The Flaming Vegan

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How to Be an Ethical Gardener
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How to Be an Ethical Gardener

About four years ago I was sitting on my couch, eating a grilled cheese, when it hit me - “I need to go vegan”. I thought to myself, “I don’t think I can go on eating things that I know are just plain bad for me and for the animals involved”. The bread I was chomping on might have provided some small amount of nutritional value. Other than that, I knew that my body was not happy about all the cholesterol and some poor cow probably had the worst day of its precious life trying to make it for me. The next day I took the plunge and have never looked back.

Why I Started My First Ethical Garden

Since my switch to veganism in 2012, I have taken the time to educate myself on the seriousness of animal cruelty and what our dependence on meat and animal products is doing to our culture, our bodies, and the environment. Making the switch to vegan friendly products hasn’t been difficult and it makes me feel good knowing that small companies that have my wellbeing and the wellbeing of animals in mind are being supported.

Unfortunately, there are no labels on fruits and veggies to tell you what kind of ingredients were used to treat them. Even though I was eating vegan I wasn’t always proud of the type of produce I was buying. Aside from the “organic” and “non-organic labeling”, who’s to say what you are actually eating? Decoding which companies ethically source their materials and treat their workers well can be exhausting. I started realizing that in order for most things to be considered “safe for humans” (even food) they had to go through some sort of testing process, which usually entails testing on animals. This means animal testing not only the products themselves, but also ingredients used in the production of our food. Sadly, many animals have to suffer through allergy tests, eye irritation tests, digestion tests, and more. Often times these animals either perish in the testing process or are euthanized after they no longer have a “purpose”.

Needless to say, I started growing my own food when I can. I’ve done it every summer since I became a vegan. Of course, year round I still support local growers and try to purchase foods that are in season. I believe that it is incredibly important to support your local community, especially one that you are passionate about.

Is Gardening Hard?

My growing operation is not a large one. When it does well it can supplement the diet of two adults. What’s more, most of the things I plant can be grown in pots. It is actually a pretty simple and inexpensive task. Each year I either purchase organic seeds early in the season and sprout those indoors before I transplant them or I simply buy some organic starters whenever I feel like it. I’ve grown food in both the earth and in pots and both seems to work very well, given the right weather and attention.

Each year I try to grow both fruit and veggies. Commonly, I grow things like onions, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and so on. While these types plants are quite hearty, just like any other plant, they will experience pests from time to time. I have found that this has been the largest struggle for me as an ethical gardener. Does an ethical gardener believe in bug spray?

Therefore, the question arises, “how does an ethical vegan gardener deal with pests”? Well, I’ve been mulling this idea over for about four years now and I’ve decided that I feel a combination of two things; a sentiment for the plants I’ve raised and for the animals and bugs that are just doing what comes naturally.

Of course, in a perfect world I’d love to save the life of my plants and the lives of the pesky intruders who eat them. However, the world doesn’t always work that way. Subsequently, I learned a few things about becoming an ethical gardener.

Your plant provides a tiny ecosystem to many living things

Just think about that for a second. There are millions of organisms living in the soil, on the soil, and directly on your plant. They now have a home thanks to your idea to grow some food for yourself. We should also respect that mother nature knows what the heck it is doing. Symbiotic relationships often keep things running the way they should - take a look at the human body!

Not all bugs are bad

Yes they can definitely be creepy and crawly and unpleasant to look at, but many bugs are actually helping your plants (especially bees - without them nothing would grow!). Some bugs are a great deterrent for other pests and others will just come to hang out every once and awhile. Don’t be alarmed.

If you must get rid of pests, repel don’t kill

Some hungry caterpillar, deer, beetle, or rabbit might stumble across the feast you have so politely provided to them. Although this can be frustrating, especially with particularly tenacious pests, there are solutions other than spraying your plants with chemicals. This can actually cause a chemical imbalance in the soil, killing all the good bacteria and bugs and eventually your plant.

There are a slew of animal-safe repellents, if you are losing all your crops due to pests. Simply spraying a homemade or 100% safe manufactured repellent on or around your plants can easily do the trick. No one needs to be harmed in the process.

I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never completely rid my garden of icky bugs that I don’t like being around. I’ve also got some neighborhood squirrels, foxes, and cats that love to dig around in my pots from time to time, but that’s okay too. Gardening this way allows me the pleasure of saving the lives of animals just by enjoying the fruits of nature.


Featured image credit: Se Re/Flickr

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