Veganic Gardening At Home

July 29th, 2014 - filed under: The Farm » Flora

veganic gardening.jpg

Believe it or not, it can be pretty difficult growing vegetables without using animals. Which seems silly, if you ask me, but what do I know? That’s just the way it is, making the garden one more place that vegans and eco-conscious folks need to be a bit mindful.

Veganic Gardening is a gardening philosophy that incorporates organic gardening techniques while also eschewing all animal products and byproducts. And unfortunately, these days, that can be kind of tricky. But it’s doable! Definitely doable.

The three main considerations when planning a veganic garden are soil, soil amendments, and fertilizer.

vegan potting soilveganic potting soil

1. Soil
I’ve investigated every nursery and hardware store in my town, and I’ve only found two types of animal-free soil/potting soil. Actually, and surprisingly, I think finding appropriate soil may be the biggest hurdle for people wanting to practice veganic gardening (although this will depend on where you live and thus, what kind of access you have to various brands of soil). Because most commercial soil and potting soil mixes contain at least one or more of the following: manure, chicken manure, feather meal, fish, fish bone meal, shrimp meal, blood meal, bat guano, oyster shell, vermiculture compost, and earthworm castings, to name a few.

As far as veganic soil goes, the brand I favor is called Gardener’s, and the only ingredients are aged forest compost, perlite, and washed horticulture sand. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how widely available this brand is (it’s not on Amazon).

The other vegan soil I found in my area was by Miracle Grow, and although it contained no animal products, it was also full of the nasty chemical fertilizers that I avoid. So that was a no-go for veganic gardening.

My best suggestion, as far as finding veganic soil in your area, is to call around and ask for the Gardener’s brand. If you can’t find it you’ll have to do what I did: go to every single nursery and read the back of every single bag. Which is really not as bad as it sounds. I mean, at least you get a trip to the nursery out of it. Buy yourself a pretty new plant!

home veganic gardening.jpg

2. Amendments
Depending on your soil quality, you may want to add “boosters”, or amendments, to your garden. Many of these are not vegan – but some of them are! Vegan friendly amendments include:

  • Sphagnum Peat (Mountain Peat is very unsustainable and should be avoided)
  • Limestone
  • Dolomite Lime
  • Alfalfa/Alfalfa Meal
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Greensand
  • Phosphate Rock
  • Potash Rock
  • and finally my favorite, Compost! (from vegan homes, of course)

These are the non-vegan soil amendments that should always be avoided:

  • Manure
  • Compost Manure
  • Blood Meal
  • Bone Meal
  • Fish Meal/Fish Fertilizer

These may or may not be vegan, and should be investigated by brand before you purchase:

  • Humus
  • Soil or Topsoil
  • Mushroom compost (this is intended for mushrooms, not made from mushrooms)

seaweed fertilizer

3. Fertilizer
Fertilizers are food for plants, offering a wide spectrum of necessary nutrients. The most common commercial veganic fertilizer is concentrated seaweed, which is positively brimming with vitamins and minerals. There are many brands of seaweed (sometimes just called kelp) fertilizers and these are widely available. I’ve used the Growmore brand for years, and recently Jeremy picked up this Organix Rx on super sale. Both are awesome.

veganic fertilizer

As for more a traditional fertilizer, I’ve been using this Dr. Earth Vega animal-free mix to make a fertilizer tea, and it’s been fantastic! This stuff is amazing and I highly recommend it. You should be able to find it in your local nursery, but if you can’t get it locally there’s always Amazon.

children veganic gardening

He loves helping me mix up a big batch of fertilizer for our many, many hungry plants!

Soil, amendments, and fertilizer. That’s about all there is to creating an incredible, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly home garden. Not so bad, right?

And to all you amazing veganic home gardeners out there reading (I know you’re there!), please share your best tips and favorite products in the comments below, so we can all learn from each other. Sharing is caring, y’all!

  • Katrina

    Dang. I bought a bunch of the mushroom compost this year to amend my soil and saw no difference in my plants. This explains it. I feel like a dingbat. :)

    We bought a couple of compost tumblers this year, after my pallet-constructed compost heaps weren’t working. (I’m very lazy about turning the compost over. I would do it, maybe, once a summer and I found out you’re supposed to turn it over every few days.) Everything seems to be breaking down inside the tumblers and NO SMELL, so we’re optimistic that we’ll have some rich veganic compost soon! (Bought on Amazon. Called “Yimbly Tumbler”)

    I’ve never tried fertilizer before, but now I’ll look into it.

    Something I used last year that I could not find ANYWHERE this year was salt marsh hay. (Is that what yours is?) It was a huge help in keeping the soil moist and in keeping the weeds at bay.

    Colleen Patrick Goudeau did a short video and found another kind of compost. I couldn’t find her brand around my area though, and I looked everywhere. (You can find it on Youtube under the title “No Poop Vegan Gardening”

    Hope that helps! LOVE the post. This is a topic that there isn’t a lot of information on YET. So please continue to share what you learn! Great stuff! :)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    What a great article! My favorite amendment is green manure, which can be utilized in raised beds and gardens of any size. Not sure how it works if one primarily grows in pots, but I’m sure it can be done. ;)

    I make my own compost tea from nettles and comfrey, or sometimes out of compost scraps. I’ve developed an aversion to anything that smells like sea water, so I’ve been adding the last of my edible seaweed to my compost tea, too. If I lived near salt water, I would definitely harvest my own.

  • Rebecca Carnes

    I’ve been wanting to start a little garden for so long but had no clue where to start – I’m sooo excited thank you for pointing me in the right direction!!!

  • Lacy Davis

    This is so handy. I have my first successful garden this year, and it was QUITE a leaning curve. I was so grossed out when I folks suggested fish meal to make my plants grow! I had no idea that was even a THING.
    PS are you gonna be at VVC next year? I just found out I got into speak and one of the first things I thought was “I hope I meet Sayward!”


  • Kate

    Thanks for this…lots to consider.
    I never really thought much about some of the things on your list. I mean, obviously, fish meal is no-go, but manure? From the horse barn down the road? Never thought it was a bad thing…the horse has no further use for it, right?
    What am I missing?

    And what about worm poop? If I have worms in my yard anyway, should I not eat the produce grown there? I get the idea that purposely using them for my own benefit is not vegan, but if they are already there, do I need to try to remove them? Or only grow in containers?

    I’m not trying to be confrontational here, and please forgive me if I am typing that way….I really don’t understand. Would you be so kind as to connect the dots for me?

  • Meredith

    I’m with Kate in regards to the curiosity about worm castings! I buy the most beautiful composted worm poop from a local vendor at my FarMar and never gave it a second thought! Great blog post, so much info! Thanks :)

  • Annie

    Hi, my two cents:
    I think it partly depends on the basis of your ideology… if you are a “eschew all animal products, period” vegan, or a “anti-capitalism animal industry” vegan and everything in between.
    For example,
    I have rescue hens, and when I clean out their night house (there are foxes in Australia, because British Settlers brought them to hunt), I put the chicken poo-straw-what have you in a special long-term compost system which I eventually use in my garden.
    [The long term thing is because chicken poo has a high nitrogen content and has to break down longer than standard organic matter]
    I am absolutely comfortable with this. It is not a justification – it’s just what I’m cool with.

    I get that other people would *not* be ok with that, and I guess that I could give it away or selectively use it on non-edibles. But to me, it’s an unavoidable and plentiful waste product that I’m absolutely fine with using.

    As for worms and beasties, every natural and “created” natural garden, forest, woodland etc is going to have a presence of worms and/or cyanobacteria, necrophages (stuff that digests dead plants/animal matter), scavengers, decomposers etc – even if you don’t notice them. These are an essential part to the symbiotic and non-symbiotic life of nature. My opinion is that as long it’s not mass-produced, exploited or ill-treated, then it’s fine and frankly unavoidable. Being vegan is making the active choice to avoid the purchase and otherwise exploitation of animals and animals products *where possible*, you can’t eschew the natural world. (Sorry if that came off unintentionally blunt! :) – it’s just that it’s not as though it’s an ideological choice, it’s nature)

    In short, do what you feel comfortable with :)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I, too, have rescue hens, and incorporate their poo/ground cover into my garden after it has decomposed.

  • Angie

    I never realized that soil may not be vegan. Thanks for all the info!

  • Brie

    I think maybe I lucked out. Started gardening the very first time this summer and only bought (vegan) soil and starters. With just water and sunshine I have had 4 sturdy heads of broccoli, 4 happy kale plants, 4 baby cabbages (still growing) and four onions. Next year I might try a few of these tips tho!

  • Beth Ⓥ

    This is my third year of veggie gardening in a raised bed. I’ve been pretty successful using Down to Earth’s Vegan Mix fertilizer. I just till it into the soil before I plant my seeds. You can get it on amazon! Next year I would like to try container composting, thanks to your post about it!

  • Kessu

    Well, we don’t use manufactured fertilizer at all but we grow our stuff in Permaculture way :) We use grass, humus and stuff what i don’t know in english.

  • Heather Poire

    General organically makes a few vganic liquid fertilizers that I love!
    e/ and you can never go wrong with dr earth!

  • April

    My take on it is that if I am purchasing manure or soil with manure in it, then I am supporting an industry that exploits and abuses and murders animals. It’s a vote with my dollar that these practices are OK. I would say that using chicken shitty straw from your own rescued hens that you need to clean out anyway is fine to compost. If I could compost dog poo I’d be golden:) But, say, using the hen’s egg would be a different story for me. Worms, bees and other pollinators are essential to gardening and I let them do their thing and try my hardest not to disturb them.

  • RockMyVeganSocks

    Great gardening tips! Sadly I do not have an outdoor space for a garden at this point, but I look forward to putting your advice to good use the next time I do =)

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  • CineFile79

    Really great and helpful article! I’m based in the US and we are about to start an organic garden at our home. We are really struggling to find an organic, vegan, potting soil. Do you have any links you could provide to brands that sell organic, vegan soil? I tried looking up the brand you posted a photo of, Gardeners, but the only thing in the US is a company called Gardener’s Supply Store, and none of their soils are vegan. Thank you.

  • Tavia Noel

    I found the EcoScraps brand last year, by reading this post:

    I think I’ll eventually try EcoScraps plant compost when I have space to garden outside, but I used their potting mix and I had a problem with it not draining well in my pots contributing to fungus gnats everywhere–so I can’t really recommend it, although I may find something to add to it to help the drainage (perlite or vermiculite, maybe?) to see if it can actually work and not rot my plant roots that way.

    Another vegan potting soil I found is actually from Gardener’s Supply:

    This one (though not specifically a potting mix) looks promising as well:

    I’ve also contemplated mixing my own with help from these two links (but have yet to do so):

    There are also several vegan fertilizers (for new gardeners, fertilizer is different than garden soil and potting soil, it’s more of a food you add to the soil periodically) you can get online, and this post provides a good list:

    I hope this helps someone, I had a hard time beginning to figure things out last year, and know I’ll need to continue to research and experiment each year :)

  • Swati Prakash

    I feel that using horses is exploitative and can often pose danger to horses, eg racing that leads to injury, death and disease, also they get horribly slaughtered at the end of their slavery period. Vegans are against exploitation of animals. worms can be found naturally in soil and allowed to live and thrive within or breed naturally in compost pile. Veganism is all about avoiding deliberate animal exploitation – as much as practically possible.