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Testing Organic Seed Search

An advertisement in this month’s Organic Gardening magazine directs me to the OMRI Organic Seeds Database, which, I am told, “can help you find the right seeds for your organic farm or garden”.

I tried it out, and it’s true, the OMRI search engine can help me find organically-grown seeds for my garden. I tried a search for clary sage, Salvia sclarea a potent herb that has been known to make people feel woozy.

The OMRI database directed me to one source of organically-grown clary sage seeds: Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, which is located in the state of Washington, not Ireland. That’s sweet for OMRI to do for me, but I happen to know that there are plenty of other places to buy organic clary sage seeds. Why isn’t OMRI helping me to find them?

I used a general search engine to find organic clary sage seeds sold by Mountain Rose Herbs, by Botanical Interests, and by Botanical.com. A long list of other seed sources followed.

What’s the benefit of using OMRI’s system? I can’t think of one. It offers me fewer choices in finding materials that are simple to locate through other means.

As a side note, I feel bound to say that, for the gardener, there’s no particular benefit to using seeds that are grown organically. The seeds aren’t superior in any sense in terms of direct garden experience.

Environmentally, an organic seed farm is better for the biosphere than a conventional seed farm. Open-pollinated seeds offer more variety than hybrids. A wee organic seed, however, isn’t going to protect your garden from a big influx of herbicides or pesticides.

I do have to say that, among the seed selections offered by organic seed companies, some are rather twee. In particular, I find it rather audacious for Mountain Rose Herbs to sell dandelion seeds for about three dollars per packet.

The company promotes its dandelion seeds as belonging to an “Herbaceous perennial. Native to and distributed throughout all temperate zones,” which is a load of bull. Dandelions are native to Eurasia. They’re distributed across North America now, but not native here. They certainly aren’t native to the temperate zones of Africa, Australia and South America, and I’m not sure that they’re particularly distributed there either.

How are we to grow our precious three dollar dandelion seeds? Mountain Rose Herbs suggests: “Sow seed in flats in the spring,and transplant to rows in the garden. Space plants 1 foot apart, and keep well watered”. I close my eyes, and I can picture the gullible gardener, setting up rows of little pots, each with one dandelion seedling, carefully tended, then transfered outside in early summer, with plants kept an entire foot apart each, nurtured with watering cans, into rows meticulously weeded, lest unwanted competitors harm the poor little dandelion dears.

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