the lady bug thing and they basically just fly away without eating the aphids. Actually, more ended up wandering into my house than hanging out on the plants, and then got eaten by Rhodie. 😦 Another thing to consider is that these predatory bugs are bred in large scale facilities that are likely not too kind to the insects either in production or transportation.

2) Incorporate plants into your garden (yarrow is an example) to attract predatory insects or discourage/confuse/distract pests (e.g., onions, garlic, marigold, borage, nasturtiums). This is probably the best solution but is slow and depends on predatory insects to actually find your garden and the plants to turn away the majority of bugs). Hummingbirds eat aphids in addition to nectar, so consider hanging a hummingbird feeder near your plants.

3) The last, least vegan option is to kill off the pests, which is what I’ve resorted to. A simple soap solution will desiccate soft-bodied insects like aphids but won’t affect hard shelled insects. You can also use a high-powered hose to knock aphids off your plants. Since I don’t have a hose, I recycled an old spray bottle and mix a few drops of dish soap into some water. It works great. Just make sure it’s not too concentrated or you can burn your plants. Not that I’ve done that or anything……

Hope this helps any aspiring veganic gardeners. I’m still pretty new to the whole idea and have loads to learn so please share ideas or thoughts in the comments section!

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Plant inventory

Here’s what I’m planning to grow this spring/summer:

beans
-edamame
-Kentucky wonder pole beans
-trionfo violetto pole beans
-rattlesnake pole beans
-sultan’s golden crescent

peppers
-sweet cherry blend
-lipstick peppers

cucumbers
-space master

radishes
-watermelon
-French breakfast
-Easter egg

lettuces and greens
-black seeded Simpson
-freckles romaine
-Paris island romaine
-Nevada lettuce
-mesclun
-Malabar spinach vine
-tyee f1 spinach

tomatoes
-sun sugar
-yellow pear
-red grape

carrots
-royal chantenay
-little finger
-carnival colors

herbs and edible flowers
-borage
-jewel blend nasturtium
-marigolds
-alyssum
-purple anise hyssop
-dill
-sweet basil
-flat leaf parsley
-lavenders
-thyme (“regular”, lemon)
-oreganos (culinary, spicy)
-sage
-spring onions
-garlic scapes
-ginger scapes

fruit trees
-crabapple
-blueberry
-meyer lemon
-bearrs lime
-pomegranate
-olive
-avocados

Soooo many plants!!!! 😉

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Cucumber update

Most of the seedlings have two true leaves now so I started hardening them off. The weather is so mild and overcast that I leave them out all day. Tomorrow they’ll go into the sun and Thursday they’ll stay out overnight.

Even on a shaded balcony they’re growing way faster in natural light than under the grow light.  Neat!

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Interim south garden tour and some new growth

Still tidying up so it’s not beautiful or organized, but here’s where I’m at for now.

-Window boxes, secured with zip ties. Currently have carrot and radish seeds (unsprouted), thyme, some flowering herbs,  strawberries, and unsprouted dwarf sunflowers. Will soon also have cucumbers, milkweed, yarrow, more flowers!

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-Planter boxes. Stunted kale, chard, parsley, spring onions, snow peas, and bolted lettuces.

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-Herb and flower corner.  Bougainvillea with new trellis, recently staked princess flower recovering from a cold snap, lavenders, mint, spicy oregano.

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And now for some sprouts updates!

Milkweed *finally* sprouted after 3 weeks!

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Yarrow is doing good, sort of slow growth.

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Radishes have sprouted and were promptly devoured by birds. 😦  I ordered some bird netting and am temporarily protecting the survivors with burlap. That’s a baby avocado in the pot. I have a few scattered here and there.

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Lime flower buds! It’s doing so much better compared to when I got it. It was discounted 80% to $10 at the nursery, with yellowed leaves, leaf borer damage, and in an overall sad state. Repotting, watering, fertilizer, and time made all the difference!

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Crabapple buds! This one was also discounted and in bad shape at the nursery. I got it in the fall and so when it lost all its leaves the week after I bought it, I wasn’t sure if it was seasonal or dying! So this was welcome and exciting news!

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Ginkgo tree buds! It’s pretty early in the season for this guy to be greening up; it only dropped its leaves in November! Every year I eagerly await the little buds as a sign of the coming spring. I’ve had this tree since it was only 5″ tall. I got it at a plant sale at my university’s botanical garden. It’s stuck with me for almost 9 years, faithfully growing branches and turning into a real tree. I look forward to the day I can plant it in a yard. I know it would love more space.

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That’s it for now!

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Seedlings update

Most of the cherry peppers and lipstick peppers have sprouted now! The cherry peppers took almost two weeks and I’ve transferred them to the light box. The lipsticks germinated quite quickly (under one week) but the leaves are having trouble breaking through the seed casing.
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The cucumbers have their first true leaf! I will probably start hardening them off in about a week. I think I might try planting a few in a railing planter to see if they can hang over it, since they are supposed to do well in hanging planters. Exciting!

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Transplanting cucumbers

Well, it’s been exactly one week since the cucumber seeds were planted. I haven’t seen much growth above ground the past few days so I figured they might be building their root system up.  I was right! Taking one pair out of their pot revealed that they were getting close to being root bound.  Time to move up to the next size of container!

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They’re just in some new potting soil (unsterilized) and I’m going to try watering bottom up, which is why they’re sitting in a tray. I mixed in some old liquid plant food into the water, too. They’ve also been moved to a light box I constructed by lining a shipping box with aluminum foil. I think it works pretty well!

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