Understanding the Benefits of Plant-based Nutrients and Healthy Microbes

By Kelly Dunn
Published: September 1, 2014 | Last updated: July 12, 2017 05:39:03
Key Takeaways

Before we had synthetic fertilizers, all farmers used plant-based foods to grow their crops. Here's how you can bring a little bit of this tradition back into your garden.

Source: Ldambies/

Growing your gardens with plant-based foods is an ancient tradition. Organic veganics comprised all the world's cultivated foods up until the synthetic fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, hit the farm and feed stores in the early 20th century.


Farmers have been using cover crops such as clover, alfalfa, field peas and rye grass to bring nutrients and beneficial bacteria back into the soil. They have used weed and manure tea brews and compost piles made from plants way before synthetic fertilizers. In fact this type of gardening and farming has roots as deep as the first agrarian village.

Veganics, or vegan organic farming, is based on the focus of feeding your microbes, not your plants. It is the beneficial microbe's job to breakdown nutrients and then the plant can uptake 100% of what passes through the microbe's digestive system.


When you are feeding your microbes the diet that they want (like one comprised of herbs that are good for humans and plants), you are saving money and bettering your footprint on the earth.

Utilizing mostly green material that is fresh from your outdoor garden or from the wild can boost your plant's immune response so much that it will leave you stoked on the large, super tasty yields. Beneficial bacteria and fungi are present on all leaves and roots.

When you use plants that have large amounts of beneficial microbes, the microbes proliferate in your tea. Microbes love decomposed plants. Adding organic molasses kick starts the eating frenzy and the decomposed herbs expands the microbial colony, allowing for exponential plant food.


Teas and herbal nutrients can also be used for indoor growing. If you do not have access to fresh nutrients, you can buy products that are 100% plant-based, which contain organic, dried herbs and beneficial bacteria.

You will find that these nutrients go way further than other nutrients because when the microbes eat the herbs, they put out a manure of which your garden can uptake 100% of the herbal properties and nutrients.


Often only 20 to 25% of synthetic fertilizers can actually be up-taken by the plant. Not only do synthetic fertilizers go wasted, they also deplete soil, make soil acidic and bypass the entire organic breakdown process. The sad outcome of the plant is weakened DNA and susceptibility of disease and wilt.

As a comparison, consider how herbs work when we ingest them. Herbs do not work on their own in our body. It takes the digestive enzymes and beneficial microbes in our gut to break down the herbs so the benefits can enter our blood stream. Then we are able to get the medicinal values of the herbs.

Our gut is full of beneficial bacteria that break down everything we eat. Plants need the same process with nutrients. With the plant tea, beneficial bacteria are added to break down the plants that you have put in your tea brews.

You could easily create this same situation with an indoor garden or a garden that does not have many weeds, such as a garden comprising of pots. Herbs can be dried and added to water, making a garden tea, in the same way we make herbal teas to drink.

By adding beneficial bacteria to the dried tea blends, the microbes are able to break down the herbs, and the plants get readily available nutrients from the bacteria excrement. We like to call this microbe manure (MM).

This is the basic process of using compost teas, but, by adding your own herbs and bacteria and efficient micro-organisms, you have the ability to know what microbes are present in your tea and give them a diet of your choice.

I feed my plants different herbs for specific results. When my garden is in a vegetative stage, I focus on green, nitrogen-rich herbs like alfalfa, nettle, spirulina algae and kelp.

During fruiting and flowering cycles, I make a blend that is high in potassium and phosphorus, like burdock root, rhubarb and wild yam root. When you make a tea from these herbs, the microbes digest all of the organic herbs and the organic benefits are unlocked for the plant to uptake.

I add endomycorrhizae to the blend to have communication between the MM and the roots of the plants. The mycorrhizae makes it easier for the plant to digest the teas and helps to uptake much more of the nutrients available in the herbs.

There is tons of scientific evidence to support the synthetic nutrients vs. veganics debate. By looking through a microscope you can easily see that when you feed your microbes nutritious whole foods, they thrive and multiply, creating healthy MM. When we look at microbes that have been fed synthetics, they are not eating the "food" and they are not multiplying.

Therefore, they are slowly dying in your soils. Your soils are acidic and should not be used again. When you are working with veganics, your soil can be used over and over again. Adding fresh herbs or dried herbal teas give the microbes food to continue to multiply. Their manure and their presence rids your plants and soils of plant threats like botrytis, powdery mildew, pythium root rot, burning from nutrients, calcium depletion and wilt.

Veganics is good for your gardens and the earth. Plants respond to being fed with other plants because it is the way that they have evolved. It has been the catalyst for our current plants that are alive on the planet today. Old-growth forests and the largest trees in the world sustain and grow from primarily a veganic diet.

A perfect example of this is the redwoods in Northern California. Their growth is due to foliar feeding and foliage decomposition. The myth about veganics is that you cannot get the same yields from plant-based nutrients as other organics or synthetics, yet, all the forests and wildlands of the world are grown from veganics.

Bring it back to the plants! They are easily renewable, they feed and propagate worms, they promote a healthy soil food web and they smell great!


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Written by Kelly Dunn

Profile Picture of Kelly Dunn
Kelly Dunn is the owner, alchemist and herbalist for Dragonfly Earth Medicine. Kelly has 20 years of experience in organic farming, herbology and midwifery. She works with her partner, Josh, and son, Sky, to create the family business, Dragonfly Earth Medicine. She does not claim to be an expert in anything, but is a lifelong student of health and happiness.

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