With all our suggestions for the best organic fertilizers, compost materials, natural weed and pest killers, and homemade mulch, you've probably been itching to get started on your own organic fruit and vegetable garden or flowerbed all winter long. Well, you won't have to wait much longer: the best time to plant outdoors is usually right after the last spring frost or somewhere between April and May (in other words: soon!). But before you get sowing, we have some advice for you about which seeds are the most beneficial to your garden and the environment.
Regular, non-organic seeds often come from chemically treated areas, are chemically sprayed before sale, and could be harboring chemical pesticides, fungicides, or dyes. This is particularly worrying for those who grow and consume their own produce. Seed packets labeled “Certified Organic” are the best and most eco-friendly solution because with them you can be sure your seeds
- Came from parent plants grown without synthetic fertilizer.
- Were not treated with dyes or chemicals.
Different from organic seeds, heirloom seeds have been passed down from previous generations of crops and have built up natural resistance to pests and disease over time. By using heirloom seeds in your garden instead of mass-produced seed varieties, you can be sure your plants will:
- Be unique, open-pollinated, and non-hybrid.
- Be genetically unmodified.
- Have a better taste and a more colorful variety.
- Promote biodiversity.
You can typically find heirloom seeds wherever regular and organic seeds are sold, but Organic Gardening recommends purchasing online through Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. , Tomato Growers Supply Co. , or The Cook's Garden .
The key to planting native seeds is to choose a variety of species that work well together so they help balance your yard's ecosystem. The only downfall to planting native seeds is their growth speed: large-growing shrubs can take up to three years to bloom. Making up for this, however, are the many benefits of planting native seeds in your yard or garden:
- They are typically low-maintenance because they have already adapted to the local conditions.
- They have usually already developed qualities that repel pests, saving you time, money, and resources.
- Since they have grown accustomed to the soil types, they don't need fertilizer to grow heartily.
- Since most seedlings have to be shipped from overseas and require energy to transport to your local garden center, buying native seeds is an easy way to reduce the environmental impact of your garden.
- Native species also attract beneficial organisms such as bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
To know which plants are native or invasive to your region, visit eNature.com (email address required). Additionally, the United States National Arboretum website has a page designated to identifying invasive or unwanted species as well as other state-specific resources.
Flowers and vegetables that can spring up each year without being replanted provide you with a blooming garden that doesn't require purchasing new bulbs, seeds, or transplants. If you tend to be a bit lazy in the garden, perennial seeds are probably the best choice for you, since they generally require very little maintenance. Like native seeds, perennials benefit your garden and the environment in a variety of ways:
- Because they demand less care and human intervention, fewer resources and chemicals are required.
- They have deep, outstretched root systems that prevent erosion by holding soil.
- These root systems also reduce the need for herbicides by outcompeting weeds.
- The density and expanse of the roots capture dissolved nitrogen before it can contaminate ground and surface water.
- Because they develop larger roots systems, they can access water and soil nutrients deeper in the soil. This means they'll emerge earlier and recover quicker after winter months.
To find out which perennials will grow best in your region, visit a local nursery or contact your local co-op. You can also visit the National Gardening Association website for a detailed, perennial plant care guide. To know which perennial vegetables will thrive in your climate type, visit the Perennial Vegetables webpage ; once you select your location and climate conditions, you'll be given a list of all the species known to grow successfully and continually for that zone.