Growing your own garden is becoming increasingly popular today due to the fundamental need for a vibrant food and a healthy lifestyle. It is essential that what we eat are free from chemical fertilizers, pesticides and contaminants that might put a risk on our health. Choosing the seeds to plant are one of the main factors to consider in gardening. It can be a little daunting, especially with the many choices of seeds, and choosing between modern hybrids or heirloom varieties. Heirloom seeds, or as gardeners often refer to as “Grandmother’s Seed”, are now the latest rage, thanks to its wide benefits.
What is an Heirloom Seed?
From the name itself, an Heirloom Seed is a plant variety (a cultivar) that has been nurtured, selected and carried down from one family member to another for many generations. It is genetically stable and will produce offspring with identical characteristics to the parent plant, meaning it is true to type. Hybrids, on the other hand, are created by crossing two selected varieties, sometimes resulting in vigorous plants that yield more than heirlooms. Heirlooms cost less than hybrid seeds but there are more reasons to choose these seeds than just the prices.
People grow heirloom seeds for a variety of reasons and for different motivations. While most are just interested in traditional organic gardening, some do it for historical interest, and others want to increase the available gene pool for a particular plant for future generations. Growing heirloom seeds is a great and effective way of growing, tasting and enjoying a variety of fruits and flowers from the past.
Advantages of growing heirloom seeds:
- Greater Variety
- Better Taste and Nutrition
- Preserved Heritage
- Safer to the Environment & Eco-system
- No Chemical Fertilizers
- Open – Pollinated
- Cost Less
Cultivating heirloom seeds in your home garden is a great idea to add exquisite taste, good nutrition and variety to your daily diet, while saving plant species. Creating an heirloom that is perfectly suited for your particular garden can take years of seed saving and planting out. If you want immediate gratification, you can do a little legwork before selecting the variety of heirlooms you want to use. Dig into your family or community tree to see if any of your elders can recall names of varieties that grew well in the region or were particularly memorable. You may stumble across a gardener still growing a family heirloom.
Where to get Heirloom Seeds?
The easiest and most traditional way to get heirloom seeds is from a friend or family member. If you don’t know anyone who has these seeds, you may obtain them from our heirloom seed store here or from the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. They are one of the largest organizations that preserve, collect, grow, and distribute Heirloom Seed. These groups store heirloom seeds for future generations. For finding local heirloom seed resources, you may contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture extension office.