When we think of nature, we often think of rivers, mountains, lakes, meadows, and so on. Basically: the great outdoors. And while that is, of course, true, it’s important not to overlook our own backyards when it comes to wildlife.
Our outdoor spaces, no matter how big or how small, can play host to all sorts of visitors—everything from bees to worms to hedgehogs to birds to larger mammals, depending on where you live. And one way to make a welcoming home for them is by engaging in a cruelty-free gardening approach called veganic gardening.
You guessed it, “veganic” is a mix of the terms “vegan” and “organic,” and it’s an easy-to-follow, animal-friendly way of engaging with nature on our very own doorstep. Here’s what you need to know.
What is veganic gardening?
It turns out, many mainstream gardening practices are not that kind to animals or the planet.
Animal manure, for example, is a staple for many gardeners, but it’s a byproduct of animal agriculture, which is associated with a rise in emissions and cruel factory farming practices. Pest repellants and weedkillers are also popular choices, but veganic gardeners do not engage with harsh chemicals that kill animals.
“Being vegan denotes that we strive to cause no harm,” writes vegan gardener Danielle James who founded the blog The Vegan Veg Gardeners, for The Vegan Society. “In a gardening context, this means no use of animal waste to ‘fertilize’ our land; no chemical weedkillers and definitely no killing of garden ‘pests.’”
Instead, veganic gardeners focus on using plant-based fertilizers and organic compost to maintain healthy, fertile soil, as well as crop rotation techniques. They also follow a functional biodiversity approach to keep pests at bay. This might involve planting certain flowers or vegetables in certain places. Marigolds, for example, are a great flower for repelling certain plant-munching insects and can be used as a barrier around the plants you want to protect.
Other tips from James include building a pond to encourage frogs, which will help to keep unruly slug populations at bay, and hanging feeders, which will help to bring more birds, who eat small bugs like caterpillars and aphids, into your space. “Build an eco-system and watch it thrive,” she recommends. “Don’t try to be a controlling force within your garden—aim to be an overseer. Watch and observe.”
How to become a veganic gardener: five products to try
Becoming a veganic gardener doesn’t have to be about buying new products. Composting old fruit and vegetable waste and mixing it with old leaves and grass, for example, is one way of nurturing your soil without heading to the store. You can also use hay as mulch and even gather fresh seaweed (if you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean) and use it as a soil conditioner.
But sometimes, it helps to buy a few products to help you on your way, and veganic gardening is no exception. Here, we’ve gathered a handful of products to help you get started on your journey.
1 Charlie’s Vegan Compost
Compost doesn’t just often contain animal manure, but it can also contain peat. The latter is partially-decomposed plant material that is harvested from peatlands, which are important, naturally-occurring carbon stores around wetlands. But when the peat is harvested, the area is degraded, which causes emissions to rise.
This is why it’s really important for environmentally conscious veganic gardeners to skip peat and animal products in their compost. Instead, they can opt for peat-free vegan compost, like this option from Charlie’s which is made with organic hay and cover crops, organic crop residue, and composted forest products.
Get it here
2 Nature’s Way Bamboo Bird Feeder
Bringing more birds to your garden isn’t just good for insect control, it also helps to maintain bird populations by giving them a reliable source of nutrition, and in turn, helps to support local ecosystems. There are a number of different styles of bird feeders to choose from, but this bamboo option from Nature’s Way will target species like woodpeckers, finches, juncos, chickadees, and more.
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3 Wildflower Seed Bombs
Another way to encourage wildlife to thrive in your outdoor space is to use seed bombs. These are, essentially, small balls of pollinator-friendly seeds that you simply press into the soil in areas where you want to encourage more biodiversity. After that, you can sit back and watch your garden become a haven for valuable pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
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4 Vegetable Seeds
There are many benefits to growing your own vegetables. Making fewer trips to the grocery store cuts down on food waste and plastic waste, for example, plus it’s super satisfying to cook a meal using produce you grew with your own hands. But vegetables are also great for wildlife. Bees, in particular, thrive around vegetables and fruits that need pollination, like tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and runner beans, to name just a few examples.
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5‘The Vegan Gardener’ by John Walker
And finally, this guide has been a starting point, but to really get stuck into veganic gardening, it might be helpful to get stuck into reading about it first. This book, written by award-winning gardening and environmental writer John Walker, will guide you through how to turn your backyard into an ecological, environmentally-friendly paradise that is bursting with healthy wildlife, produce, plants, and flowers—all without the use of any harsh chemicals or animal products whatsoever.
Get it here