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Do I Need to Buy Organic Plants and Seedlings? Organic Growing 101

So many people are picking up organic gardening (yay!), but finding organic plants can become tricky. Organic plants must undergo a rigorous certification process, making them harder to find. But here’s why you may not actually need to buy organic seedlings.

organic tomato seedlings growing in coconut coir pots

I’m a proud organic gardener, as well as a regenerative one. I’ve always shied away from adding harsh and synthetic chemicals to my garden, instead trying other maintenance methods to keep them out.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a beginner gardener asked me if he needed to buy organic seedlings.

Which is a great question! I immediately asked him why he wanted them to be organic, as your reasoning is a big factor. It’s harder to grow organically, and beginner gardeners will definitely struggle with pest, fungal, and growth issues at first.

Today, I’m answering his question and giving you the low down on what makes a plant organic…and why you may not actually need to buy organic seedlings.

organic basil plant ready for planting
Like this basil, it’s very important to me that all my edible plants are grown organically in my garden as I consume them.

What Makes a Plant Organic?

Many gardeners are leaning into organic gardening, trying to make their gardens healthier for their local ecosystem. Organic gardening naturally supports and maintains soil and plants without using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

Organic methods utilize other methods to help combat common issues that affect plants. For instance, to maintain good soil, you might rotate your crops, use compost and green manure, and allow certain weeds to grow.

For organic growers and nurseries, organic applies to more than just growing. It also involves how they handle, package, and transport their organic plants.

To be certified organic, growers must adhere to a strict set of standards that include using organic practices on their land for more than three years, detailed record keeping, regular inspections and audits, and more.

It’s a lot of work to be a certified organic grower!

pepper plant in a bright red pot on a yellow placement
If your plant is edible but not grown organically, you should consume only the new growth after it is planted in your garden.

The Reality of Organic Plants

If you want organic plants in your garden, they must be from a certified organic grower. It may be difficult to find an organic nursery near you.

Many steps along the way may prevent seedlings from being organic, such as the farm not being certified even if they didn’t use any synthetic products or the whole truck being sprayed with a fungicide in transport to ensure that nothing arrives at the garden centre with the disease.

It can even depend on what type of soil mix was used. These synthetic products can last a long time in the soil and can find their way into many potting mixes.

The seedlings at the West Coast Seeds were organic, as you can see below.

Do You Need to Buy Organic Plants as an Organic Gardener?

I’ll let you in on a little secret…I don’t always buy organic plants. While I love supporting organic growers whenever I can, I don’t make a big fuss about ensuring every plant I own is certified organic.

When you buy the little pot and seedlings from the garden centre, don’t worry too much about whether they are organic. As soon as you put it in your garden, the soil will act as an amazing biofilter. The non-organic elements will filter into the soil quite quickly.

I wait for a new growth cycle for vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs before I harvest anything. Once those initial leaves have fallen off and your plant grows new leaves and flowers, it will be pretty darn close to organic.

If you really want organic seedlings, I suggest you grow them from your own seeds. This is singlehandedly the best way to know exactly what goes into the production of your seedlings.

planting organic plants in a container
Soil is a powerful biofilter that does an amazing job of cycling out pesticides and herbicides from our plants.

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Organically

What is the best organic fertilizer for plants?

Compost is garden gold, especially if you make it yourself. It does so many amazing things for the garden, including providing nutrients for your plants, building up organic matter in your soil, improving soil water retention, reducing erosion, moderating soil temperature, and more.

You can also create your own organic fertilizers, customizing them based on what your plants need. My book Garden Alchemy has a full chapter of recipes dedicated to fertilizers.

What organic fungicide for plants can I use?

I find that prevention is the best way to prevent fungal growth. Fungi thrive in moist, wet conditions. You want to ensure that you properly space out your plants so they have enough air circulation and don’t overwater them.

Damping off is very common for seedlings, and I make a chamomile fungicide spray to help combat it.  

What are some organic pesticides for plants?

There are so many ways to tackle pests in the garden organically, and I find the best way to do it is to ask why they are there in the first place. Then, you’ll want to do everything you can to change the conditions so the pests don’t find your plants welcoming anymore. A couple of common pest control methods are companion planting and inviting beneficial insects.

If needed, I make my own pest control spray to apply to plants that need immediate help and attention.

organic plants

Let me know if you have any more questions about growing organic plants and seedlings in the comments below.

More Tips for Growing Organically

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