Gardeners, new and old can often get confused by the different types of seed available. Many perhaps don’t even notice what is written on the seed packet they picked up!
We wanted to give you a little overview of the different types of seed available to gardeners and explain why we only sell organic, heirloom and heritage seed types to help you to make an informed choice when buying your seeds. Who ever thought that a simple packet of seeds could be more or less sustainable than another?!
Lets dive in…
If ever you have stood in a garden centre looking at the vast range of seeds they sell you may have noticed some seeds will say F1 or F2 after their name. These are what we call ‘hybrid’ seed.
Hybrid seed is produced from the cross pollination of two pure line plants. It can take several years to produce a pure line and what it means is that the seed from the original plants is re-sown and hand pollinated in isolation until the exact same plant is produced year on year. The original plants could have been selected for a variety of reasons such as growth habit, yield or disease resistance for example.
A hybrid seed is produced when two plants selected for their best individual qualities are cross pollinated and the seed from the resulting plant is saved – the idea being that the new plant will inherit the best qualities of each parent plant. For example one parent plant could have displayed excellent disease resistance whereas the other might have had consistently high yields – by cross pollinating the two the idea is to produce a plant which will be disease resistant whilst at the same time producing high yields.
Hybrid seed can only be sown once – you cannot save the seed from the new plant and expect the exact same plant to be produced and many hybrid seeds won’t actually produce seed at all.
Whilst there can be benefits to hybrid seed it is an expensive process and it can be argued that it does not promote seed security as you have to keep buying seed over and over again from the breeder. On the other hand if you are regularly suffering from diseases like tomato blight you may make a conscious choice to select hybrid seed that has been bred to resist those diseases.
On the basis of seed security, here at The Heritage Organic Seed Company we do not stock hybrid seed as we believe that everyone should be able to save their own seed each year. Not only is this better for you financially but over time your seeds will adapt to their growing environment which should lead to more consistent growth and plant health.
Open Pollinated Seeds
Open pollinated seed is produced from plants that have allowed the wind and insects to pollinate them as opposed to isolating the plant to control pollination.
Open pollinated seed produces plants that are closely match the parent plant. As the pollination is not controlled, open pollinated plants start to adapt to their local growing conditions and climate over time and the plants become more genetically diverse. As long as the plants are not cross pollinating with different varieties of the same plant then the seeds produced come true to type.
Heritage and Heirloom Seeds
The terms heritage or heirloom seeds are often used interchangeably. They are open pollinated seeds that have been grown and passed down through generations.
What is the difference between heritage and heirloom seeds?
The term ‘heirloom’ seed is often used for seeds that have been passed down through a family or seed that has been grown in a certain locality either for tradition or for flavour.
The term ‘heritage’ seed is often reserved for rarer seeds that are not often available from the large seed companies.
Many people prefer to grow heritage and heirloom seeds believing they have a better flavour and because, like us, they like the history of the seed and are interested in where it has come from. Commercial growers do not often select heirloom and heritage varieties and instead opt for hybrid types that have been bred for things such as yield, disease resistance and for growing uniform plants that are ready to harvest at the same time. Home growers are often less interested in their harvests being ready at once and prefer to grow a plant for flavour and history rather than greater yields.
From a seed security standpoint we believe in the importance of preserving our seed history and want to make sure that seed is saved and protected from the ever changing and super strict global seed laws which often work in favour of large seed corporations and farming industries.
Organic seeds can be purchased in any of the forms mentioned above including hybrid seed.
They have been produced from plants which were not subject to synthetic fertilisers and pesticides during their growth. By choosing organic seed you are choosing from the very beginning not to allow any of these chemical residues into your food chain. The plants that the seeds came from had to adapt to their growing conditions and then resist any pests that could have been present in their growing system without relying on the support of synthetic chemicals. For this reason we believe that you will get a stronger and more resilient plant if you choose to buy organic seed.
By choosing to go organic you are also supporting the wider environment including biodiversity and soil health which is so important in an age of industrial farming which has and is still causing a significant loss of the worlds topsoil. Soil health plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change as a healthy ‘living’ soil can capture and store atmospheric carbon in a process called carbon sequestration. This can help to cool the earth.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article about the different types of seed. If there is anything else you would like to know or if there are other subjects you would love to read about please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you would like see next.