Let’s talk about seeds. And specifically HEIRLOOM seeds.
Not only are seeds magical little miracles, they are also very, very important to our food supply. In fact, there would be no food supply without them.
When most people start out gardening, they generally go to the store in the spring and buy plants and/or packets of seeds. Heck, this is the way I started too. 🙂
I wanted to tell you that there is a better way for you to explore as you continue along your gardening journey.
I almost exclusively order all of my seeds from online heirloom seed companies. Although I do buy some plants each year (mostly because I can’t help myself when I see them in the spring) and I do sometimes run to the gardening center and buy packets of seeds too. Like the time that none of my heirloom onion seeds would germinate so I ran to a local store and bought a couple of packets of fresh onion seeds.
I totally believe that is far better to plant seeds from the garden center than it is to plant no seeds at all!
But, if you are ready to move beyond what is offered at your local gardening center, good for you.
Here are some suggestions to get you started.
First and foremost, look for heirloom seeds! Heirloom seeds are varieties that have been grown for a very long time and are open pollinated, not owned by any corporation, and not genetically modified or hybridized. Plus there are many more choices than you will find in any garden center.
Let’s break these words down to understand why they are important.
Open pollinated – this means that the plant can pollinate naturally without any human intervention. This means is that when our great, great, great grandparents planted a certain type of corn, and then saved the seed from that corn to plant the following year, it would grow the same type of corn as the original plant.
Not corporate owned – when a person or company changes a plant by either genetic modification or hybridization they can then get a patent for their “creation” and “own” the plant material. They become legally the only company that can sell that seed and everyone who wants it must then purchase it only from them. The problem with this, of course, is that these plants are not machines but living things that grow and reproduce. There are cases where farmers have been sued for having plant DNA that belongs to a certain company in their fields because it cross-pollinated with a nearby genetically modified version of the same plant. Yikes! I personally believe that we figuratively “shot ourselves in the foot” at the very moment that we allowed living organisms to be patented and owned.
Genetically modified – This is when a company takes a plant and changes the genetics by taking a part of the DNA from a plant or animal that could never, ever cross in nature and splices it in the the plant’s DNA to create a desired feature. Glow in the dark fish, anyone? Then they sell them to us without labeling them as genetically modified. In my humble opinion, this is dangerous and morally wrong. We are just beginning to see the ramifications and this is a giant, untested experiment on human health. Yes, a few companies have started to label their foods as being genetically modified but it’s too little, too late.
Hybridized – a hybrid is when two plants cross-pollinate – either by accident while growing close to each other or intentionally by a person – to create an entirely different plant. Seeds saved from these plants will not resemble the parent plant at all. Or will resemble only one of the parent plants. The genetics of these plants are unstable and if the seeds are saved will produce a lot of drastic variation. Sometimes this is desirable, most of the time it’s not.
By purchasing heirloom seeds, you will avoid all of these negative features and will be supporting the people who are working so hard to preserve the oldest varieties of plants from extinction.
Other benefits of buying heirloom seeds are that there are hundreds of varieties available. Some very unique and rare. Also, my seeds will stay viable longer (other than the ones that have naturally short viability times such as onions and corn) because they will not have “terminator genes” in them. Google that term sometime. Scary!
The downside is that I have to plan ahead and order online before it is time to plant. That’s a small price to pay.
And actually, ordering seeds is something that I do in the winter time. When I’m itching to plant something anyway. 🙂
Here are some of my favorite heirloom seed companies to buy from:
Pinetree Garden seeds (superseeds.com) – please read the descriptions carefully because not all of their seeds are heirlooms.
And of course, you can check out the seeds that I sell here
I hope you will try ordering some heirloom seeds online or at least seeking out local sources for heirloom seeds. Moving toward open-pollinated, sustainable seeds is a slow shift that happens one seed packet at a time.
When you buy heirloom seeds, you will be doing a great service for future generations to come.
Your grandchildren will thank you!