Let's Talk About Seeds
But today I want to talk to my newer gardening friends about seeds. Have these questions ever crossed your mind: what are GMO seeds? What does open pollinated mean? What are hybrid seeds? What does it mean when seeds are organic? What are heirloom seeds? Do I have to buy seeds from a catalog? What do determinate and indeterminate mean?
Buying seeds can be confusing for a new gardener, but it doesn't have to be. I'm here to help! Let's take these questions one by one. I'll give you short answers (so as not to bore you to death), and if you want more in-depth answers, I can point you in the direction of some great gardening sites so that you can read more. OK...here we go.
What are GMO seeds?
Oh brother. This is a huge topic that can spiral off into a much longer topic about Monsanto and all of its evils. But I won't go there. First of all, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. What is a GMO? It is an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered using genetic engineering methods. Basically, that's a fancy way of saying that the seeds have been altered from their original state, which is not good for too many reasons to list here. I choose to buy non-GMO seeds because I want to be sure that the food I grow has all of its nutritional value in tact. Here is a great article on the dangers of genetically modified foods from Mother Earth News.
What does open-pollinated mean?
OK. Plants need to be pollinated in order to produce fruit. That pollination happens either naturally or by hand. When pollination happens by nature doing its thing, that is open pollination. The plants will produce their seeds naturally via the conditions that nature provides. If you save seeds from open-pollinated plants, you will get the same type of plant the following year. If seeds are not open-pollinated, they are hybrid seeds and that brings us to our next question.
What are hybrid seeds?
Hybrid seeds are the results of taking two plants and "breeding" them. It is controlled pollination. You will still get fruit BUT the seeds from hybrid plants are usually sterile. If the seeds do happen to germinate, you aren't guaranteed to get the same type of plant that you planted the year before. This is why I tend to stay away from hybrid seeds. Which leads us to our next question.
What does it mean when seeds are organic?
This is a great question. If you become serious about growing your own food and saving your own seed, you really want to consider growing organic and heirloom (we'll talk about this next) seeds. Certified organic seeds are seeds that are saved from plants that are grown free from synthetic chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. The seeds of organically certified plants are free from chemicals....and that's a good thing! It is important to note here that certified organic seeds may not necessarily be heirloom seeds, but they are still a good choice.
What are heirloom seeds?
Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds. They are not used by large-scale farmers because they deem too delicate (something I don't agree with at all). These are seeds that have planted, harvested and saved over hundreds of years. You may also hear them called heritage seeds, but the two terms are interchangeable.
Do I have to buy seeds from a catalog?
Of course not! But if gardening becomes more than just a hobby for you, as it has for me, you will find that you have a MUCH wider selection of seeds to choose from when you order from a catalog versus buying what is readily available at the store. Also many stores carry only hybrid and chemically treated seeds (or a very small selection of certified organic seeds) and I personally don't like the idea of that. But it is your choice. My two main sources of seeds are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and The Seed Savers Exchange . There are quite a few other great seed sites out there, but these two are my favorite.
What do determinate and indeterminate mean?
OK, this question relates mostly to tomato plants. There are two types of plants: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate means the plant grows to a certain height and sets its fruit all at once. So you basically get a whole bunch of tomatoes at one time. Indeterminate means the plant will continue to grow AND continue to set fruit throughout out the growing season. It usually only stops growing and producing with the first frost. For this reason, I like to buy indeterminate tomato plants because I prefer to have a longer harvest and not have all my fruit set at one time.
So there you have it! These are a few of the most common questions people usually ask me about seeds. If you have a question about seeds that you don't see here, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to answer your question. I may even do a video about it on my Youtube channel!
Now you have no excuses...grow something this year! Try a small 4x4 garden or even just one plant in a pot on your patio! If you do, send me pictures...I love to see what others have growin' on in their gardens!
Until next time....
Happy garden thoughts!!!