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How to grow your own vegan food

Valued Contributor

Difficulty: Intermediate

It’s becoming increasingly popular to embrace a vegan diet. Vegans eat an entirely plant-based diet and avoid any animal products or by-products.


Vegan-friendly gardening utilises plant-based composts, seaweed extracts, rock minerals and man-made fertilisers as nutrient sources for healthy plant growth. This should not be confused with organic gardening, which is at the opposite end of the horticultural spectrum and relies on plant, animal and fish by-products (excluding all man-made fertilisers and soil improvers).   


Organic fruit, vegetables and herbs are reasonably easy to find in most markets and retailers. However, you will rarely see produce marked as “vegan-friendly”. This guide shows you how you can grow your own.


Step 1

Starting a vegan-friendly vegie patch or home orchard from scratch? If you know animal-based fertilisers or soil improvers have been used on the property previously, you may prefer to grow in pots, tubs or new raised beds or vegie boxes for a couple of years until residues have disappeared.  Use a premium quality potting mix free from animal by-products.


Garden soil that hasn’t been used for food production in the past three or four years should be fine. It’s safe to assume there will be no animal or fish by-products present.


1.1 Premium potting mix.jpg  1.2 Always read product labels carefully.jpg

Step 2

In the garden, good preparation is the key to success. Dig the plot over to a depth of at least 300mm. Break up any large clumps and remove rocks and debris. Add gypsum to help break up heavy clay and/or lime to sweeten very acidic soils (pH lower than 4.5) allowing watering or rain to wash them into the soil.


Spread a 100mm layer of plant-based compost over the surface and fork it in thoroughly before adding a complete fertiliser and rock minerals.


Leave the soil to stabilise for a couple of weeks, removing weeds by hand as they appear.  Keep it moist (but not wet) by watering if it doesn’t rain.


2.1 Spread a 100mm layer of compost before fertiliser.jpg  2.2  Leave the soil to stablise for a couple of weeks after fertilising.jpg

Step 3

Sow seeds or plant seedlings into either your pots, vegie box or a prepared vegie patch. Water in seedlings with a weak seaweed solution to help them overcome transplant shock.


Protect your plants from snails and slugs by spreading spent coffee grounds or copper nails around young plants. These pests will avoid direct contact with either without being harmed.


3.1 Sow seeds or plant seedlings.jpg

Step 4

Strong, healthy plants are able to resist pests better than those struggling to find nutrients.


When seedlings are about 200ml tall, give them a boost with a liquid fertiliser that’s easily taken up the roots.  Repeat every 3-4 weeks to keep them growing strongly, until they’re ready to harvest.


Keep weeds down by hoeing, hand pulling and mulching.


Some caterpillars and flying pests can wreak havoc in a vegie and herb garden if they are not controlled or kept at bay. Netting the garden, box or pots will prevent larger flying pests from laying eggs on or chewing your plants. The mesh should be fine enough to exclude them while still allowing pollinating insects through. You may need to remove the netting when your crops begin to flower so pollinators have access.


Traditional pest control methods, including sticky traps, bacterial insecticides and horticultural oils are not vegan-friendly because they kill insects and molluscs.


4.1 Netting can help prevent pest damage.jpg

Step 5

Be prepared for highs and lows. It is inevitable you may lose some crops in your first couple of seasons to pests and possibly diseases. After harvesting and enjoying your first few crops, you should have built a small but ever-expanding knowledge bank that will help you modify your growing program to achieve the best possible outcomes from your vegan-friendly garden.


5.1 Be prepared for highs and lows.jpg  5.2 Keep modifying your growing program.jpg


  • Hand-made and/or plant-based compost

  • Rock minerals

  • Seaweed plant and soil tonics

  • Premium quality potting mixes *

  • Premium soil improvers *

  • Gypsum

  • Garden lime

  • Complete, all purpose or specialised fertilisers *


* Always read labels on products carefully. Check the lists of ingredients and ingredient icons for mention of animal/fish by-products. Do not include mushroom compost in a vegan-friendly garden unless the packaging states free of animal by-products including stable manure.


  • Gardening gloves

  • Spade

  • Fork

  • Soil rake

  • Hoe

  • Hand trowel and fork

  • Wheelbarrow

  • Soil sieve

  • Watering can or hose with trigger nozzle


1.1 Premium potting mix.jpg

1.2 Always read product labels carefully.jpg

2.1 Spread a 100mm layer of compost before fertiliser.jpg

2.2  Leave the soil to stablise for a couple of weeks after fertilising.jpg

3.1 Sow seeds or plant seedlings.jpg

4.1 Netting can help prevent pest damage.jpg

5.1 Be prepared for highs and lows.jpg

5.2 Keep modifying your growing program.jpg

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