Recently, I came across a thought-provoking piece in the latest “Organic Gardening” magazine. The article explores the ornamental plant growing industry and the chemicals used to produce those perfect little plants we see in flats at nurseries.
It seems that only a very few growers – and they are smaller ones – offer organic plants. For the large companies, apparently, the switch to organic would be prohibitive financially, at least for now. The recession and the ailing housing market have seriously affected the growers, who continue to rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers, growth inhibitors and insecticides. They say that organic fertilizers are more expensive, and hand weeding is not an option. So, until the economy improves, it’ll be business as usual.
And what about gardeners? What do we expect when we look at flats of ornamentals? Don’t we reflexively choose the most perfect-looking plants and discard flats containing plants with spotted leaves or other “defects?” I know I do, and while I adhere to organic practices in my vegetable garden, I don’t deliberately seek out organically-grown ornamentals. To be embarrassingly honest, it never occurred to me.
Maybe it’s time we asked for organic plants. I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with the idea of indirectly supporting chemical run-off into our soil and water. That is exactly what we are doing, unless we press for change.
If I had a choice between organically and nonorganically grown annuals in my local nurseries, I’d choose organically grown. Some of these produce edible flowers (pansies, violas, snapdragons, carnations). When I buy flats in the fall, I wait until spring before using the flowers and nurture them organically through the winter and spring. (I’m not good with seeds, so I don’t start from scratch with organic annuals.)
I do everything I can to stay organic. (Mow or pull the weeds instead of spraying them, I say!) I live next to a pond and have a certified wildlife habitat designation which I take seriously. Nature has repaid us with many little critters and birds that visit regularly. It’s like a mini-park around here, with endless hours of amusement from our visitors. Knowing I’m not poisioning them makes it all worthwhile.
Interesting blog – as usual. I would love to know if any of the local farms or CSA’s grow plants organically. What about Mike Merner or his daughter et al?
And if not, how do we get the word out that there is a consumer preference not met?
I totally agree with you, CJ! Of particular concern to me are the herbs which I freely use in cooking and medicinally. I do start some of the edible flowers from seed and carefully scour plant markets for organically grown veggies. It’s a sure bet that I will buy many of the veggies and herbs from the local Master Gardener sale (May 7th at East Farm) because I have first hand knowledge of how they were raised….organic fertilizer and no pesticides/insecticides. The ornamentals also have minimal inputs; parasitic insects are released into the ornamental greenhouse when needed, and the “strongest” pesticides used there are either Bt or Neem.
I, for one, am willing to pay more for organically produced starts, including seeds!
Indeed I choose organic plants when I can. I wish there were more choices for organic. I must say that I have seen just in the past few years an increase in the organic choices. I hope that continues. Maybe if we keep asking them for it, they will begin to fulfill the demand.
You make some good points. I think if there are options, I would definitely choose the organic, but lots of times you don’t see organic bedding plants. I know I raise my perennials and annuals organically, but as far as their start? not quite so sure.