A common question when people consider organic gardening is “What kind of seeds to use?” Simply put, organic seeds aren’t grown in synthetic systems: instead, traditional seeds are usually grown in natural systems: without harsh pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. Organic seeds are typically grown in organic systems: using natural fertilisers and organic pest control, with an emphasis on plant health and soil. Make sure you plant your seeds right through the season – some varieties can take over two years to get established, while others will do so in just a few months. When harvesting for organic seeds, take time to let the seed develop to baseball-bat sized proportions, providing the seeds with plenty of time to fully develop.
Pests tend to attack and eat all kinds of organic seeds: those grown for both organic and non-organic markets, both domestic and import, grown anywhere that farmers have been able to access the soil and have had a consistent source of food to eat. If a crop has had a long trip over an area where it is common to have a wide variety of pests attack, your crop could have been infested and that’s a huge problem, one that you need to resolve immediately. So if your local market doesn’t sell fresh-grown crops, or you’re growing your own, then it’s worth looking at your crops closely to check for any signs of infestation: if there are any, try to isolate the affected crop and dispose of it quickly.
Some pests don’t have to be present to affect crops, though. In a case like this, they tend to have to travel a greater distance to find a suitable plant. Some commonly transported genetically altered plants include: tomatoes, potatoes and corn. A tomato that’s been crossed with a potato makes the former worthless for eating, but the latter is safe to eat and carries no risk of resistance to the weed. If your tomato plant is crossing two plants in order for it to grow, then you should suspect that some of its genetic material has been compromised – so contact the company responsible and ask them to inspect the tomato(s) before selling them to you.
While it’s absolutely essential that organic seeds and plants are organically produced, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. You should always do your due diligence by first having a look at the organic gardening methods used by the company who sells you the seeds or plant and also asking them how they ensure the products are ‘genetically pure’. It’s perfectly acceptable to use the most widely available commercial methods in organic farming in order to control the pests and ensure plant development, but it’s still important to check and cross reference against local planting lists and national organic gardening standards.
So, what can you do when you see that your local seed catalogue does not list any organic garden seeds? First things first, you must ensure that they are NOT in your local area. There are many different routes to go down, but the best is to simply move on and find some seeds of your own! When you grow your own organic garden, you will know exactly where your food came from, and you’ll also be able to trace it back to its original genetic root. This is definitely an advantage of non-organic gardening, and an excellent reason to grow your organic garden using only organic seeds.
The next thing you may want to consider is whether the organic seeds being offered to you are truly “pure”. In other words, are they truly “bred” or do they just come from a man or woman who happens to have been genetically altered in the lab? Unfortunately, some unscrupulous companies are even willing to sell you false organic seeds and crops that were never meant to grow. A particularly infamous example of this is a company called “TERRITOL”. This firm produces “unique” and “advanced” crops that are inbred and modified to create more traits, but which have never been seen before.
Another thing to consider when you are thinking about buying organic seeds is whether or not the product you are buying is truly organic. You will want to make sure that the crops you buy are certified as “organic”, and that the soil in which they grow has been certified as organic. If you live in a region that doesn’t strictly regulate farming practices at the municipal level, you need to make sure that what you are buying is indeed organic. When you buy conventional seeds, there is no way for you to determine this.
Last but certainly not least, when you buy organic seed, you want to stay away from anything that uses chemicals as a means of polluting the environment. Organic growers use practices such as crop rotation, conservation tillage, and use of natural pest control methods. What these methods essentially mean is that farmers do not use chemicals on their plants; instead, they use organic methods to try and achieve the same end result (however, this can take longer and may not always be as effective). Chemical pesticides, when used in the final stages of growth, pose a threat to both seed producers and the environment, both of which should be a concern for you. In fact, many of the pesticides used by conventional seed producers have already been banned in some areas due to the danger they cause.