Choosing seeds to plant in the garden seems like an easy task. It has gotten more difficult because nowadays, if we want to be conscious of how our food is grown, the choice is much more involved. We have settled on growing an heirloom garden for our family.
Why We Choose to Grow an Heirloom Garden
Choices, choices, choices. We can choose to buy heirloom seeds, hybrid seeds, or GMO seeds (no thanks!). What’s the difference anyways? Shouldn’t this whole seed choosing things be simple and straight forward? Like most things in life, it just isn’t so anymore.
GMO seeds are created in a lab where the DNA of 2 different species is crossed. This is not something that could ever happen in nature. God did not create plants to procreate in this manner. Corn, specifically is crossed with the bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This kills the pests that plague corn by perforating their gut lining. This bacteria does the same thing in anything or anyone who ingests it. Doesn’t sound like something I want to eat or feed to my family.
The second thing that the GMO crops are manipulated to withstand large quantities of glyphosate (Round-up ready crops). Glyphosate is a poison and has been found in the water supplies of the countries that use it. It is also found in the bloodstream, urine, and breastmilk of humans all over the world. Mind you, glyphosate is now also listed as a carcinogen despite years of it being claimed as safe for humans. If you have to wear a HAZMAT suit to spray it on the crops, I’d rather avoid those crops altogether.
If all of that is not enough to deter you, GMO’s are completely unsustainable. Since they are developed in a lab in a manner that cannot be replicated in nature, you cannot save the seeds for replanting, they are sterile. Large corporations control these seeds and have created an unsustainable and dependent upon them farming method as well. This is also a hugely expensive agricultural practice.
GMOs are a far cry from the heirloom garden seeds of the past.
When two plants of the same species are cross bred with each other, the result is a hybrid plant. This has some benefits and some downfalls. I’m not completely opposed to using hybrid seeds and I have many times.
When the two parent plants are crossed, you get a nice strong first generation (or F1) plant. Reasons that the plants were crossed may be that one type was pest resistant and the other drought resistant resulting in an F1 plant that is both.
This is great for your current growing season and harvest. You get plants that grow well and produce plenty. This is one reason that we have used hybrids in the past, to help fill the pantry.
If you choose to grow hybrid plants, you need to be aware of the fact that saving seeds from them will not produce the same results. Second generation (or F2) will grow but they will all be very different from the previous year and very different from each other. They will also may not be as productive. If you don’t mind buying new seeds every year, then you can definitely go this route.
Heirloom garden seeds are open pollinated meaning that they naturally pollinate in nature. They do not require any intervention from man to be pollinated. Mind you, plants can cross pollinate with another type in the same species so you may end up with some hybrid plants the next year. The way to remedy this is to stagger you planting so that the same species are pollinating at different times or separate plants of the same species to different parts of the garden.
When you have open pollinated plants, you can save your seeds and replant your favorite types the following year. This is wonderful for being sustainable and saving money.
While you are not crossing for hybrids, you can save seeds from the strongest plants so the following year’s crop will be even stronger. Each year, your plants will continue to adapt your your environment and will produce quality plants for you area.
They are Beautiful
One of the other reasons I love heirloom seeds is because there are so many cool varieties. I never knew how many types of each species there were until I began browsing heirloom seed catalogs. I enjoy picking a couple of new seed varieties to try each year.
There are just so many heirloom vegetables that don’t look anything like the variety you find at the grocery store. I’ve been blown away over and over by the flavor, color, and beauty of heirloom vegetables.
Keeping it Traditional
Heirlooms are a treasure for the past. A reminder of yesteryear when our grandparents were working the soil to feed their families. I’m an old fashioned gal at heart and I just love doing my part to preserve the past.
GMO’s and Hybrids are great for the companies that make them because you have to continue buying from them each year. This creates lifelong customers for these companies.
You would think that having an heirloom seed company may not be very profitable since people can save the seeds and not have to rebuy. This is very far from the truth because, well, if you’re anything like me, you just can’t help but buy some new seeds each year. I don’t want to call it an addiction but maybe it is. 😉
All of this information has led our family to choose to grow an heirloom garden on our homestead. We definitely like the idea of being able to save seeds from year to year and remain sustainable. Also, saving money while doing so is a huge benefit too.
I just LOVE browsing seed catalogs. It is seriously one of my favorite past times. Especially in the winter time- fire glowing in the fireplace, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in my hand, nothing is growing outside but the dreams of what can be in the next season fill my mind. Sounds perfectly romantic and dreamy to me. One of my happy places, indeed.
We like to support family owned and operated companies like
Seeds for Generations.
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Jim Allen says
Thanks for the info on getting started with an heirloom garden. I have been thinking about starting my own small garden to grow more healthy and sustainable produce. Any thoughts on what plants would work best for a small area and in a northern climate (New England)? Thanks!
Hi! I’m so glad you want to grow some of your own food! That’s awesome. I do not have experience up north, I do know that some vegetables and fruits do well in colder climates. I found this link that looks like it would help you get started there. http://www.gardeninginnewengland.com 🙂
Jim Allen says
Thanks for the reference, I will check it out. Digging out from a Christmas snowstorm, but hopefully can get the garden started in the spring!
I love seeing your pictures! We’re trying to grow more heirlooms too, but I’m not the best gardener and so mine don’t always survive to harvest.
When we started gardening, we did a mix of hybrids and heirlooms. We aren’t experts but we’ve learned more of what works and doesn’t. lol 🙂
Jane Anderson says
Hi Jenna, the information that you have shared for heirloom garden are very helpful. I am new in this type of gardening. I will try to grow heirlooms and hopefully harvest it. Thanks for posting an informative blog.