How to Buy Vegetable Seeds

Christmas isn't even here, but I'm already seed shopping. Am I nuts? No. Really. I'm not. One reason I like to begin now is I get a better selection of seeds; waiting until spring means competing with more gardener and sometimes discovering seeds you really want are already sold out. The other, more important, reason is that I winter sow my seeds. I'll go into more detail about winter sowing in a later post, but suffice it to say this method of seed starting is cheaper, gets your seedlings out into the garden sooner, and produces hardier plants. And it's so easy a grade schooler can do it? As food prices continue to go up while grocery store produce quality goes down, I'm more and more interested in expanding my edible plants. Too, you'll always know what chemicals were put on home grown foods - plus, gardening makes kids more eager about eating their fruits and veggies while helping them establish a good work ethic.

So whether you want to plant a huge vegetable garden next spring or you simply want to try your hand at gardening a few tomatoes in a pot, think about seed buying now. And the first decision you make - even before you decide which plant seeds to buy - is whether to buy heirloom or hybrid seeds. Here's what you need to know to make the right choice for your family. What Are Heirlooms or Hybrid Seeds? Hybrid seeds are the type you typically find in seed catalogs and at gardening centers. These seeds are from plants humans have tinkered with. For example, someone may have combined two heirloom plants – one, a tomato that’s naturally disease-resistant and another, a tomato that offers large fruit. The resulting hybrid, in this case, may have both characteristics, making for a “better” tomato than nature provided. Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, are traditional, nature-made plants that are at least 40 years old. Some heirlooms date back to antiquity, and many survive today because humans kept replanting them for their good characteristics while not planting those heirloom plants with less favorable characteristics. Pros and Cons of Planting Hybrids Hybrid seeds often produce plants that are more disease-resistant, have higher yields, are larger, and are easier to raise. However, some gardeners feel they threaten the existence of heirlooms; if gardeners grow only hybrids, soon the world may not know a natural, nature-made plant, they say. Too, if you plant hybrids, you’ll annually have to purchase new seeds if you want to grow the exact same plants. (Although you can save hybrid seeds and try to use them the following year, the seed will produce a different - and often inferior - plant.) In addition, many hybrid seeds won’t germinate and create new plants at all; they are sterile. Finally, hybrids usually require more water than heirlooms. (While heirlooms will simply produce less during a drought, hybrids usually just wither up and die.) Pros and Cons of Planting Heirlooms Heirlooms are often said to taste better, and you can gather their seeds to use year after year. In fact, if you learn how to gather and store seeds, you’ll never need to buy seeds again. In addition, heirlooms have the ability to adapt to the area where they are planted. For example, an heirloom watermelon planted in a cold region like Siberia, but not normally grown in such a frigid climate, may adapt, and after a number of years, thrive. On the other hand, some heirlooms are more difficult to grow than hybrids, and may be less disease-resistant and less productive. Their produce generally can’t be stored fresh for as long, either. In addition, because they usually have a lower-yield, your garden will probably need to be larger than if you were growing hybrid plants. Finally, it can be difficult to discover zone information about heirlooms, often making trial and error planting necessary. Resources Hybrid (and some Heirloom) seeds: Burpee, Park Seed, Territorial Seed Heirloom seeds: Johnny's Select Seeds, Baker Creek, Heirloom Seeds Bookmark and Share

No comments