Are You Loving Your Slugs Enough?
I have a serious problem, even just writing about it now, l am feeling myself retch – l am not sure if it is an Aspergian thing, although l have heard others on the spectrum both talk and complain about been overwhelmed by sensitivity to the extremes! You see for me, l only have to look at certain things and l can instantly taste them in my mouth and at times they cause me to literally throw up! One of these problems is with the garden slug, the problem with snails is minimal, but that’s only because they have a shell. But having said that l detest killing any of these things and l refuse point blank to kill anything with chemicals – my deterrents must be organic. It’s the way Suze and l roll.
So as an example, to all Harry Potter fans, do you remember this scene? If this was me, l might actually die of shock or revulsion!
Yesterday l read an interesting article in the newspaper about gardening the vegan way and whilst l don’t agree with everything the article talks of, l can see some merit to what is being discussed. Vegan gardening gets a lot of bad press and l have to ask why? Could it NOT be the way forwards for gardening for the future? More importantly – our future in so far as survival?
National figures now suggest that 1 in 8 Britons now identify as either vegan or vegetarian. Suze and l are predominately pescatarian as in we don’t eat meat, but we do still eat fish. We decided to stop red meat consumption in 2015, and l stopped most dairy products in 2016 and not just because of an emotional need but also because l have so many gut allergies and reactions to food it is just easier to not include them in my diet. You know it takes ten days to digest red meat?
Well to someone with my stomach that can be deadly! So we stopped red meat, and slowly but surely we have cut down on white meat consumption, to the point in recent times we have wondered if we should cut that from our diets as well, and that is based on unsavoury killing methods.
Of course we could never go full on vegan or vegetarian because we still love our organic eggs from free range chickens, and l don’t think we could give up on fish, but with the high presence of microbeads in our oceans – who knows what we are really truly eating these days?
Anyway, not wishing to digress any further – apparently vegan gardening is the next newest trend to make its presence known … and is starting to make a mainstream foothold in gardening methods so it may not just be a fad but an actual thing.
Vegan gardeners can maintain a totally organic garden free of all the conventional restraints and produce 100% organic vegetables for the table and l don’t disagree with that philosophy, however how easy or hard is that to actually acquire and perfect in truth and what needs to be performed to achieve that status?
With veganism and gardening combined the gardener must be ultra aware of what is actually going both onto the garden as well as into it. Animal manures can be riddled with harmful bacteria and in true vegan style the adding of this to your compost heap is a complete no go – one can create a totally organic heap without the inclusion of those manures. I don’t disagree with that philosophy, as l don’t add any harmful manures to my own compost heap anyway – organic food waste is added, but no other ‘meaty’ items as this is also an attractive for bigger pests such as rats and mice, the last thing l want in my heap!
But you make your own compost from layers of nitrogen-rich green material and carbon-rich brown materials as we as said organic kitchen wastes. I am not adverse to adding my own urine as this can act as a wonderful accelerant. I no longer use external composts or fertilisers as l prefer once more the organic approach so the likes of comfrey, nettles, borage and have even added seaweed on more than one occasion in tubs to make more natural fertilisers and organic sprays and as l said only the other day, you can create your own organic pesticides using plants such as the leaves of the rhubarb plant as an example.
So no need to buy anything chemical orientated.
Vegan gardening optimum is to have the soil as nutrient rich as possible, but that is not that different from most gardeners? It can be achieved by having very deliberate sowings of green cover such as clover or mustard and then chop those into the ground, cover the ground to trap the nutrients and to encourage the worms to the surface to drag down the green cover crops and they will naturally riddle the ground for you.
Nothing that Suze and l don’t already do ourselves.
Vegan gardeners advise against digging the ground over, and once more this is a practice that l myself include in my own planning s for the year [yes before shoulder injury] – instead l simply take off the weeds. What many gardeners forget is that the more you dig over your ground the more you unsettle the earth and of course this further encourages weeds to grow.
Always remember to plant in and prepare crop rotation …. okay, so where’s the difference between my gardening practice and the vegan?
What is it l don’t particularly agree with? Well it’s a case of not, not agreeing, but seeing the other side to things. Apparently the real veganism to gardening is the prevention of cruelty to animals and wildlife – okay, well l agree with that also, so l ask again where is the difference? Vegan gardening strategy is to avoid where possible encouraging ‘any’ animals from entering the garden…. okay, so what does that mean when it’s at home then?
They suggest to leave certain things alone, something else l agree on … let the garden be natural as possible in so far as certain flora and wildlife. So we encourage more of the natural flow of things – we need worms to till and irrigate the soils, we need insects and invertebrates as these are part of the natural garden’s eco-system – ok, still no disagreement from me.
What they say and suggest is that we should try to dissuade certain animals from coming into the garden – such as don’t feed birds and if you must then use nets on your crops, well l am not too sure how you stop birds coming into your gardens, and even if you do not have bird feeders you still have nice bits and bots for the birds to enter the garden.
To encourage natural growth spots for certain wildlife such as our pollinators within your crop rotation, such as crop rotation companion plantings, and to further encourage predator insects such as ladybirds and beetles. Slugs are considered a bane by many gardeners as are snails. Suze and l see more snails here than slugs, but we managed to ‘control them more last year’ by planting diversions or making the ultimate sacrifice with certain plants, for us it was radishes and we planted an abundant supply of radish to encourage our pests to feed off them rather than our main crops and that worked beautifully! Vegan gardeners say exactly the same and what you could also do is encourage more predators to the snails and the slugs into the garden like hedgehogs, toads and frogs with leafy piles and wood piles.
I do that with my bug hotel ..
Okay if that is the very ethos behind vegan gardening, then why does it get the bad press it does? Where is my main disagreement?
Well the main article of protest came from the newspaper article l was reading about a horticulturist by the name of Matthew Appleby who runs and maintains a vegan garden, but whom also happens to be both a published author and the deputy editor to Horticulture Week.
The article wrote about Matthew’s garden in which he says no to bird feeders, chickens, bird baths and wormeries and yes to slugs in fact – to hug your slugs. They are NOT his own words but some overly primed journalist no doubt.
Matthew doesn’t agree with bird feeders and bird baths in gardens because it encourages predators such as birds, foxes and cats and squirrels. Bird feeders and baths in his eyes treats birds like they are pets and this should be discouraged. I do disagree there, garden birds are not our pets, we manage to help and assist conservation when we provide birds with seed during winter and baths for water to drink and bathe in. British gardeners have prevented huge losses of birds at valuable times during the last 25 years by helping them through.
With aggressive farming methods and over populations and unnecessary urbanisation of our woodland areas, many natural habitats have become destroyed or rendered useless by supposed ‘kind man’ aka mankind in the last three decades alone. So l do completely disagree with these additions sentimentalising our wildlife and prefer to look at the take that if NOT for conservation assistance, we would lose too many of our species when in essence the biggest predator on earth is man.
Whilst l don’t have a wormery, the suggestion is that wormeries ‘exploit’ worms and that hives exploit bees, that chickens exploit gardens and we in turn exploit the chickens and we are imprisoning these animals.
The further suggestion of using humanure is more appropriate providing the gardeners are full on vegans otherwise their own poo will be no different to using animals manure, after all man is also an animal.
So whilst l disagree with some of the animal practices being compared to prison service, l don’t fundamentally disagree with the farming methods in general and of course he didn’t say love a slug, because l should imagine that he too must face absolute hell with them as well, but he just wants to deal with them organically, so no real harm there eh?
But what’s your take on vegetable gardening your way or the vegan way and also, how do you feel about having birds and wildlife in your garden naturally or discouraging them full stop?