Organic gardeners will grow what they like to eat and have a keen interest in plant diversity; an important part of a healthy ecosystem in the garden. With a changing climate, conserving food crop diversity has never been more critical. Organic gardeners can play a part in this drive for improved food security by:
These are grown by certified organic producers; that is, without the use of artificial fertilisers or harmful pesticides and herbicides. These seeds are an important part of a sustainable eco-system and are becoming more available from specialist on-line seed companies covering a wider range of heirloom varieties.
These seeds may or may not be produced organically. They come from varieties that have been grown for many generations and proven their worth in reliability, taste and nutrition. They are open-pollinated and the seeds are true to type in subsequent generations. If you are saving these seeds, isolating some plants (eg brassicas) from cross-pollination may be necessary, however, to preserve genetic purity.
A lot of commercially available seed (and plants) is from hybrid varieties that are an engineered crossing of two widely different varieties. They are bred for qualities that generally have little benefit to a home gardener (eg shelf life) at the sacrifice of taste and nutrition. They may have strengths in favourable conditions but in the home garden they have significant drawbacks. By design they have little variability – a valuable defence in nature to pests and diseases – and even more importantly, the next generation seed is weak or infertile.
Organic gardeners do not use seed of plant varieties that have been genetically modified.
A great source of guidance on seed saving is the Seed Savers’ Handbook (see Links & References).
Plants can be successfully grown from seed by following a few time-proven ground rules:
In a cool climate like Canberra, propagating from seed indoors in late winter can give you a valuable head start of 4 to 6 weeks in your Spring planting. A thermostatically controlled incubator is great for this purpose or at least a sunny window.