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Each winter, one of the best cozy activities is to curl up on the couch under a warm blanket and dive into seed catalogs. This year we’ve almost exclusively selected and ordered heirloom seeds. But why grow from heirloom seeds in the first place? Consider this an introduction to heirloom seeds for beginners.
What are heirloom seeds?
Heirloom seeds are a minimum of 50 years old, but many are as much as 200 years old or older. They are “pure” in the sense that there is no hybridization or cross pollination and they have all been pollinated through natural means, such as wind, bees, butterflies, etc.
Since they are not genetically modified, hybrids, or cross pollinated, they generate plants and fruit true to type, meaning there is very little variation. This is one reason that they are the one sure-fire way to be able to harvest seeds from your crop year after year.
I also recently learned from Jill Winger’s Old Fashioned on Purpose podcast that heirloom varieties often have more flavor as they have been less modified, and that if you harvest your own seeds season after season, the plants each subsequent year are better adapted to your climate, soil, and other growing conditions, making them increasingly ideal for your garden and location in general.
Is it harder to grow heirloom seeds for beginners?
The beauty of it is that with the exception of selling out faster and being a very slightly higher price point, there’s nothing different about how you’d buy, plant, and grow heirloom seeds. Selecting and ordering a little earlier is good advice if you want a fuller selection to pick from. Other than that, the preparation and planting process is the same as for other seeds.
If you want to harvest the seeds from your fruits and veggies at the end of the season, there are tons of resources to teach you how to do that depending on the specific types of plants you have grown.
Where can I get heirloom seeds?
While it is possible to find some heirloom varieties in garden centers and local stores that sell other seeds, your best bet for finding a full selection of good heirloom seeds backed by quality guarantees is to either order online or from a seed catalog. Most seed catalogs can be ordered for free from seed companies and will arrive at your home in a week’s time, ready for perusal. Alternatively, you can shop exclusively online.
We purchased all of our heirloom seeds this year through Botanical Interests. We used their seed catalog to decide what we wanted, and then after culling through and deciding what we could reasonably fit in our garden, we ordered online. We even got a shipping discount and our seeds arrived promptly just a few days later.
Botanical Interests routinely have sales and discounts. They also have a discount available if you sign up for their newsletter.
We will have future posts about the success of our heirloom seeds in our garden as well as an in depth breakdown of what we selected this year and why. Then once the garden season comes to a close you can expect an update on how we harvest the seeds to save for next year’s garden, so be sure to check back for that as well!