Why I Choose Heirloom Seeds for My Garden
I had no idea that all seeds were not created equal when I started gardening. I learned thanks to the education of gardening research that seeds have different qualities and that there are heirloom seeds, organic seeds, and non-GMO seeds. Then someone told me about how you can’t just grow vegetables from your grocery store veggie seeds, and I was blown away! How can you control that, I wondered? I’ll tell you.
Why you can’t always grow vegetables from grocery store veggie seeds
I honestly can’t believe that this is real, but welcome to food as big business. Here’s the deal on the grocery store veg – it’s designed to keep you coming back, and it’s often ripened by a gas treatment in the back. That’s how the tomatoes stay shelf-ready, but also why they don’t taste that great.
Grocery store vegetables are often grown as hybrids so that you specifically can not use the seeds to regrow food. It’s intended to just produce one generation of fruit. This type of seed is not original to what nature intended and is a man-made modification.
These seeds are also often from vegetables that haven’t reached maturity, and therefore the integrity of the seed is lower, and may not yield good fruit.
Additionally, grocery store vegetables, even if farmed “organically” may be grown in soil or themselves have been treated with a pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide that contains toxins that you don’t want in your body or the DNA of your vegetable seeds for generations to come.
Hybridized (or just hybrid) seeds as mentioned above are bred to not produce any vegetables after their one-time display (the veggie that you buy at the store). These vegetables are often a combo of two types of tomato (for example), modified over and over.
There are some instances where hybridized seeds are beneficial to grow, and that’s when they’ve been bred to produce better. Some seed companies are dedicated to increasing the quality of seed and therefore cross-pollinating some plants to create a new variety. In this instance, choose a seed company (I like Johnny Seeds for this) that you trust that is still committed to organic practices.
Heirloom seeds are the best. These are seeds that have been saved for generations, typically in one family or garden. They are saved from the highest quality plant and are typically the truest to their original variety of plant. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, meaning that they will be most true to their parent plant and are not hybrids.
The highest quality seeds
The highest quality seeds will have multiple qualities. They will be organic, non-GMO, and heirloom. That means that you can save the seeds, they are not hybridized, and they have not been touched by chemicals and toxins (at least not deliberately). This ensures that your vegetables are the best quality and have the highest nutrient density. This also means that you can save your seeds season after season and start becoming independent of needing to even buy seeds.
How to save seeds
When it comes time to save seeds, the key is to save seeds from plants that did not succumb to any disease or fungus, that produced delicious and high-quality fruit and flowers. For some plants like vegetables, you find the seeds either within the vegetable/fruit, or within the flower (this means you will need to let some lettuce, herbs, or leafy greens “go to seed” so that the seeds can be saved. Going to seed means that you let the plant fully mature, produce flowers, and then dry out and die in the ground before harvesting the seeds. This does mean sacrificing some of the plants you grow (lettuce, after it goes to seed, tastes bitter), but if you plan for that in the beginning you’ll do just fine.
Organizing My Seeds
There is a method to the madness here. A girlfriend turned me on to this trick, and it’s to use a photo organizer for your seeds, then categorize them by season or sow by date. I’ll upgrade my organization this month to be by the month of direct-sowing.
I also use a smaller seed caddy for everything that I am succession sowing, so that is out at the ready for when I need it.
HERE is the big photo organization system that I use.
HERE is a great wooden caddy. that can be used for seeds.
My Favorite Seed Companies
I have stuck to about five companies when it comes to purchasing seeds online.
Johnny Seeds tends to have the best selection of seeds, and they have a ton of info on what is hardy to specific zones or pest-resistant. They run out fast though.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is another favorite and I love looking at their catalog. Their seeds are heirloom and they have a ton of rare and unique seeds.
Territorial Seed Co. is where I get my garlic each year and any seeds that I can’t find elsewhere.
Seed Savers Exchange is a great non-profit to support because they are dedicated to preserving endangered seeds, heirloom seeds, and rare open-pollinated varieties for home gardeners.
Floret Flower for flower seeds because they’re the best.
Starting your plants from seed can feel intimidating, but I assure you that it’s the best way to go, once you get the hang of it. Starting off with high-quality heirloom seeds will ensure a higher germination rate and seeds that want to sprout.
If you have any seed companies that you love, comment and let me know!
If you need help planning what to grow – go HERE