In my last gardening post I promised to share why we choose heirloom seeds and why I don’t buy vegetable and herb plants from the gardening stores. The reason is three fold: variety, quality and sustainability.
Variety: Have you ever noticed most gardening stores carry 3-4 varieties of most vegetables. When it comes to tomatoes regardless of the state you live in you’ll usually find Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, Beefsteak, Roma and Early Girl. Did you know that The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that there are 25,000 types of tomatoes? That’s not to say that each will perform equally well in all areas but it does go to show that if you are relying on a gardening store to pick your plants you are missing out. How well a variety will perform varies greatly between regions but you can easily find 100’s that will do well in each region.
Quality: If you currently buy your plants from a gardening store you know that the quality varies from store to store and year to year. If the growers have a bad year then the plants will show it. You will frequently find that the plants in gardening stores will have pest on them or in the soil and often times are root bound. With the exception of a few small nurseries most stores don’t have the time or man power to invest in properly caring for the plants from the time they come in until they are sold. The stress this causes the plant leaves it weak and vulnerable causing poor growth once it is purchased and transplanted.
If organic plants are important to you keep in mind that you don’t know how far back the organic chain goes. Meaning were the seeds taken from several generations of organic plants or simply from a regular plant and then raised organically. The other thing I have noticed is organic means something different to a lot of people. There are chemicals out there that are considered organic that I don’t want on my plants.
Sustainability: We plant seeds from open-pollinated varieties rather than hybrids. A hybrid is a crossbred plant that seldom has the ability to reproduce itself when replanted or if it does it won’t carry over the same traits as the original plant. Open-pollinated varieties always reproduce themselves true to the parent plant. Research has shown that many open-pollinated varieties are not only more genetically diverse, but also have more trace minerals. By using open-pollinated varieties I am able to collect my own seed, and by doing so the plants become more acclimated to our climate and soil. For the last 4-5 years I have purchased my seeds from Homestead Heritage Farm. I will probably continue to do until I become better at harvesting and storing seeds.
If starting seedlings for your entire garden seems overwhelming start with a few plants and increase the number you start yourself each year until you are comfortable.