When you’re shopping for seeds, there are two basic categories that you will encounter: heirloom seeds and hybrid seeds. Many beginning gardeners will assume that a seed is a seed and it doesn’t really matter which kind of seed you buy. But the experienced gardener in any crowd will be quick to share an opinion on whether heirloom or hybrid seeds are the way to go. Opinions are mixed on this issue, but let’s look at how the two seeds are different so you have a better idea of which one to buy.
My grandparents introduced me to the debate surrounding heirloom seeds and hybrid seeds years ago. Obviously there are some pros and con’s to both sides of the argument but my family has always fallen on the side of the heirloom. Personally, I have used both varieties and have had good results. But there are some pretty big differences so depending on your gardening goals, you definitely need to select your seeds with care.
What are Heirloom Seeds?
Heirloom seeds seem to be the big thing now in gardening. Why? Well to best understand this you have to understand that heirloom seeds are old. In order to be considered an heirloom seed, it has to have originated before 1951. It was during this time that science started messing with seeds and creating their own variations called hybrids.
Heirloom seeds can trace their roots back to pre-1951 times. In many cases the history of the seeds are even older than that. There are several good things about this. First, the plants have had the ability to change over time and develop natural defense mechanisms to the environment that they will grow in. These changes are passed on from generation to generation or, from seed to seed.
The second big factor with heirloom seeds is that they have had a chance to reproduce the way that nature intended for them to reproduce. When you plant an heirloom seed, the plant that comes from the ground is almost identical to the plant that the seed came from. It really is a remarkable thing.
What are Hybrid Seeds?
Hybrid seeds are said to be bigger, better, longer lasting, and better tasting. Science has long claimed that these variations of seeds are able to withstand the elements better and they are able to provide more crops with less work. And they are somewhat correct.
The color on a hybrid plant is usually better. The size of the fruit is typically larger. Ultimately you are able to produce more vegetables per acre with hybrids. The problem is that eventually the gene pool dries up.
How are Heirlooms and Hybrids Different?
With an heirloom plant, you can save the seeds from a fruit and then replant them the following year. This can go on into perpetuity or until the seeds are all gone. With a hybrid seed you can try and save some seeds but each year the crop will get smaller and smaller until eventually there is nothing there at all. In most cases the second year’s crop is fair but the third years crops are all but gone.
Which kind of seeds are best?
It all boils down to what you want. If you don’t mind buying seeds every year then go with the hybrids to get a bigger crop. However if you would like a more authentic plant and crop and you would like to be able to continually stock your shelves with valuable seeds each year, then you are going to want the heirloom seeds instead.
From a prepper’s point of view, heirloom seeds are just another way that we can plan for the future. Each year, you can harvest seeds from your plants and save them for the following year. This insures that you are always equipped to plant a future garden no matter what is happening in the world around you. On the other hand, if you were using hybrid seeds, you have no insurance for the future. You can count on one good year and maybe a second mediocre year, but after that, you will need new seeds. If they are readily available at the store, that’s not a problem. But if you are preparing to live in a world where you are living off the land, hybrids just won’t cut it.
Which kind of seeds do you prefer for your garden? Have you had better results from hybrids or heirlooms?