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Vegan organic gardening

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Vegan organic gardening and farming is organic cultivation and production of food crops and other crops with a minimum amount (preferabley none) of exploitation or harm to any living animal. Vegan and vegan-organic farmers use no animal products or byproducts, such as bloodmeal, fish products, bone meal, or feces, or other animal-origin matter, because they view the production of these materials as either harming animals directly, or as being associated with the generally ugly exploitation of animals, and consequent suffering of animals. Some of these products are by products, as opposed to being main products, of the production of meat, milk, skins, furs, entertainment, labor, or companionship. However (1) in a future where there is no exploitation of animals that vegan gardeners hope for, such products would no longer be plentiful or cheap and (2) today the ability to sell byproducts decreases the expenses and increases the profit, of people engaged in animal husbandry, and therefore buying such products helps support the animal husbandry industry, and the consequent suffering of animals.

When grasses are "composted" in the gastrointestinal system of a cow much of the nitrogen is lost in her urine. Instead, take the grass that would go to feed a cow and put it directly into your compost pile - you'll get the nitrogen you need in addition to other nutrients that aren't found in fecal-based manure since they are absorbed by the cow. Composting the grass and other plant-based materials, by making plant-origin compost, instead of animal excrement based manures, yields more organic matter out, per unit of organic matter in.

Soil fertility, that is, the presence of soluble nutrients in the soil plus organic matter that has nutrients chemically bound within it that can be made into soluble nutrient by the action of natural soil micro-organisms, is maintained by the use of green manures and composted vegetable matter and minerals. Some vegan gardeners supplement this with human urine, which provides nitrogen and 'humanure' produced from compost toilets. Other veganic gardeners avoid the potential health risks of using human waste. Such wastes may technically be considered 'animal products', however the many vegan organic growers (including the Vegan Organic Network) do not consider their usage unacceptable as there is unlikely to have been exploitation associated with their production.

Benefits of Vegan Organic Gardening

  • It reduces food safety risks such as E. coli and the human form of Mad Cow Disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) which can be spread through bone and blood meal
  • It decreases dependence upon slaughterhouse and fisheries by-products by eliminating the use of bone, blood, feather, and fish meals and manure

Vegan gardening in general

Vegan gardening in general (in contrast to vegan organic gardening), minimises the exploitation of animals, but the aim is to simply cultivate good quality plants, and nutritious food crops, rather than produce "organically grown" food. Gardeners who have vegan gardens are engaged in cultivating ornamental plants and in landscaping, as well as in cultivating food plants. While just about all vegan gardeners try to maintain a healthy soil environment, and prefer to rely on compost, green manures, and cover crops, as much as possible, to maintain soil ecology and good levels of plant nutrients, vegan gardeners who are not strictly organic may utilize pesticides and industrially-produced plant nutrients, in addition to using organic techniques such as compost, green manures, and cover crops. This can result in higher yields much more easily than depending only on compost and green manures. To be precise, perhaps it should be said that they have vegan gardens, rather than vegan organic or veganic gardens, however most such vegan gardeners describe their gardens as being veganic, even though they are not strictly organic.

Many vegan and veganic gardeners prepare soil for cultivation using the same time-honored method used by conventional and organic gardeners of breaking up the soil with hand tools and power tools and allowing the weeds to decompose. However becoming popular among vegan and vegan organic gardeners, and other gardeners, is shallow cultivation: shallowly turning the soil's surface using one of numerous surface cultivating tools that are now available in the market place, including the popular Coleman surface-hoes developed by Eliot Coleman. They may do this kneeling, with a short-handled surface cultivating tool, as described by K D O'Brien, or standing, with a long-handled tool, as described by Eliot Coleman. Shallow tilling disturbs the soil less than deep turning and this, combined with avoidance of soil compaction as described by O'Brien (see below), helps the soil maintain ecological balance and maintain a quality that supports the growth of green plants and minimizes the opportunities for soil diseases, plant diseases, and insect pests to become abundant. Shallow surface cultivation allows rain to penetrate the soil surface more easily than if it is not turned at all. It is quite common among all kinds of gardeners to remove weeds or turn them in before they become deep-rooted. It is just much easier that way, especially if there is a desire to avoid the use of power-operated machinery, or avoid exploitation of strong animals or of heavily burdened yet underpaid human laborers.

Some vegan gardeners will move their growing beds and plants around from planting to planting. Others use permanent raised beds separated by permanent hard-packed paths. This latter way they don't put the soil, where the plants are, through cycles of compaction and loosening. Instead, the spot where the plants are stays loose, and different soil organisms take part in living together in a relatively permanently established balanced ecological system.

O'Brien Veganic Gardening Method

The Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien Veganic Gardening Method is a distinct system that was developed by Rosa Dalziell O'Brien, Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien, and May E Bruce, although the term was originally coined by Geoffrey Rudd as a contaction of 'vegetable organic' [1] in order to "denote a clear distinction between conventional chemical based systems and organic ones based on animal manures" [2]. The O'Brien system argues that animal manures are harmful to soil health rather than principally originating in concern for animal welfare from an ethical standpoint.

The Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien system employs very specific techniques based around the addition of straw and other vegetable wastes in order to maintain soil fertility. Gardeners following the Dalziel O'Brien system use soil-covering mulches, and employ non-compacting surface cultivation techniques using any short-handled, wide-bladed, hand hoe. In Veganic Gardening it is suggested that one may want to use the tool that they have been using, and found marketed under the name 'scrapper'. They kneel when surface cultivating, placing a board under their knees to spread out the pressure, and prevent soil compaction. Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien published a description of his system in Veganic Gardening, the Alternative System for Healthier Crops.

From Veganic Gardening by Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien, page 16: "the veganic method of clearing heavily infested land is to take advantage of a plant's tendencies to move its roots nearer to the soil's surface when it is deprived of light. To make use of this principle, aided by a decaying process of the top growth of weeds, etc., it is necessary to subject such growth to heat and mositure in order to speed up the decay, and this is done by applying lime, then a heavy straw cover, and then the herbal compost activator.... The following are required: Sufficient new straw to cover an area to be leared to a depth of 3 to 4 inches..."

Also part of the O'Brien method is minimal disturbance of the soil by tilling, use of compost, mulch, cover crops, and green manures, use of permanent raised beds and permanent hard-packed paths between them, laying out beds from north to south, putting plants in double rows or more so that not every row has a path on both sides.

Further reading/references

  • Growing Green - Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future - Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst (Vegan Organic Network publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-9552225-0-8) - a handbook for stockfree growers, researchers and students
  • Growing Our Own - Kathleen Jannaway (Movement for Compassionate Living publishing) - a practical guide to vegan organic gardening
  • Veganic Gardening- The Alternative System for Healthier Crops- Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien (Thorsons Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-7225-1208-2) - a full exposition of the O'Brien veganic gardening system.


  1. ^ Dalziel O'Brien, Kenneth, Veganic Gardening, 1986, page 9
  2. ^ Dalziel O'Brien, Kenneth, Veganic Gardening, 1986, page 9

External links

  • Vegan Organic Network
  • Vegan Organic gardening- the basics
  • Centre for Vegan Organic Education (US-based)
  • advantages of using plant-based compost as a manure, over animal excrement based manures
  • Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials Eductional Org photos
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