We are not currently certified organic, but we consider ourselves “practicing organic.” This means that we follow NOP standards and in some areas have even higher standards than the federal program. We value transparency and want you to know exactly what we do to produce the healthiest plant starts for your garden.
We are proud to say that all of the seed we use for our plant starts comes from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. According to the Council for Responsible Genetics, the Safe Seed Pledge “helps to connect non-GM seed sellers, distributors and traders to the growing market of concerned gardeners and agricultural consumers.” Here’s the text of the Safe Seed Pledge:
Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy, sell or trade genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.
We endeavor to source bioregional seed, especially for medicinal herbs, whenever we can. For us, bioregional seed comes from the Southeast and represents plants that are adapted to the climate, pests, and diseases endemic to our region. Generally speaking, these bioregional plants will be more resilient and productive than varieties that are adapted to other regions or countries. We also choose certified organic seed where possible.
Some of our favorite seed sources include Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Horizon Herbs, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. For more seed and plant sources, check out our Gardening Resources page.
Sowing & Propagation
When sowing seed and propagating vegetative matter, we try to follow the biodynamic planting calendar as much as possible. We’ve used the Stella Natura calendar for many years now and have noticed increased seedling vigor and shortened germination times with this handy tool.
Germination Medium & Potting Soil
For our germination medium and potting soil we use Fafard brand professional mixes. This is currently the weak link in our quest to meet or exceed organic standards as both contain small amounts of unidentified wetting agents and starter nutrients. We’re evaluating the feasibility of switching to OMRI-listed Fafard mixes and hope to make that change soon. While we use the germination medium without amendment, we frequently amend our potting soil–especially for our tomato starts and annual herbs–with vermicompost we make here on the farm.
All of the water we use in the greenhouse and garden comes from the primary well on the farm; at 220 feet deep, it’s fresh, clean, and cold.
Fondly called the “seed house,” our germination chamber is a room in our barn built with fully-insulated stud-framed walls and a roof. This allows us to carefully maintain the temperature inside for optimum germination. Inside we use re-purposed wire racks, fluorescent lights and ballasts, and a space heater and through-the-wall air conditioning unit for heating and cooling. (It’s hands down the best place to be on the farm on a chilly day in February.)
Greenhouse & Hoop House
Our greenhouse is in use from October through May, at which point we close it for the summer and transition remaining plants to the hoop house, which is in use from February through October. We never use any kind of chemical growth regulators on our plants as is common in the nursery industry; our plants grow at the pace dictated by their own biology and the weather, which we believe makes for hardier and healthier plants.
Aside from including our own vermicompost in our potting mix, we periodically fertilize our plants with OMRI-listed hydrolyzed fish and liquid kelp. These mild, organic fertilizers are gentle and easily absorbed; the tomatoes especially love the hydrolyzed fish.
Before a plant is considered ready for sale, we make sure it goes through the hardening off process first. Hardening off is crucial for a high transplant success rate and means transitioning greenhouse-grown plants to normal outdoor conditions over a period of time. We harden plants off by moving them to the hoop house from the greenhouse (on a cloudy day, if possible) and sheltering them with the sides raised to provide natural air circulation and increased sunlight. From there, they’re ready to go!