The question comes up a lot: What strawberry varieties are organic?
It’s a good question. Growing organic berries, fruits, and vegetables is the only way to know that you are growing food that is free from non-organic chemicals and pesticides. And after all, if you’re bothering to grow your own, wouldn’t you want that food to be as clean and natural as possible?
In case you need more reasons, check out the results of this study that showed conclusively that organic strawberries are higher in nutrition and better for soil and the environment than conventionally grown strawberries.
What Varieties of Strawberry Plants are Organic?
Now that you’re convinced, you might be joining the masses who are asking what varieties of strawberries they can buy that are organic. This is where things get a little tricky.
There are very few, if any, varieties of strawberries that are organic—but yes, there are organic strawberry plants (and seeds) available to buy for your home garden. That is to say, it’s not a matter of variety—strawberry type—so much as it is a matter of the grower and how they grow the plants they sell.
What makes strawberry plants organic is not the variety. It is the growing method and propagation method, combined with how the plants are treated and maintained, that makes them organic. For example, whether the grower uses synthetic fertilizers that are not an organic complaint, or whether they spray their plants with non-organic insecticides, or their patches with non-organic herbicides.
Look for Organic Strawberry Growers and Sellers, Not Specific Organic Varieties
If you want organic strawberries, don’t look for specific organic strawberry varieties because you won’t find them. You will find seed and plant sellers with different organic strawberry plants or organic strawberry seeds for sale. The varieties are those chosen by the grower, so they will vary by seller.
This is, in a way, good news; because, even though there are limited types and amounts of organic strawberry plants for sale, you can adopt organic growing practices yourself and grow a very clean, healthy, eco-friendly patch of strawberries at home. Even organic grower-sellers are allowed to start with conventional stock, which they then need to grow on using organic processes until they meet regulatory requirements to be certified as organic strawberries.
You may have to start with strawberry plants that are not certified organic, and then you can grow them organically, which will still give you a very clean, natural, and nutritionally superior strawberry supply. (Something to keep in mind is that it only takes three years of organic practices, even for commercial growers, before their crops can be certified organic, so developing your own organic crop isn’t hard to do, if you take care with what you do and do not put on your strawberry patch).
Promising Research and Development into Organic Strawberry Varieties
There is good news on this front, though. Even though we do not have specific organic strawberry varieties available now, we should have them in the not-too-distant future. The University of New Hampshire started research into developing organic strawberry varieties in 2017.
The goal of the research project is to develop strawberry varieties specifically for organic growing. These will be varieties that propagate well and consistently from seed. Currently, most strawberries are sold as bare root plants from runners from existing stock, but growing and propagation practices make it difficult to do this organically.
Commercial berry grower Driscoll’s and Vermont’s High Mowing Organic Seed Company are collaborators on the project. (It is difficult to find information on the outcome of the research project, even though the project began in 2017 and was set to run for three years; however, partner/collaborator High Mowing Seed does not currently list any varieties of organic strawberry seeds for sale, which leads us to believe that they are not yet commercially available.)
Hopefully, within the next few years, we will start seeing some more targeted varieties of strawberries for organic growing available in the commercial marketplace. These varieties should be superior for organic growing, because they will have been selectively bred and developed to grow well under organic practices. They should be more naturally disease and insect tolerant so that herbicides, chemical fungicides, and insecticides do not need to be used (or at least, the organic options that are available will be effective to a high degree).
How to Buy Organic Strawberry Plants
If you want to buy and grow organic strawberry plants, you’ll need to source your plants or seeds from an organic grower. Even though they may have a limited variety of options, there are organic sellers out there, so it is possible.
There are many more varieties and a much larger supply of strawberry plants available if you are willing to buy conventional strawberries or berries that are not labeled organic and grow them yourself using organic practices.
While this is not considered 100% organic, it is very close, and until more growers and seed companies devote themselves to growing and selling organic strawberry plants, this may be the most manageable option. It is certainly the option that will give you the biggest selection of strawberry varieties for organic growing. And, as previously mentioned, you can achieve near-organic results just by following organic gardening practices in your strawberry patch.
What’s really nice about this option is that you have many more varieties of strawberries available to you, and a long list of growers and sellers you can buy from. If you’re ready to start shopping for your strawberry plants, head over to our Buy Strawberry Plants page.