We know a vegan diet is one centered around plant-based foods, excluding animal products like meat, eggs, milk, and honey. We know that organic gardening is growing food (and other plants and trees) without using the concoctions common to modern agriculture, including chemically derived fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Veganic gardening (vegan + organic), then, can be explained as organic gardening without the use of animal products.
While chemical-free farming is certainly a healthier option than using all those biocides, for those of us living a plant-based lifestyle, there may still be some issues lingering in the organic garden. Namely, it is riddled with animal products. Blood meal, bone meal and fish emulsion are commonplace in organic gardens, and they are definitely not vegan. Even manure is seriously problematic in that top commercial brands source it from factory farms, further exploiting animals.
So, there remains veganic gardening, which utilizes non-animal, non-chemical means to cultivate our fruit, nuts, vegetables and grains. Of course, conventional gardeners, even conventional organic gardeners, tend to question the efficacy of veganic gardening. Can one grow the veggies without relying on animal products? How?
The Tools of the Veganic Gardener
Source: VEGAN ORGANIC NETWORK/Youtube
In essence, just as mass agriculture unquestionably relies on petroleum-driven machines and chemical assistance for producing a crop, organic gardeners usually fall back on animal-derived commercial products to revitalize soil, almost as if there is no other option. But, there is, of course. After all, forests don’t run down to the nursery to pick up fish emulsion when new trees are getting started. So, how do forests do it?
Veganic gardeners have a lot of tools at their disposal.
- Plant-based compost, made with things like kitchen scraps, leaves, wood chips and garden debris is rich in all the right nutrients and full of soil microbes.
- Green “manures” are mineral-rich crops grown to be cut down and fed back to the earth rather than people.
- Rotating crops in annual gardens keeps mineral levels balanced. Potatoes will want different nutrients than cabbage. If we keep our crops rotating, soils can restock.
- Using natural mulches, such as shredded leaves, straw, pine needles or aged wood chips reliably adds nutrients back to the soil while also protecting it.
- Compost and green manure teas can be used as natural, organic liquid fertilizers that can provide plants with an immediate boost of nutrients.
- If soil is exceptionally deficient in some minerals, rock dust, lime products, potash seaweed and just plain wood ash are viable options for making up the difference.
In other words, like the vegan diet can keep a person healthy and thriving without using animal products, veganic gardening techniques can meet all the needs of the garden without exploiting animals for their bones, blood or bowel movements.
Does Veganic Gardening Work?
Source: Mic the Vegan/Youtube
Asking if veganic gardening works is a bit like asking a plant-based eater where they get their protein. Of course, it works! Undoubtedly, forests and prairies benefit from the natural life cycles of animals, e.g. herds of buffalo fertilized the prairies as they moved through or the carcass of a raccoon that decays on the forest floor to give the trees nutrients. But, the healthiest ecosystems in the world have never relied on bagged manure and store-bought bone meal to grow.
Veganic gardening taps into the way these ecosystems work. When we create garden beds rich in organic matter, we invite various forms of soil life to make themselves at home. Earthworms and compost worms inevitably move in. With flowers blooming, insects, particularly beneficial one like bees and butterflies, find things comfy. Healthy bacteria and fungi establish. And, our gardens begin behaving like self-sufficient ecosystems as opposed to manicured lawns, reliant on humans to maintain them.
As for pests and diseases, veganic gardens primarily rely on preventative measures, but there are a few back up methods for immediate relief. Simply put, healthy plants are less prone to diseases and pest problems, just like people, and healthy plants grow from healthy soil. That’s what all of those veganic tools listed above are creating. Biodiversity and crop rotation, too, is good for avoiding plagues of pests or lingering diseases. When pests do cause problems, there are deterrents, like neem and garlic-pepper sprays, to help. Fungicides can be made from things like horseradish or apple cider vinegar. In other words, there are natural, humane solutions.
The Veganic Rub
Source: Vegan Action/Youtube
All that said, there remains a significant issue for those of us looking to enjoy veganic produce: Where can we buy it? Organic produce is easy to find these days, but the odds of finding veganic produce for sale, even at a farmers market, is highly unlikely. In other words, the best way to get veganic produce is to grow your own veganic garden. Luckily, at this point, you’ve already got a basic understanding of how that works. Here’s where to get some more info:
Recommended Books for Getting Started with Veganic Gardening:
- Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening
- Growing Green: Animal-Free Organic Techniques
- The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Eating and Earthright Living
- The Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About a Vegan Garden
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