Vegan Fertilizers for Organic and Veganic Gardening

Discover the ethical and eco-friendly world of vegan fertilizers! Navigate the best veganic fertilizer brands made without animal products so you can kindly cultivate vibrant houseplants, flourishing vegetable gardens, majestic trees, and enchanting ornamentals.
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Seed starting trays with flowers growing from Vego Garden.
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In the realm of sustainable agriculture and gardening, the use of fertilizers plays a pivotal role in nurturing healthy plants. However, an increasing number of individuals are reevaluating the sources of these fertilizers, seeking alternatives that align with their ethical values and environmental concerns.

This shift has led to the rise of vegan fertilizers, sparking discussions on their efficacy, benefits, and the broader implications of adopting such practices.

Why Choose Vegan Fertilizers?

The decision to opt for vegan fertilizers stems from a combination of ethical, environmental, and health considerations. Traditionally, many fertilizers contain animal-derived ingredients such as bone meal, blood meal, bat guano, worm castings, feather meal, and fish emulsion. While these products are rich in nutrients essential for plant growth, their production often involves animal exploitation and contributes to environmental degradation.

By choosing vegan fertilizers, individuals can align their gardening practices with their compassion for animals and our planet. Vegan fertilizers are crafted from plant-based sources, which eliminates the need for animal by-products. This shift not only reduces harm to animals but also promotes a more sustainable approach to agriculture by minimizing reliance on intensive animal farming practices.

Michelle Cehn tending to veganic garden beds and picking basil and other herbs and vegetables.

Book Spotlight: Veganic Grower’s Handbook

Learn more all about veganic gardening and growing food without animal products from one of the world’s most studied experts, Jimmy Videle, in his fantastic book: The Veganic Grower’s Handbook.

Understanding Vegan Fertilizers

What exactly is “vegan fertilizer”? Vegan fertilizers are simply fertilizers that are free from animal-derived ingredients. Veganic agriculture, which is a growing field that extends beyond fertilizers to encompass all aspects of farming, emphasizes the use of plant-based inputs and organic practices.

Vegan fertilizers are formulated using a variety of plant and mineral based materials, such as:

  • compost (from food and plant matter)
  • seaweed or kelp meal (rich in nitrogen and potassium)
  • alfalfa meal (rich in nitrogen)
  • cottonseed meal (acidifying)
  • neem seed meal (rich in nitrogen)
  • rock dust or rock phosphate (rich in phosphate)
  • dolomite lime
  • langbeneite (rich in potassium)
  • green sand (rich in potassium)

These ingredients provide essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, supporting robust plant growth without the need for animal exploitation.

Vegan Kid Graham Miller planting seeds in his newly renovated garden and vego garden bed.

One of the key principles of veganic agriculture is soil fertility management through natural processes. Instead of relying on synthetic chemicals or animal by-products, veganic farmers prioritize soil health by incorporating organic matter, cover crops, and crop rotations. This holistic approach not only nourishes the soil but also fosters biodiversity and resilience in agricultural ecosystems.

Types of Fertilizers for Different Purposes

Fertilizers come in various formulations to meet the diverse needs of different plants and growing conditions. Some common types include:

  • All-purpose fertilizers: These formulations contain a balanced blend of nutrients suitable for a wide range of plants, making them ideal for general gardening purposes.
  • Specialty fertilizers: Some plants have specific nutrient requirements or preferences, such as acid-loving plants like blueberries or azaleas. Specialty fertilizers are tailored to meet these unique needs, providing targeted nutrition for optimal growth and productivity.
  • Slow-release fertilizers: These formulations release nutrients gradually over an extended period, providing consistent feeding to plants without the risk of nutrient leaching or runoff.
  • Liquid fertilizers: Liquid fertilizers are dissolved in water and applied directly to the soil or foliage, offering rapid nutrient uptake and quick results. They are especially beneficial for fast-growing plants or during periods of high nutrient demand.

What to Look for in Fertilizers

When selecting vegan fertilizers, it is essential to consider factors such as nutrient content, application method, and environmental impact. Look for products that provide a balanced ratio of essential nutrients, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), tailored to the specific needs of your plants.

  • Nitrogen (N): The first number in the NPK ratio represents the nitrogen content of the fertilizer. Nitrogen is crucial for promoting lush foliage, vigorous growth, and vibrant green coloration in plants. Fertilizers with higher nitrogen levels are ideal for leafy vegetables, lawns, and plants in need of a growth boost.
  • Phosphorus (P): The second number denotes the phosphorus content, which supports root development, flowering, and fruiting. Phosphorus is particularly important during the early stages of plant growth and for promoting robust root systems. Fertilizers with higher phosphorus levels are beneficial for flowering plants, fruit trees, and establishing new transplants.
  • Potassium (K): The third number signifies the potassium content, which contributes to overall plant health, stress resistance, and fruit quality. Potassium helps regulate water uptake, improve disease resistance, and enhance fruit and seed formation. Fertilizers with higher potassium levels are recommended for fruiting vegetables, trees, and plants facing environmental stressors.

Consider the form and solubility of the fertilizer, as this can affect nutrient availability and uptake by plants.

  • Granular fertilizers release nutrients slowly over time, providing long-lasting benefits to soil health and plant growth.
  • Liquid fertilizers, on the other hand, offer quick absorption and are ideal for foliar feeding or addressing specific nutrient deficiencies.

Choosing the Right NPK Ratio

  • General Purpose (Balanced) Fertilizers: Fertilizers with balanced NPK ratios, such as 3-2-2, provide near-equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These formulations are suitable for most plants and can be used as a general-purpose fertilizer for maintaining healthy growth and vitality.
  • Specialized Formulations: Depending on your specific gardening needs, you may opt for fertilizers with tailored NPK ratios. For example, a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content, such as 6-2-1, is ideal for promoting rapid vegetative growth in leafy greens or turfgrass. Conversely, a formulation with a higher phosphorus content, like 5-10-5, is beneficial for stimulating root development and flowering in blooming plants.
  • Seasonal Application: Consider the nutritional requirements of your plants at different stages of growth and development. During the vegetative phase, prioritize nitrogen-rich fertilizers to encourage lush foliage. As plants transition to flowering or fruiting stages, switch to formulations with higher phosphorus and potassium levels to support blooming and fruit set.
  • Soil Testing: Conducting a soil test can provide valuable insights into your soil’s nutrient levels and pH balance. You can pick up a rapid soil test kit online or at your local garden center. Based on the results, you can adjust your fertilizer application to address any deficiencies or imbalances in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This targeted approach ensures that your plants receive the nutrients they need for optimal health and productivity.

By understanding NPK ratios and selecting the right fertilizers for your plants’ specific needs, you can foster robust growth, vibrant blooms, and bountiful harvests in your garden. Whether you’re cultivating a thriving vegetable patch or tending to ornamental landscapes, a strategic approach to fertilizer application will help you achieve gardening success.

Best Vegan Fertilizer Brands

Each of these brands offers at least one plant-based fertilizer that can help nourish gardens while adhering to veganic principles. Whether you’re cultivating a backyard vegetable patch or tending to ornamental flowers, these vegan fertilizer options provide a conscientious choice for sustainable gardening practices.

Cabbage Hill Fertilizer (100% Vegan Brand)

Cabbage Hill is the first animal-free organic fertilizer company founded by pioneer Erin Riley. The company stems from Erin’s passion for organic gardening, ethics, and sustainability. Cabbage hill offers multiple formulas, made from plants and minerals—including soy, corn, neem, seaweed, kelp, alfalfa, and minerals like rock phosphate and sulfate potash and langbeinite. They also utilize humic acid and fulvic acid and mycorrhizae. Today, Cabbage Hill thrives as a beacon of education, transparency, and community, embodying the belief that feeding each other is a collective responsibility and joy.

Vegan woman holding out a bag of Cabbage Hill veganic vegetable fertilizer.

For me, veganic means being able to eat right off the vine. I want to feel free to graze while I’m at work, to offer tastes to visitors at my garden and to know it’s safe for students to enjoy the fruits of their labor right off the plant. That’s what veganic means to me.

Erin Riley, founder of Cabbage Hill

Down to Earth

Down to Earth is a popular and widely respected, and very accessible brand with many fertilizer options for organic gardeners—including a Vegan Mix (3-2-2). Their products are derived from sustainably sourced materials such as alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and rock phosphate, supporting healthy soil and robust plant growth.

A compostable cardboard box of vegan fertilizer 3-2-2 mix from the brand Down to Earth.

Back to the Roots

This brand offers a Natural and Organic Plant Food that happens to be vegan and is available on Amazon. They have an “all purpose” version as well as a “premium blend” for edible plants—and also have a liquid fertilizer for indoor plants. Their fruit and vegetable garden fertilizer is made with dolomitic limestone, mycorrhizae, kelp, and alfalfa meal, among other ingredients. This is a fantastic option for adding fertilizer to veggie beds, fruit trees, and beyond.

Holding out a bright yellow bag of Organic Plant Food for Edibles from Back to the Roots that happens to be vegan.

Peaceful Valley Organics Liquid Kelp

Seaweed, kelp meal, or liquid kelp can be another valuable veganic fertilizer option. Seaweed is packed with trace minerals, growth hormones, and beneficial microbes that promote plant vigor and resilience. Peaceful Valley Organic offers a range of liquid kelp fertilizers that are easy to apply and suitable for a variety of plants, from vegetables to flowers.

Jug od liquid kelp fertilizer concentrate from Peaceful Valley Organics.

E.B. Stone Naturals Cottonseed Meal

A bag of Cottonseed Meal from E.B. Stone Naturals that's perfect for acidifying soil for acid loving plants like blueberries.

Good Dirt Naturals

This GMO-free and chemical-free brand offers plant food fertilizers that boost your plants’ health and growth. It’s also free of pathogens and heavy metals. Their Plant Biotics fertilizer enriches the soil with beneficial microbes, ensuring vibrant plants. The Plant Food line provides essential nutrients for strong, healthy growth. Good Dirt Naturals also has a Soil Conditioner that improves soil structure and water retention, making your garden more resilient. These products are easy to use and effective, helping you achieve a flourishing garden with minimal effort.

Incredible Bulk Organic Bloom Booster

Organic Bloom by Incredible Bulk promotes robust blooms and vibrant plants. This fertilizer, rich in organic nutrients, enhances flower production and overall plant health. It’s easy to use and ideal for both indoor and outdoor gardens. Incredible Bulk also offers a comprehensive line of organic fertilizers. Look for their Grow Fertilizer for vigorous vegetative growth and their All-Purpose Fertilizer for balanced nutrition.

Homemade Compost

Homemade compost offers a sustainable alternative to store-bought fertilizers, promoting healthy growth and vibrant blooms in your garden. One of the most beneficial fertilizer options you can utilize in outdoor gardens and veggie beds is homemade vegan compost!

Compost, often referred to as “black gold” in gardening circles, is a cornerstone of veganic agriculture. Composting involves the decomposition of organic matter, such as food scraps, yard waste, and plant residues, to create nutrient-rich soil amendments. By recycling organic waste, composting reduces landfill waste and enriches soil fertility naturally—and also delivers carbon to the soil, which other fertilizers presently can’t do.

You can use traditional compost piles, in-bed composters, or other compost systems to naturally decompose and transform your household food scraps, yard clippings, and fallen leaves into lush nutrient rich compost soil.

A green metal three bin compost system in the backyard with plant matter and compost at varying levels of decomposition.

You can even use a even modern electric kitchen composters like the Lomi to make your own nutrient rich “Lomi Earth” which can be mixed with soil as a fertilizer.

Michelle Cehn adding organic waste food scraps into the Lomi kitchen composter.

Tips for Fertilizing Houseplants

Fertilizing indoor houseplants is a lot different than fertilizing outdoor gardens. Here are the top tips for how to fertilize your houseplants from vegan gardening expert Erin Riley:

  • Use a sterile (bagged) soil for your plants to keep insects and disease to a minimum. Houseplants are not nearly as hungry as vegetable plants, so skip compost indoors.
  • Add a veganic balanced time-release fertilizer to the soil when starting or repotting. Potted plants can also be fertilized with a soluble fertilizer when you water.
  • A good rule of measure for soluble powders is 2 tablespoons per gallon of water. Consider sitting your pots in a bowl of filtered room temperature water with some dissolved soluble fertilizer.
  • Fertilizing and watering from underneath can gets the good stuff right to the roots without overwatering, or displacing the soil on top. If you do need to water on top, consider watering over a small stone so as not to disturb the soil.
  • In spring and summer houseplants will use more water and need regular feeding. You may be able to skip the feedings and water less in winter as a plant’s growth naturally slows.

Pro Tip from Veganic Gardening Expert Erin Riley

I like to keep a humidifier running during winter to combat the dry air. Remember all plants are different. It’s a good idea to do your own research so you can be the expert on all your individual plants’ needs. You’re a parent now!

Issues with Animal Products in Fertilizers

The use of animal-derived ingredients in fertilizers raises several ethical and environmental concerns. Animal agriculture is associated with various negative impacts, including deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. The production of animal-based fertilizers contributes to these issues, perpetuating a cycle of environmental degradation.

Furthermore, the extraction and processing of animal by-products often involve practices that compromise animal welfare. Factory farming, which is prevalent in many parts of the world, subjects animals to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, leading to physical and psychological suffering.

In addition to ethical considerations, there are practical drawbacks to using animal-based fertilizers. These products may carry pathogens and contaminants that pose risks to human health and the environment. Moreover, their production relies on finite resources, further exacerbating concerns about sustainability.

With the rapid changes in agriculture in the last 50 or so years, and the liberal use of unregulated animal by-products to grow our food, I have serious ethical concerns as well as health concerns about food, fertilizer and agricultural practices hailed as “organic”.

– Erin Riley, founder of Cabbage Hill

Growing Consciously and Sustainably

As awareness of the environmental and ethical implications of traditional agriculture continues to grow, more people are embracing vegan fertilizers as a sustainable alternative. By choosing plant-based inputs and organic practices, individuals can support healthy soil, thriving ecosystems, and compassionate stewardship of the land.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or embarking on your first foray into sustainable agriculture, incorporating vegan fertilizers into your gardening routine offers a host of benefits for both plants and the planet. By nourishing the soil with plant-based nutrients and fostering a symbiotic relationship with nature, we can cultivate abundance and vitality in our gardens while treading lightly on the Earth.

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2 comments
  1. Regarding indoor plants: Can you recommend a veganic balanced time-release fertilizer? Thank you.

    • Hi Hope! The Down to Earth brand of Houseplant fertilizer has been recommended frequently for slow release. You can find it here on Amazon: https://a.co/d/0aQckQ9G. Another option is The Grow Co.’s Organic Indoor Plant Food, but I’m not sure how much of a time-release quality it has: https://a.co/d/0gskBfjt. I hope these suggestions help! 🙂

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