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Gardening Against The Trend: Heirloom Seeds Part 1
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Gardeners have many motivations to garden with non-hybrid heirloom seed from cost savings (you will not have to purchase seed year after year) to historical interest. Some choose heirloom seed because they want a traditionally organic garden. But most simply prefer heirloom seed because the plants these seeds produce breed true year after year and the vegetables taste better than any grown from hybrid seed.

If you have, like many people, caught the gardening bug and want to grow vegetables for your family one of the things to consider is seed. I know what you are thinking, “why would I be thinking about seed? I know what veggies my family will eat and I can just go down to the local Wal-Mart or Lowe’s and they will fix me up with the seed I need.” This is true, but these places sell only hybrid seeds and the hybrid seed is weaker. To put it another way, the hybrid seed that we buy from our local store is only good for one planting. It’s like using the same tea bag over and over and expecting the same color, favor, and freshness. It’s just not going to happen! And next year you will be back at the store buying more seed. In order to keep your gardening providing good strong vegetables year after year, you will want non-hybrid heirloom seed.

If you are like me and question nearly everything, by now you must be asking, “What’s the difference between hybrid and non-hybrid seed and why can’t I get non-hybrid heirloom seed at my local Wal-Mart? Real good question! Let me start by defining what a non-hybrid heirloom seed is.

The heirloom seed is a cultivar produced generations ago and showed such value that it has been handed down from generation to generation. A cultivar is a plant selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. To qualify as heirloom seed the parent plant must have been open-pollinated to produce a hearty plant with tasty vegetable more than 50 years ago. Some say more than 100 years ago while others mark the date more specifically as being the year 1951 when industrial agriculture became the norm and genetically modified hybrid seeds were introduced which resulted in tremendously increased crop yields. The attraction of high yields enticed the world’s farmers into the use of hybrid seed, and in the 1970s hybrid seeds were introduced to consumers for home gardening. Most farmers and gardeners have been using them ever since. The problem is these genetically modified seeds will only produce true for one season, unlike heirloom seeds and learning to save seeds from your heirloom seed garden is easy.

Finding heirloom seeds can be fun and challenging. The best place to start is at your local seed house, and of course there are many internet sites. If you are the adventurous type many can be found in abandon gardens or obtained from heirloom seed devotees. You will pay a little more up front but you won’t have to buy seed again next year…or the next.


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