To Seed or Not To Seed {Heirloom v. Hybrid}?

Guest Blogger Mark C is a colleague and an avid gardener.  Mark has grown hundreds of pepper and tomato plants, tucked away deep in his basement, with nothing more than a dream and a grow light! Enjoy…

Just before Christmas the seed catalogs begin to arrive.  What a source of warmth in the cold of winter.  I study each page carefully, dreaming of the perfect vegetable garden for the next planting season.

For many years now, I have planted Heirloom seed varieties.  These are varieties that are older than 50 years, open pollinated (not hybrid), and typically are seed from a plant grown by people like you and me, from seed passed down over the generations, or a stray plant found in an abandoned field.  You can find a great selection of these varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, Seed Savers International, and others.  It’s not that I’m against hybrids; there is just something exciting about growing old, sometimes ugly, often delicate and perishable plants from years ago.  They were grown for flavor and yield by the “owners” but the success we enjoy in our own microclimates are an annual experiment.  The same variety can be successful one year and a disaster the next.

In the alternative, if you want to maximize your chances of success, then buy the tried-and-true hybrids like Celebrity, Supersweet 100s, Better Boy and others.  Hybrids are bred for yield, but you may end up using more pesticides and fertilizers.

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, many unique kinds of heirloom pepper and tomato seed have become available to gardeners from Eastern Europe ancestry.  And thank goodness there are people who collect these seeds for posterity and make them available for my garden year after year.


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