Gabriola Vegeteers

The plant-powered garden

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by Nadia Roch first published Monday, May 19, 2014 in The Flying Shingle

Vegan organic, or veganic, gardening is gaining in popularity as more people realise that they can grow food without relying on animal manures or slaughterhouse by-products.

The key to growing anything is always healthy, fertile soil and all of the nutrients soil needs are available from plants, so why not cut out the middle man (or in this case, cow) and go straight to the source?

There’s a long history of farmers and gardeners relying on plants to keep their soil fertile, especially in the distant past when animal manure wasn’t cheap or abundant. Planting green manure crops, which are grown then turned back into the soil, originated in ancient China, Greece, and Rome.

In recent times though, relying solely on manure and other animal byproducts like bone meal have become the norm because factory farms and animal agriculture produces an abundance of non-edible byproducts that are both cheap and convenient. These byproducts are inherently problematic for a number of reasons.

Not only are they sourced from animals fed genetically-engineered feed and given excessive amounts of antibiotics (farmed animals account for 80 per cent of all antibiotic use), these operations are directly responsible for the large-scale destruction of ecosystems and natural habitats.

Moreover, manure carries dangerous infectious parasites and pathogens like E. coli. These end up contaminating our food supply, leading to millions of illnesses and thousands of preventable deaths each year. Veganic agriculture offers a simple solution to escape many of the problematic issues associated with conventional agriculture.

There are multiple branches of veganic agriculture or gardening, but they all share the same core principles, combining many of the tenets of organic and permaculture agriculture. All artificial and synthetic chemical products, GMOs, animal manures, and slaughterhouse by-products are avoided. Instead, to enrich the soil and help plants thrive, vegetable compost, mulches, green manures, chipped branch wood, crop rotation, and polyculture (no mono-cropping, multiple crops in the same space) are used.

Veganic gardening focusses on maintaining soil fertility and microbial health to support healthy plants and ensure long-term sustainability.

Some of the other practices employed by veganic growers include minimising tilling, planting and supporting wild and native plants, attracting beneficial insects and animals, discouraging pests through passive means like using chipped wood around the garden perimeter to stop slugs, and companion planting.

A very common technique employed by veganic gardeners, which is likely something many gardeners use already, is making compost tea and liquid infusions. By fermenting plants like comfrey or stinging nettle, one can produce a rich and nourishing fertiliser.

Other great veganic-friendly soil enrichers include kelp or seaweed meal for potassium and trace minerals, rock phosphate for phosphorus, and alfalfa meal for nitrogen.

There are even large-scale operations employing these techniques, and many example farms and gardens around the world that have operated sustainably for decades without ever using manure or any animal products. If you’re interested in learning more about veganic gardening, please visit vegeteers.com.

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