About Our Products

Upstarts Organic Seedlings produces and distributes high quality vegetable and herb seedlings. Our varieties are either heirloom or hybrid varieties selected for flavor and quality. Vigor and disease resistance, as well as regional growing conditions also play a part in our seed selection. Using untreated seed and our custom soil blend, our seedlings are organically grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. We have been CERTIFIED ORGANIC with California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F.) since 1991.

We developed our proprietary soilless blend many years before organic fertilizers were readily available, fine tuning it as we moved forward. We use a combination of OMRI listed and CCOF approved ingredients to create our mix. There is a slow release component of fertilizing agents in the blend that sustains the plants for a reasonable period of time in the packs, without having to add fertilizer. Once your plants are transplanted and established or rooted in, a reasonable amount of fertility should be available in the soil or in your container medium to ensure a successful harvest.

Do we use any GMO/GE seed?
By definition, certified organic operations are not allowed to use GMO/GE seeds or plants. The movement to label GMO/GE products has alerted consumers to the fact that when buying certified organic you know the product does not contain genetically engineered ingredients. Beyond that, there are groups that provide GE free certifications, sort of like reverse labeling. The Center for Food Safety has a list of GE free products and also offers an app for that! For more information, see our GE/GMO Info page or our resources section for helpful links.

Do we use only ORGANIC SEED?
Not all of our seed is certified organic. There are only a few companies producing organic hybrid seed, for instance. Since we have quite an extensive list, about half of our seed is organic at this time. It is a requirement for certification that we show that we have attempted to procure organic seed for our intended crop and if it is not available, you may use conventional seed. This seed MUST be untreated and free of any fungicides since treated seed is no longer allowed to be used in organic production. Luckily, availability of organic seed is steadily increasing, and there are many high quality seed producers filling the demand for organic seed. We have found that each year, more good quality organic vegetable and herb seed is being produced due to the organic certification stipulation and increased demand.

Hybrid vs. Heirloom — What’s the Difference?
Hybrid seed is the first generation of a cross between two parents. Also called F1, this seed then produces an offspring with specific traits. Usually hybrid plants are bred for uniformity, vigor, yield, and disease resistance. The seed produced by these offspring will often be sterile, or the plants will not produce any seed at all. If there is any viable seed produced, the fruit is likely to revert to some version of its parents and not what you were expecting at all! If you want to plant that particular variety again you must purchase the seed from the company who developed the hybrid.

Open-pollinated seed is self-reproducing, non-hybrid seed. Providing that there is no cross-pollination, the plant’s seed will be viable, and true to the parent. You can save seeds year after year. Many plant varieties are being lost because seed companies are not reproducing them. We can all get involved in preserving the genetic diversity of the planet by planting open pollinated and heirloom seed. For more information about seed saving techniques visit the Seed Savers Exchange website or write Seed Savers Exchange, 3076 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101.

Heirloom seed is seed that has been handed down from at least one to three generations and by definition, of course, will be open-pollinated. These have withstood the test of time and have been saved for the traits that make a successful harvest in any given area. These traits include disease resistance, productivity, fruit quality and flavor. Many varieties have been passed on from Europe or from native/indigenous people. Heirlooms are a treasure trove of genetic plant material woven together by the magic of family, history, hardship, survival and rebirth. As seed companies that produce these seeds discontinue some varieties, it’s now the farmers and gardeners jobs to keep their seed from year to year in order to further the wealth of these heirloom and traditional varieties.

While not all of our seed suppliers are 100% certified organic, they are all committed to selling only seed that is not genetically engineered (GE), and include this pledge in their product catalogs or websites.

The Safe Seed Pledge reads as follows:

  • 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 are 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, people and communities.

— The Safe Seed Initiative, The Council for Responsible Genetics

Many of our repeat customers buy our products because they are certified organic and have let us know how much they appreciate this. Others have tried our product specifically for the unusual or hard to find varieties we carry and are inadvertently exposed to the organic aspect of their purchase. Often they will choose to try their hand at organic gardening because of this. Either way, it’s a winning combination for everyone. Quality, selection, and a certified organic start makes Upstarts a ‘natural’ choice for your bedding department.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email us if you have any questions, and thank you for your interest! Whether you are a retailer or an end customer, this site was designed to maintain and share information that is useful, inspirational, and fun!

For Our Retail Customers
Our website product lists do not include all of the varieties we offer but rather reflect a sampling of our most popular varieties, our newest varieties, and otherwise noteworthy plants. Listings are updated regularly, so please check back often.

For questions about the availability of a specific plant or variety, ask us or inquire at your nearest retailer. Feel free to call or email us to find who carries our plants in your area!