In the early days of learning how to grow organic food, I would purchase most of my seedlings in the spring at the local garden center. I did that a few timIMG_7690cypress-march-2015es until I realized they spray a lot of chemicals on the seedlings in the big box stores. As I searched for seedlings in other locations, it was apparent that many were shipped to our local nurseries from growers that utilized the same pesticide and synthetic fertilizers. There is no guarantee your vegetable seedlings are not sprayed with pesticides or grown with synthetic fertilizers unless you know the grower. I am beginning to see more “USDA” organically grown plants in garden centers, but often they are too highly priced to make it worth your effort to purchase. It is much easier to learn how to grow your vegetables starts without all the chemicals at home. That way you control what the young plants are grown in from day one. It also saves you quite a bit of money!

There are more peppers out there than just Green Bell Peppers or Big Boy tomatoes that are sold at the local nursery. There is a world of heirloom vegetables and herbs with an incredible range of flavors, but they won’t taste so amazing if you don’t start with a good seed starting soil mix. When growing your vegetables, it is advised to start you seeds in a sterile medium which ensures that your seedlings will be healthy and disease-free from day one. Most of the seed starting combinations at the local garden centers include a mix of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. These seed starting mixes will work fine, but if you care about the environment, you may want to make sure the company that you are purchasing from is harvesting the peat at a sustainable rate.

Did you know our peat bogs are in trouble, and some companies do not harvest peat in a sustainable manner?Most people do not realize that it takes a hundred years to form a peat bog. Peat is not an excellent choice for those wishing to create a sustainable garden for it is not considered a renewable resource.This past year, I decided to try and not use as much peat moss on our city lot. Ecologists are warning us that some peat is being harvested at non-sustainable rates. Did you know that our peat bogs are in as much trouble as our rain forests now?

If you care about the environment, you may want to purchase from companies that make a commitment to sustainable practices. This information is often not on the package, so you need to do a bit of research on your own. One place to start would be to look for companies that have the OMRI stamp of approval. OMRI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that reviews products to be used in organic growing to make sure the product is safe for you and the environment. Often, I have found some products that are used in organic growing but are not listed on the OMRI list which mean you may need to read about the company and find out how they produce their products. I use Espoma products in my organic growing, and they are not stamped with OMRI or USDA, but they are an excellent company that cares about the environment. I guess the bottom line; check out a product before you use it while learning to grow your vegetables.

In 2015, I decided to reduce my use of peat moss in our garden throughout the year.There are times where I do purchase products that utilize peat in their mixes, but I try to make sure the peat is harvested at a sustainable rate. I have found that peat moss is not my favorite seed starting mix. The various peat products, I have tried for seed starting would remain too soggy; seeds did not germinate as well, and I found too many sticks, rocks, and bulkiness in the medium which hindered the development of the young seedlings.

I do want to mention that after you germinate your seeds and they start getting their first true leaves you need to put them in a growing medium, for example, one with food for your young plants. I have found over the years Espoma or Black Gold soils to be great ones to use. I have been using their potting soil for the last few years, and those are two that I can count on to help me grow healthy seedlings transplants to use in our succession plantings throughout our Urban Potager.

I made the decision only to use Cocotek/Coir to start all my seeds in for our gardens. Coir or Cocotek (an organic brand I used this growing season ) is a natural fiber from the husk of the coconut. It is often used to make a variety of products such as rugs, ropes, floor mats, doormats, mattress filling and upholstery to name a few. Coir is considered a renewable resource. It is so easy to use, and it makes a difference in germination success with all my seeds.

 

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer