Heirloom and Hybrid Seeds
Heirloom seed are seeds produced from plants that have been saved and grown for fifty years or more. An heirloom is open-pollinated, which means the plant is capable of producing seeds that will grow a new plant identical to the parent plant. For example, this allows the gardener to pick the plant that had the sweetest fruit, collect the seeds and plant it again the following spring producing the same results.
Hybrid seeds are created by plant breeders. The plant breeder selects two similar plant varieties and crossbreed them to create a new plant variety that features the desirable traits wanted. For example, plants that do not succumb to a particular disease or are frost resistant. Hybrid seeds are not open-pollinated. If you save their seeds, the new plant will not be identical to the parent plant. The seeds can often be sterile, and will not germinate. You will have to buy seeds year after year.
Most seed packets have expiry dates and are viable for two years. Before you plant your garden, and find out your previous year seeds do not germinate, you can do a germination test.
- select five or more seeds you want to check
- spread out the seeds on a damp paper towel
- roll up the paper towel and put in a ziploc bag
- label the outside of the bag and place in a warm sunny area, checking often
- keep the paper towel damp but not to wet or the seeds will rot
- if the seeds germinate in the specified time indicated on the seed packet, they are viable.
You need a dry, dark and cool place to store your seeds. Heat, moisture and temperature fluctuations will ruin your seeds. Keep seeds in their seed packets and seal them in an air tight container or glass jar. If you are saving seeds, you can use a small paper envelope. Place your seeds in a dark, cool place. You can even store seeds in your refrigerator.
Seed tape is strips of biodegradable paper embedded with seeds that are perfectly spaced. You simply unroll the seed tape into a moistened planting furrow, cover with soil, tap down and lightly water. Planting is precise, there is no thinning and the germination rate is very good.
Seed tape is more expensive than loose seeds, but works well with very small seed vegetables like carrots. You can make your own seed tape. There are several good videos on YouTube, showing step by step instructions.