By Liz Lyon
With the arrival of May, peak planting season is almost upon us in Southeastern Wisconsin. Here at Gwenyn Hill Farm, we are proud to grow Certified Organic seedlings that are pollinator-friendly, organically raised, and selected for flavor and productivity. Our annual seedling sale gives us a chance to offer Certified Organic seedlings to our shoppers so that you, too, can enjoy a bounty of delicious produce from your own garden!
Selecting Productive and Flavorful Varieties
We have 20 plant varieties on offer at our seedling sale in 2023. All of the plant varieties we grow here at the farm are selected by our team for a variety of important factors such as yield (also known as productivity), flavor, vigor, ability to grow well in our climate, and disease resistance. Selecting plants with these characteristics helps us reach our goal of harvesting an abundance of delicious and nutritious produce throughout the entire growing season.
Cherry tomato variety selection is a great example of this process. Sungold is a well-known orange cherry tomato variety that is sweet, delicious, and productive. Unfortunately, heirloom Sungold tomato plants are highly susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases and the fruits of this plant are prone to splitting with too much moisture. Instead, we grow SunOrange, a hybrid variety with a similar super-sweet flavor but with better disease resistance and less splitting issues than the original Sungold tomato.
Organic Management Practices
Because Gwenyn Hill Farm is a USDA Organic Certified farm, we grow all of our plants from either Certified Organic or untreated seed. In addition, we only source seeds and plants that come with a non-GMO certificate. Most of our seed suppliers have also signed the Safe Seed Pledge*. From the time we plant our seeds in the greenhouse to the day we bring them outside to harden off, our only other inputs are sunlight, water, soil, propane (for heating the greenhouse as needed).
When plants are ready to begin their transition to the outside world, we give them a fertility boost using a mix of organic ingredients like fish emulsion, kelp meal, and mycorrhizal fungi. After a few days of hardening off in a sheltered place outside, the seedlings are ready for the garden!
When we think of pollinator-friendly gardens, we typically think of planting native plants and flowers, but there are also important ways you can make your vegetable garden safe for our essential pollinators.
One way to do this is to use Neonicotinoid (Neonic)-free seeds and plants. Neonics are a widely-used class of insecticides that are toxic to pollinators, beneficial insects, and aquatic invertebrates. Neonics can be especially dangerous because they are systemic chemicals, meaning that they are absorbed into the tissue of the treated seed or plant and can persist within plant tissues for months. Their systemic nature means that neonics may be present in pollen and nectar, which pollinators feed on and spread.
Purchasing Certified Organic seedlings and/or untreated seed is one step to building a pollinator-friendly environment in your yard.
Shop for Organic Seedlings
We hope you visit Gwenyn Hill’s seedling sale to find Certified Organic, pollinator-friendly vegetable plants that will produce a bounty of delicious produce in your garden this season.
The 2023 Seedling Sale begins on May 2. Cold-hardy plants like kale, cabbage, lettuce, and parsley will be available at this time. Peppers, tomatoes, and other warm-season vegetables will be added as soon as weather permits.
Liz Lyon is the Vegetable Production Manager at Gwenyn Hill Farm. Taking care of all of the seedlings in the greenhouse is one of her favorite spring jobs at the farm.
*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 or sell 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.”