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Seeding and Propagation/Organic Gardening


How important are organic seeds in starting an organic garden? It seems that as long as you plant in good soil and donít use pesticides things would be ok. My girlfriend is under the impression that if you donít start with organic seeds, whatever little bit of pesticide that may have reached the seed will migrate into a fully grown plant and will not be organic. Can you shed some light on this for me? I want an organic garden, but not everything is available as an organic seed. My Dad never had an organic piece of anything in his life and lived be be a healthy 93 year old man.

Hi Mike,
Thanx for your question.

How important are organic seeds in starting an organic garden?

Well, that depends upon what your goals are.  If you are going to grow organic produce and sell it or if you are looking to be certified organic, you must use seeds that are organic, seeds produced as a result of organic practices.  Many non-organic seeds have been treated with substances that are prohibited under the USDA definitions of organic practices.  The substances are usually anti-fungals and other types of seed-protection applications.  Your produce will not legally be organic if you do not use organic seeds (unless you are a produceer under $5,000 per year per USDA and you must use organic practices to indicate that your produce is to be considered organic...).  Most people who go out of their way to buy organic vegetables and fruits know some of the USDA standards so to claim that your produce is organic when you did not use organic seeds is also unethical because technically, you did not use organic seeds so your produces is technically not organic and your claim that you are growing organically is technically untrue and therefore brings up a question of ethics.

Ok, with that said, in my opinion, for personal consumption, you can use non-organic seeds and still raise your crops under  organic practices meaning you do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers or other substances prohibited under organic guidelines.

I do not agree that whatever little bit of pesticide may have been applied to a non-organic plant will somehow be taken up into its seeds and then be ingested by the consumer.  I think the idea behind using only organic seeds is b/c many of the methods used to produce the non-organic seeds are harmful to the environement and harmful to other living things.  We all know that agricultural wastes slough off into our rivers and streams and pollute them.  Toxic pesticide dust and sprays are inhaled on a daily basis and causing unknown harm to our lungs and physical systems if one lives too close to farming areas that are heavy users of chemical pesticides.  But a seed is probably going to filter out whatever residue may be attached to its outer coating.  The plant is more likely to suck up dangerous chemicals during its active growth from seedling to harvestable produce if you were to expose it to non-organic substances.  An non-organic seed is going to be harmless as far as to you personally.  But, I can understand where the organic people come from when one considers the use of dangerous chemicals and non-sustainable practices that were necessary to bring the non-organic seed to the market.

You said you wanted an organic garden but not everything is available as an organic seed.  You would be surprised how much seed and the numerous varieties that are being produced that are organic.  I just finished purchasing 5 separate types of organic seed potatoes out of a list of 20 or 30 different types.  There are a number of seed companies that sell organic seeds.  Just google organic seeds and I'll bet you can find almost anything you want.  As for your father never having had an organic piece of anything and he's 93?  I highly doubt that my friend.  Many people grew lots of vegetables and fruits without applying a single chemical.  In fact on many farms in the days of your dad's youth, the kitchen garden was fertilized with chicken poop, composted cow/horse/sheep manure and the scraps from the kitchen table and coffeepot.  Could there be some chemicals in that?  Possibly, but seriously, up until the 1950s, a lot of vegetables were raised with only natural fertilizers.  The big boys and girls that were running the huge farms did use chemicals even back then, I'll concede that.  But, I'll bet dad did eat a few organic veggies and fruits.

Now, one last thing.  Is organic better for you?  There are a number of studies that have been done that indicate the nutritional benefits are identical.  I haven't finished my assessment of the studies yet to come to a firm conclusion on this.  What I do believe and what has been documented in many studies is that the organic vegetables are safer.  Organic vegetables are less likely to be exposed to e.coli and other pathogens b/c we use well-composted manure which usually results in the eradication of pathogens.  Because we do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, there are no chemical residues to be absorbed into the plant and to be ingested by us.  I grow my stuff using organic practices for that very reason.

I know I was long-winded.  I hope this helps.

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Tom Alonzo


I have been growing plants from seeds for at least 20 years. I have grown literally hundreds of different kinds of vegetables, trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, tropicals, some cacti, water plants, iris, rose, lilies, cannas, etc. I enjoy starting from seed.


I've been growing my own seeds for 20 years with indoor propagation equipment I built myself. I am also an Allexperts volunteer on the perennial forum. I have completed the Master Gardener course through the Kansas State University Extension. I have experience with a wide variety of seeds and I have also read through Norm Deno's books on seed germination.

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