I had a conversation the other day with a long time reader of TMG who has the same inclination about organic gardening as I do — and that is: — to come as close to organic as I possibly can. And as I’m sure you know, that can be difficult at times. Every time you turn around you find something else is polluted or has chemical residues that will be harmful.
Our conversation started discussing the condition of her tomato seedlings. They weren’t as robust as she would have liked and she was wondering what I thought. Although it can be comforting to ask someone else, she really already knew how they would probably do based on last years results. What really needed to be discussed (and was) was what she could do to get the seedlings to look better. But that’s a topic for another post.
By the way, have you already guessed how her less-than-robust little seedlings will probably do? If you’ve already read about what happened to me last year with my peppers in the post, It Ain’t Necessarily So you’ve guessed that they’ll do fine.
In spite of the fact that her seedlings looked the same last year as they do this year — once planted in the garden they grew large and gave her tons of tomatoes — many more than she could use. And you might be interested in knowing that was only her second year of gardening and only the first year of trying to improve the soil!
Yes, it’s amazing what those plants can do in spite of us. 🙂
Back on Topic
Before calling me she had just visited one of the garden centers to get some straw and had seen how great their seedlings looked. Then she had wondered if she shouldn’t get a few of their plants as a back up just in case and was asking me what I thought. Would they be harmful to her garden?
It’s pretty hard to tell someone else what they should do, but I can tell:
What I’ve done in the past – What I think — and Why:
Years ago I would buy 8 tomato plants and 8 pepper plants at a garden center to get me started earlier. Totally at the mercy of the weather I started my plants (warm weather crops included) in a flat, on the ground, and uncovered during April each year. I knew nothing of the wintersown method and other ways around not having an inside set up for starting seed. And I must say, there were years that my seedlings looked as bad or worse than my readers.
I knew Miracle Grow® was a chemical product nurseries probably used, but I didn’t know to what extend it was harmful as I do now. I also didn’t know about the company – Scotts — and their partners — Monsanto. I did know that chemicals force the ground — or the plant. That was the fact that made me know the principle was wrong and I never used it.
Miracle Grow® can be toxic to your soil and plants.
An Organic Gardening Magazine article (July/August 2000) quoted soil expert Robert Parnes, Ph.D.
Dr. Parnes said this type of fertilizer acidifies the soil and can cause permanent damage. It is probably more harmful to soil organisms that any other nitrogen fertilizer. He also said these fertilizers are deliberately manufactured to be spread at high application rates in order to obtain maximum yields with no regard to the adverse effect on the soil — like decreasing available nutrients in the soil.
Miracle Grow® potting soil contains plastics and wetting agents. Most wetting agents are detergents; many are known to be capable of causing cancer.
That Scotts offers organic products is almost a joke. Their products are against the very principles of organic growing. I would never consider buying any of their products — including their organic products.
Did you know Scotts Company is Monsanto’s exclusive agent for the marketing and distribution of consumer Roundup®.
The history of Monsanto reads like something out of a nightmare. If you want to learn more read my post, Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them.
But then I figured although the seedlings had had a steady diet of Miracle Grow® to make them look beautiful while they awaited a buyer— they’d outgrow it and thrive once they got in my garden soil. When first planted they always had withdrawal symptoms. After about a month of looking like they might die, they’d finally take root and grow like crazy. They’d give me lots of produce, even though I always noticed more symptoms of various blights on those plants than on the ones I had grown myself.
Even though I’m not buying any seedlings now, I had a friend — a conventional gardener — who brought me 3 tomato plants last year that were much larger than mine. They even had tomatoes on them. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure he uses Miracle Grow®.
I pinched all the buds off and all the little tomatoes and then planted them in my garden. They went through withdrawal and then did great and gave us our first tomatoes of the season.
The Best Advice
The best advice on vegetable plants is to grow your own whenever possible. Even if you have no experience — you and your plants will probably do just fine. Remember my example and my reader’s example. If we can do it, you can do it!
The second best advice on vegetable plants is to buy from an organic grower.
If you’re not quite there yet and you have no other place to buy — than a conventional nursery — then you have no other choice until you can do better. Even with seedlings started with Miracle Grow, your vegetables will be a much better quality than those you buy in the big stores.
Plants that are short. About 4 to 6 inches.
Have NO flowers or buds. (If all they offer are plants with flowers and buds, take the buds and flowers off.)
Plant them in soil that is rich with organic matter and water in, then mulch.
How to Plant the Tomatoes
Plant tomatoes up to the first set of leaves. Roots will develop along the stem and you’ll get a plant that is able to yield more tomatoes.
If you walk towards organic and do THE VERY BEST you are able to do, that’s all any of us can do.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and its a lot healthier!
It Ain’t Necessarily So
Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them.
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Here’s my reasons for not buying them in addition to the ones you gave:
– I’m itching to get something growing in the early spring anyway so why not start seeds indoors?
– It’s cheaper to grow your own and you aren’t supporting companies whose practices you don’t agree with.
– When you grow your own you have a lot more options on varieties and can save seed from year to year if you wish.
– You can avoid diseases which commercial seedlings might harbor. (I believe quite a few home gardeners got burned by this 2-3 years ago.)
So glad you added these EXCELLENT additional reasons not to buy garden center seedlings, Steve. I agree 100%!
Thanks for taking the time to add this value to the post.
This article made me realize a mistake I made because Im somewhat new to organic gardening – I started raised beds last year with healthy ingredients and this year they settled and decomposed so I needed to add some to make them fuller. I purchased some Miracle Gro Garden Soil, but after reading this and googling it, it looks like it’s going to kill all the good stuff in my soil? I had all kinds of worms and was using organic matter. Have I ruined my beds? Will I be able to add more organic matter to help them recover? Im so embarrassed about my mistake.
Hi Alicia —
I’m so very glad that my article was able to help you understand the harmful effects of Miracle Gro, Miracle Gro Garden Soil, and other Scotts products. Now that you know the truth you can go forward with more knowledge to improve what you have.
As far as being embarrassed — if you don’t know something — then you just don’t know. The main thing is that when you learn you take action. And that is what you are working on.
Almost all of us — at one time or the other — fall prey to “marketing”. I think the lesson is to not rely on what the manufacturer (or their representatives) say — but to do some serious research ahead of time — rather than after the fact. And we all need to be reminded of that over and over.
Alicia, I don’t know all the details of your situation — and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to tell you what to do.
My gut feeling is that eventually the beds can recover and that organic matter will help them do so. I’ve read somethings in the past that would indicate organic matter in the soil can help it recover from many things.
Although I certainly wouldn’t like the idea of growing food in those beds right now, there are other things to consider. If you don’t use the beds and have to buy conventional food — would you be better off or worse off than if you used these beds this season? That might be the deciding consideration.
From now on, be on the look out for leaves and other great organic materials that you can add to your beds that will make more soil for you without bad side effects.
Please keep me posted on what and how you do, Alicia.
Thanks Theresa… 🙂 I keep my leaves and grass clips and compost items, so I’ll keep after it. I had the same thought of if I grew something in those beds, it would probably still be better than something from the store. Luckily there is a lovely farmers market in town. Your articles are my favs to read, thanks for sharing so much information!
You are most welcome Alicia! As much information as is on the internet — I see a lot of misinformation. Common sense information is greatly lacking. I think that can be confusing for a lot of new gardeners especially. Anything I can do to help and encourage — I am glad to do!
Sure glad my articles are your “favs”.