We all know why organic gardening is great – eliminating synthetic chemicals and growing naturally is the clear choice for gardeners who want to be good to Mother Earth. But if you want to take your earth-friendly gardening to the next level, you may want to consider going vegan. Sometimes called veganic, plant-based, or stock-free gardening, this approach is gaining popularity around the world.
Many of the fertilizers and some of the other products we typically use in organic gardening are derived from animals, such as blood meal, feather meal, and bone meal. Though these are good for the garden, they are certainly not good for the animals that were killed in order to make the products. In all decisions on what gardening products to use, the guiding principle is to do no harm to any living creature.
Vegan products are those that are not made from any animal products or by-products. This includes not just products made by killing an animal, such as fish meal, but also any product that was made by exploiting an animal’s life for our own purposes such as with manure production. Even though “manure happens” and collecting it does not cause those animals any suffering, by not buying manure products vegan gardeners do not support the primary industry those animals are being used for, such as being slaughtered for meat.
Some vegan gardeners will, however, use manure if they can ensure that the source is a well-treated, happy critter such as a backyard pet horse. A few other garden products are similarly debated, such as buying worm castings or beneficial insects, as the bugs in question may have been raised (or at very least shipped) in ways that are stressful to these creatures. Better instead to encourage native beneficial insects and earthworms to move into your garden, where they will provide just as much help.
There is no single way to garden veganically. Whether you like container gardening, raised beds, biointensive, permaculture, or just a “good old fashioned backyard garden,” you can turn your garden veganic by choosing vegan inputs, encouraging biodiversity, aiming for sustainability, and making decisions that are earth- and animal- friendly.
The following is a list of vegan alternatives for your garden. When purchasing products for your veganic garden, make sure to read the label as some may contain unexpected animal-derived ingredients:
Vegan-friendly products and methods
- Down To Earth Vegan Mix fertilizer
- Alfalfa meal
- Cottonseed meal
- Neem seed meal
- Soybean meal
- Corn gluten meal
- Kelp meal
- Arctic humus
- Soil inoculants and mycorrhizae – read the label first, as some products contain animal-derived fertilizers too. Chappy’s and MycoMinerals are both vegan-friendly choices.
- Mulches–like Mega Mulch
- Cover crops, and cover crop inoculants
- Compost made from green waste (not manure)
- Composting at home
- Liquid kelp
- Calphos, gypsum, greensand and other mineral fertilizers. Many vegans avoid mined minerals though because of the effects mining has on local animal life and the earth as a whole.
- Humic Acids, such as Humax (also a mined product)
- Peat moss (vegan, but controversial due to the effects of harvesting it on the environment)
- Coco coir or coco peat
- Homemade potting mix: combine PVFS compost, perlite (or substitute vermiculite), coco peat (coco coir), and your choice of nutrient-rich ingredients such as limestone.
- Any pesticides that are barriers or deterrents (gopher wire, for example).
- Pest prevention techniques such as companion planting, removing fallen leaves and other pest hiding places, crop rotation, etc
- Biological controls (introducing new beneficial insects or pest-specific diseases) is debatably veganic. It is preferred to encourage native species and only introduce new ones as a last resort.
- Mushroom kits (except for the white buttons and portabella kits)
Products That are Not Vegan
- Bone meal
- Blood meal
- Shrimp and Crab meals
- Fish meal, liquid fish, and other fish products
- Vermiculture/Worm composting
- Worm castings (instead create a garden that encourages earthworm populations)
- Manures including guano
- Potting mixes and soil conditioners (PVFS Soil Conditioner, VermiBlend and FoxFarm Strawberry Fields could be called “vegetarian” – no animals were killed to make it, but they do contain earthworm castings and/or bat guano).
- Any pesticides that kill the pests, such as traps, sticky tape and insecticidal sprays
- Leather gloves (instead try bamboo)
- Leather holster (instead try Zenport nylon holster)