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Down in the Garden: Vegan Gardening


Vegan gardening

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Gardening for Vegans
Cheralyn Darcey

This weekend the Central Coast welcomes Vegan Fest again to Gosford. A plant-based day of markets, entertainment, and demonstrations down at Leagues Club Park on Saturday 4th December and a great opportunity for those wanting to explore a bit more about the vegan lifestyle. It’s a popular event on our calendar, growing larger every time it is held which prompted me to explore ‘Vegan Gardening’.
While it may seem that gardening in itself is a vegan, as it’s all about growing plants, that’s not exactly true because there is much more to living as a vegan than simply not eating meat. In Veganic Gardening, as vegan based gardening is often called, there is also a dedication to not using any animal products directly or indirectly while working organically. As all gardeners are aware, soil preparation and fertilisation are important first steps in any garden and this is where the differences between traditional and vegan gardening will be most noticeable.

Many of the popular, especially organic, fertilisers are created from animal by-products like manure, blood, bone or even entire carcasses, such as fish emulsions. It would seem obvious that fertilisers that include actual parts of animals would not be acceptable in a vegan garden, but you may be wondering why animal manures are not. The answer is that the use of animals in the production of products is also often thought of as cruel in the ethics of veganism. So, using manures/products that contain these manures is supporting these animal-based industries. However, not all vegans have this view and some do accept the use of manures in gardening.

While there are a few vegan branded fertilisers now on the market, my early inspection showed level of some minerals that seemed a bit high for my liking. My advice is to do your own research on these types of fertilisers and their contents before using them. Natural fertilisers and plant tonics that would be considered vegan and are also safe to use include seaweed, green manure crops and composts created from vegetation only.  

Making your own liquid fertilisers, called ‘teas’, from plants is also an option as this concentrates the goodness from botanical matter ready to give your garden a super boost. To brew a fertilising tea, soak cuttings in water in covered containers for a few weeks. Some suggested plants that can be used include, comfrey, nettles, grass clippings, dandelions, yarrow, borage and most weeds.

Looking after what you plant in your garden is vital and even more so as your fertilisers are not going to be as nutrient-dense without the use of manures. Garden soil will need to be protected from leeching out any goodness it does hold and the best way to do this is with mulch. An organic, easily composted material will be best so that your mulching does double duty and feeds the garden as it breaks down.

Mulch also helps retain water, keep the soil cool in summer and warm in winter and can hold back some pests. Speaking of bugs that we don’t want in the garden, pest control will of course need to be organic but most vegan practices I have found do frown on killing insects and to this end, companion planting as well as sacrificial planting will be the best options to implement. Sacrificial planting is simply planting a crop of something on the perimeter of your garden that is more desirable for the bugs. Things like lettuce and kale are suggestions. Companion planting will include plants that have aromas and attributes that pests don’t like but can also include plants that help other plants to thrive usually via reactions in the soil. An example is basil and tomatoes.

Barrier pest control methods like netting to deter birds and insects work exceptionally well, just make sure holes are small enough to not capture creatures. Copper tape will turn back snails and slugs and not do them harm but you will find the popular methods of using crushed eggshells or beer traps are not acceptable.

Two other living creatures that are often seen in gardens and raise vegan debate are bees and worms. Many vegans do not eat honey as the keeping of bees to work for us is thought to be exploitive and so having them in the garden unless they are wild is out. Gardeners don’t just keep bees to create honey of course, they also help with the pollination of plants.

All is not lost as you can still invite them in naturally but growing plants that have bee-attracting flowers like borage, basils, lavender, yarrow, dandelion, bottlebrush, eucalyptus, grevillea and westringia. Worms enrich the soil via their castings and help aerate it as well and while worm farms seem to be given the green light by some vegan gardeners but not others and those plastic fully contained units are probably not ok with any vegan. Rather, encourage worms to the garden by using worm towers and by adding sheets of damp cardboard and finely chopped vegetation.

Vegan gardening is possible with a bit of planning and the dedication to follow through with a completely plant based plan and if you have vegan garden, I’d love to see it in action.

Vegan screen

Early Summer, temperate areas
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, zinnia

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]