Seed Catalog Savvy (cont)
By: Kathy Bond Borie
A handful of seed companies, such as Seeds of Change, sell only organic seed, while some companies offer organic seed for certain crops. Though there is not yet a legal definition of the term "organic," it generally suggests a system of farming that replenishes the fertility of the soil, enhances biodiversity, and eschews chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Unfortunately, organic is not always synonymous with better. As Rob Johnston, owner of Johnny's Selected Seeds, states in the catalog, "We know many first class growers using some chemicals who are taking better care of their land and producing a healthier product than some unskilled growers who avoid all chemicals."
If you prefer organic seed, buy from a reputable company or ask about the company's growing practices to better understand how their seed is produced. Keep in mind that organic seed is simply not available for some varieties. If you limit yourself to organic seed, you may have fewer varieties from which to choose, but this can be a good way to narrow the options!
Some seeds, especially of crops such as cucumbers, melons, and sweet corn, are treated with fungicides to help them germinate and grow in cool, wet soils. Often this can spell the difference between success and failure. Commercial growers prefer treated seed because the loss of a crop is quite costly. Many home gardeners prefer untreated seed because they don't want to expose themselves to the chemical residue on the seeds and, besides, they can replant more easily if seeds fail to germinate. Some companies such as Seeds of Change and Johnny's Selected Seeds offer untreated seed. Unless the catalog mentions that the seed hasn't been treated, chances are good that the seed has been. Contact the company to be sure.