raising veggiesNothing makes you want to dig in the dirt like a nice warm spring day. And, since spring is here I’m getting a lot of questions from folks who want to raise backyard ORGANIC vegetables. The first step is to obtain organic seeds or plants from a reputable supplier. Organic seeds or plants just mean they come from a certified organic grower that has not exposed them to any chemicals throughout the growth in the field, the harvesting of the seed, or the processing. That sounds great except that some of those chemicals actually prevent fungus, disease or pests so organic vegetables can be harder to grow, requiring more diligence to plant in optimal conditions and be on guard for early signs of disease or bug infestation. Your organic responsibility doesn’t stop at the seed.

The next step is to grow your organic seedling by the standards set forth by the USDA's National Organic Program, which prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetically engineered seeds and materials, sewage sludge (bio-solids), etc. Since chemicals and metals from bio-solids can live in soil for a long period of time, unless you’re sure of what is in your soil you should consider purchasing organic soil to plant. As you can imagine this can quickly become ridiculously costly so use your best judgment about how far you’re willing to take your organic commitment based on the size of your garden plot and what you want to grow. Sometimes, a compromise of obtaining organic seeds and doing your best to abstain from chemical fertilizers and pesticides is the most economical approach – either way, you will have a tastier veggie, fresh-off-the-vine, than what you can find in your supermarket.

Now – go dig in the dirt!