Vegan organic gardening aims to produce organically grown foods and other crops whilst minimising (preferably erradicating) the exploitation or harm of any living creature. It is therefore a method of farming without the use of animal products or byproducts. Vegan organic farming is similar to organic horticulture but does not allow the use of materials such as blood, fish and bone meal or animal manures because the production of these is viewed as either harming animals directly, or is associated with the use of animals for meat, milk or leisure activities.
While just about veganic 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, some veganic gardeners are not strictly organic, and may utilize pesticides and industrially-produced plant nutrients, in addition to using organic techniques such as compost, green manures, and cover crops.
Soil fertility doesn't originate from animals; it comes from plants at the bottom of the food chain. When grass is filtered through a cow most 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 manure. Using the grass and other plant-based materials yields more organic matter than manure.
Soil fertility is maintained by the use of green manures, composted vegetable matter and minerals, often supplemented with the addition of human waste such as urine, which provides nitrogen and 'humanure' produced from compost toilets. Although some 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 decrease dependence upon slaughterhouse and fisheries by-products by eliminating the use of bone, blood, feather, and fish meals and manure
- Preserves water and soil quality, reduces waste
The Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien Veganic Gardening Method is a distinct system that was was developed by Rosa Dalziell O'Brien, Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien, and May E Bruce, although the term was originally coined by Geoffrey Rudd.
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. Unlike other stockfree systems, gardeners following the the Dalziel O'Brien system do not use soil covering mulches, instead employing non-compacting surface cultivation techniques using a special wide-bladed hand hoe called a 'scrapper'. Kenneth Dalziel O'Brien published a description of his system in Veganic Gardening, the Alternative System for Healthier Crops, published in 1986 by Thorson's Publishing Group. ISBN 0-7225-1208-2
Many veganic gardeners do not hesitate to use mulches. They generally prefer natural materials but will use commercial materials on occasion.
There is no research available to prove or disprove the statement that 'Vegan organic gardening can provide all the nutrients the human body needs, without supplementation'. Proving this statement is important for anyone who advocated this system of food production for the developing world.
- 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 Veganic gardening system.