Are you an avid gardener? If you are, you may have wondered about the various seed types available for planting.
The vegetable and flower growing season is getting closer with each passing day. Here in NC, we have had unseasonably warm weather.
It SEEMS that spring has sprung but I still don’t dare really get gardening in full steam in case we get a bit of a cold snap.
You only have to walk into a gardening center or big box hardware store in spring to see rows and rows of seeds for sale.
Choosing what type to purchase can seem like a daunting task, since there are so many choices. One of the choices that every gardener has to make is the choice between open-pollinated, hybrid or heirloom seed varieties.
Differences between the various seed types.
Each type offers something and often the choice depends on your own needs and interests. Read on to find out the differences.
Open-pollination occurs in nature, naturally. It happens when a bird, insect, or even the wind pollinates plants. As long as the plants are separated from other varieties, open pollinated seeds will breed “true to type.”
The advantage of open-pollinated seeds is that you can save seeds and have them to plant from one season to the next.
Another big advantage of open-pollinated vegetable seeds for most people is their superior flavor.
My favorite among the seed types are the heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds have developed outside of the commercial plant trade.
I have heirloom bean seeds that originated in my great grandmother’s garden. Each generation of my family has saved seeds from the plant and grown basically an identical bean to one that my great grandmother grew.
There are many smaller seed companies that have developed a niche in the market place selling heirloom seeds. Some say that heirloom seeds are identified by how long the seed has been passed down (often 50 or even 100 years is the benchmark.)
Others say that the history of the seed saving is important for heirloom varieties.Heirloom seeds are always open pollinated, but not all open pollinated seeds are heirloom seeds.
This sounds like a paradox but is really based on the ancestry of the seed than on the pollination.
Note that heirloom tomatoes, in particular, may not be as “pretty” as hybrid tomatoes. They are more prone to disorders such as catfacing.
Find out more about the advantages of heirloom vegetables here.
Hybrid seeds are those that have cross pollinated between two types of similar plants. This can result, naturally, if the plants are not separated from each other, and it can also be intentional by human intervention.
Seeds of hybrid plants are unstable and cannot be saved for use in the following years. They will grow but likely will not be like the parent plants and may be less healthy.
With hybrid seeds, you must purchase new seeds every year which adds to the cost of gardening.
Hybrid plants are somewhat uniform in size. If you are growing vegetables for resale purposes, this can be a big plus. Hybrid plants generally grow better and have a higher yield than open pollinated seed plants.
They offer higher disease resistance. This makes them desirable for home growers as well as those in the commercial field. The main disadvantage is that flavor is not high on the list of priorities with hybrid seeds, although is not always the case.
What about GMO Seeds?
And now for the elephant in the room. If you have an interest in organic gardening, you have probably heard about the controversy concerning the use of GMO seeds.
GMO means genetically modified organism. GMO seeds are created in a lab using sophisticated techniques such as gene splicing. Instead of crossing two different but related plants (as hybrid seeds do) the cross can be much more significant (such as crossing a bacteria with a plant.)
This is done to create pest resistant plants.
What are the disadvantages of GMO seeds? Sadly, that is a big fat unknown. In many other countries there is GMO labeling on products which come from GMO seeds, but here in the USA, this is not yet the case.
Many GMO seeds are those that are considered cash crops for farmers: soybean, corn, canola and cotton, but the slope is slippery and who knows what comes next?
Which of these seed types do you have experience with and which is your favorite?