Posted by Alice Moon on Feb.10, 2009
As spring draws ever closer, thoughts turn to the outdoors and all of the lovely things we dream about including in our garden. Nothing chases away the cold of late winter snows like pictures of flowers in hot pinks and deep reds. Dreams of thick, garden fresh tomato slices are almost real enough to taste. Picture row upon orderly row of herbs following the path of the sun. The lazy hum of bees doing the important work of pollination.
This year, as you get out the graph paper and colored pencils, consider avoiding all of those usual seed catalogs as sources of supply and instead introducing heirloom vegetables, flowers, or herbs into your fertile soil. Heirloom varieties are untreated, are not genetically engineered, are open pollinated and are not hybrids. Rare and unusual items can be grown using such seeds. You also get the benefit of variety in your choices, more than double what you would find in a mainstream catalog.
By supporting heirloom choices, you keep alive the genetic diversity in plant selections. Over-specialization leaves our crops open to disaster as a greater number of farms use a smaller selection of seed. One outbreak is all it takes to wipe out a significant portion of a growing crop. Pests and disease more easily overcome plants which haven’t been allowed to adapt. Begin to save your own seed and you’ll soon have plants which are more tolerant of conditions where you grow.
Organically grown and harvested seeds are easier to locate from heirloom sources as they take great care with their crops, often working by hand to select the most choice produce for the best new seed to save. They understand the importance of safe practices and knowing what is in the food we eat and grow. These sources have a great respect for the potential in their work. They usually specialize and have a wide base of knowledge to offer a novice grower.
Heirloom plants are often more flavorful, more interesting and varied in appearance. The flowers are more aromatic and the plants sometimes better resistant to pests even in the first year. Growers and providers of heirloom seed are far more careful in the preservation of their seed than large companies, doing their best to ensure a viable product. You will find they carry old fashioned favorites, rare foreign choices, and unusual varieties. These plants are dynamic and adapt to their environment; they are more flexible and hardy than hybrids.
Native seeds are a small subset of heirloom seed collections. Their collectors encourage more diverse varieties of agricultural seeds and related wild plant seeds. Plants native to your particular area are more likely to thrive in that environment. Local seed sources can provide just what you need, but aren’t always easy to find. The Internet is making locating and connecting with these sources easier each year. Look for open pollinated cultivars which have been grown in your region and have had time to adapt to your particular range in climate and pests or special soil makeup.
If all of this seems a bit daunting, consider choosing a single variety or two to try in your garden alongside your usual choices. Once you see the many lovely types available, it may be hard to narrow down your selection, but it is better to start small and succeed the first time out if you have any concerns. Choosing a couple of trial items will also help keep your overall seed costs down. Not all heirloom seed is expensive, especially when you learn to save your own from the crops you raise and your seed cost essentially goes to zero. You can’t do that with a hybrid. Some seeds are available for free if you exchange or trade. Once you’re an established grower, this is one of the best ways to expand your collection.
Biodiversity isn’t lost only in distant rainforests. It is lost each time we choose to purchase a hybrid instead of an heirloom seed. This is one small way to make your dollars count toward support of green movements and self-sufficiency. These seeds are a way to link to our past as well. Grow the favorites your grandparents and great grandparents enjoyed. You don’t want shelf life and portability. You want energy in your food, brilliant color, luscious texture, unsurpassed flavor. The very best way to eat locally is to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, right outside your own back door.
Posted under Organic Garden.
Article By: Alice Moon
Profile: Alice holds a degree in Political Science and the four highest awards in Girl Scouting. Once an intern at the prestigious Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo in Washington DC, she now makes her living as a writer. A gluten free vegan, she can frequently be found foraging in the countryside or at the local farmer’s market. In her free time, she enjoys keeping fit through yoga, martial arts, biking and hiking. Alice lives in the rural Indiana countryside where the cows can observe her antics. She is frequently chased by farm dogs as she runs the back roads. My new online dating advice site is INDATE http://jamestwohats.com/indate/
Latest posts by Alice Moon
- Inexpensive Exercise with Homemade and Found Equipment - May 20th, 2009
- Get the Most from Your Exercise - April 3rd, 2009
- How To Fast - April 2nd, 2009
- Rice Basics - March 29th, 2009
- Surprising Sources of Dirt and Germs - March 24th, 2009
- Vermicomposting For Beginners - March 20th, 2009
- Decrease Engine Emissions with Easy Vehicle Maintenance - March 18th, 2009
- Reuse Challenge: 9 Bits of Useful Trash - March 16th, 2009
- Decluttering: Purging House and Mind - March 11th, 2009
- Safety Tips for Outdoor Exercise - March 6th, 2009