Article and photo by Donna Iverson
If you are the average gardener, like me, when the seed catalogs arrive in January, it is like the first day of spring. Images of tomato plants start dancing in my head.
Garden catalogs are full of photos and descriptions of the latest seed offerings, garden stories, and even recipes. Normally, I would begin filling in the order form with my favorite seed picks along with one or two new varieties to try.
But this year, seed selection got a lot more complicated. Master gardeners are urging us to buy seeds that are organic, non-GMO, open-pollinated, native, heritage, heirloom and locally-grown. And while the major seed companies are starting to offer seeds that fall into these categories, mostly you have to search for them online.
Quite unexpectedly, the local grocery store where I shopped had a Burpee seed rack, and in one section of the rack there were organic seeds. Big seed companies are starting to respond to the demand for organic seeds, and making them more easily available to the gardener. While organic seeds are more expensive than chemically treated seeds, you do save money buying this way as you don't pay any shipping fees.
But still why buy organic seeds? It is a way to support organic farmers for one thing. The seeds are not grown with synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, which is important for the environment. Organic seeds are also non-GMO. Non organic seeds are chemically treated to resist fungus and other pathogens.
If you decide to buy organic seeds, it should be noted that they can be more difficult to propagate. They demand optimal conditions and need special care. They are possibly best planted in growing pots, providing water and sunshine in the recommended amount.
This summer I plan to experiment. I bought organic arugula and regular arugula seed packets and plan to grow the two varieties side by side in my community garden bed. And then compare results.
Seed companies offering organic seeds include: johnnyseeds.com, parksseed.com, rareseeds.com, burpee.com, seedsofchange.com, and vermontbean.com.
In future weeks, we will unpack the meaning of heritage, heirloom, open-pollinated, and the importance of locally grown seeds, and even how to collect your own seeds.
Garden tip: order some garden catalogs. They make for great winter reading, and you can learn a lot. Catalogs are free and can be ordered by going to the above URL addresses, clicking on catalog, and entering your name and address. And just a heads up, seed companies are doing more and more of their sales online, and in the not too distant future, these catalogs may very well become obsolete.