Today the weather hit almost 60 degree’s. Can you believe it? Ahhh. . the sunshine was exactly what I needed! Of course, I made the most of it. Today I headed out to the front yard and put together my winter sowing greenhouses. Winter sowing is, by far, my favorite way to start seeds. The plants always seem hardier when started this way and they form the best root systems. However, this post isn’t about the winter sowing method. If you want to read how to winter sow your seeds, check out this post that I wrote last year. Today I wanted to talk about the seeds themselves.
As I was browsing through my Facebook feed today I noticed one of my friends made a remark about organic vs. non-organic seeds. She didn’t understand why she should pay extra for organic seeds when she wasn’t going to be putting chemicals in her garden at home anyways.. thus any seeds she bought would be organic when she raised them.
I thought about her question. It seemed like a logical question that many people might have, so I decided that today we would discuss the difference between all of the different types of seeds. Hopefully it will help you make an informed decision when starting your own at home garden this spring.
Chances are, if your planning on starting a spring garden for the first time you may wind up in your local grocery or home improvement store searching for supplies. Right up front there will be a nice big display of seed packets. Some are marked with words such as hybrid, heirloom, organic and open-pollinated. Which do you choose?
Let’s take a look at each of the different types of seeds.
Hybrid seeds – Hybrid seeds are seeds that have been cross pollinated through human intervention between two different plant species or varieties. While this can happen naturally, seeds that are sold commercially are crossed on purpose to create a desired trait in the plant. Hybrid plants tend to do better in their first year due to “hybrid vigor” but the seeds collected from these plants are unstable and cannot be used again the following year. When using this seed type the gardener must purchase new seeds each year.
Heirloom seeds – Heirloom seeds are exactly like they sound. These are seeds that have been collected and passed down from year to year for generations. The point of this seed type is to preserve and pass on an original plant that has been open pollinated for years.
Organic seeds – Organic seeds come from organically grown plants. Plants which have not been treated with a fungicide or any other chemical during their growing process. The organic seeds themselves are also not treated with fungicides to prevent mold growth (as many other non-organic seeds are). Organic plants are grown using natural fertilizers such as manure and natural practices for pest control such as proper plant pairings. For these reasons the process of producing organic seeds is naturally better for the environment. Organic seeds are also always GMO free. Genetic modification is not allowed in organic gardening. When you purchase organic seeds you are helping to support organic farmers, the research of organic gardening and further efforts to grow organically. These seeds harbor no harmful chemicals.
Open Pollination – These are plants which have been pollinated naturally by birds, insects or wind. This type of pollination helps provide biodiversity. While this seems similar to Hybrid seeds, it differs in that open pollination seeds are allowed to cross pollinate slowly which makes them naturally more hardy to their environments. The seeds from open pollination are able to produce again in subsequent years.
Which seed to purchase is completely up to you. But, what do you think? Which seeds are best to use? Which do you use and why?
Here are some other great seed and gardening references:
The Safe Seed Pledge – A list of companies who have taken the safe seed pledge and do not sell GM seeds.
Seeds of Change – Organic Gardening Info and Catalog
SeedSavers.org – Heirloom Gardening
Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Sells Hybrid, Organic and Heirloom seeds