If you’re at all interested in veganism, chances are you’re on your own unique journey. Some are researching it to see what all the fuss is about, some will be trying Veganuary for the first time this year and some will have been vegan for years but are always looking for ways to eat better, shop better and increase animal welfare. Whatever stage you’re at personally, here are some of the best ways you can incorporate vegan practices into your gardening;
- Choose organic: whether you’re buying plants or buying bird seed, choosing organic products is the only way to go if you want to ensure you’re providing a safe food source for animals. For example, if you buy plants to provide nectar for pollinators, you’ll need to make sure those plants aren’t treated with chemicals that can harm invertebrates. Professor Dave Goulson and and his team at Sussex University discovered that 76% of plants they analysed on sale in retail outlets like Wyevale, Aldi, Homebase and B&Q contained insecticides that were harmful to bees. The pesticides found can impair bee navigation, reduce egg laying, reduce sperm viability and suppress their immune systems. At concentrations much lower than those found in the analysed plants, they found there was an 85% drop in the number of new queens produced. Organically grown plants can be tough to source. If you’re struggling, it’s better to grow new plants yourself from seed or via vegetative propagation.
- Choose peat-free: if you want to protect animals, you’ll naturally be concerned with protecting their habitat. Peat bogs provide unique and invaluable natural habitats which are being destroyed at such a rate that we now have less than 10% of our original peat bogs left in the UK. This means we’ve already lost countless plant and animal species along with them. Choosing peat-free composts and plants that are grown in a peat-free medium is vital to protect this disappearing resource. If you can’t find any peat-free products on sale in your local retailer, ask them why and ask them to start stocking them or you’ll take your custom elsewhere. As with many important issues, our demands are being ignored and swept under the rug. It’s time to start voting with our feet and our wallets!
- Avoid animal products: this sounds straight-forward, but a surprising amount of items commonly used in gardening are a direct or by-product of animal farming. There are the obvious ones such as Blood, Fish and Bone and manure products, but you may find animal products hidden in your composts and other plant feeds. Some may also be objectionable because they support animal farming of any sort. For example, the popular Dalefoot Wool Compost is not acceptable in a vegan garden. If in doubt, call the manufacturer and check. Natural Grower produces vegan fertilisers and FertileFibre produce a vegan compost range, both company’s products are Soil Association approved too.
- Vegan clothing: it’s becoming easier to shop for vegan clothing for everyday wear, but the gardening clothing market is still lagging behind. I blogged about the difficulty finding vegan gardening footwear, if you have any updates though, please let me know! Obviously, leather, suede, fur and down are some of the obvious materials to watch out for. Adhesives used are either made from animals, or manufacturers lack stringent enough controls over their own supply chains to guarantee they definitely aren’t. Again, the best advice is to speak to the manufacturer and ask the question.
To find out more about Vegan Gardening, check out the following episodes of the podcast:
Vegan Gardening with Matthew Appleby where we discuss his book The Super-Organic Gardener, what products do and don’t qualify for use in a vegan garden, vegan composts, green manures, fertilisers, seeds and plants.
An interview with garden designer Cleve West about his journey to veganism and how it impacts upon his work.