It’s spring in Southern Illinois and people are beginning to plant their gardens. I’ve noticed more people preparing garden plots than ever before. Many of these people are first time gardeners. However in my area no one is more than one generation away from gardening so those new to it have plenty of help.
One thing that many new gardeners do not realize is that not all seeds are created equally. Some are genetically engineered, chemically treated, closed pollinated and some are open pollinated.
If you are a bit confused, don’t be. All seeds chemicals treated or genetically engineered are so labeled in the US by law. So that issue is solved.
If you are wondering about the open v/s closed pollination, here it is: Some plants produce seeds that cannot be grown to replicate the parent plant. These plants are closed pollination and are generally labeled “hybrid”. Those that can be replicated, that is you can save the seeds to plant a garden next year, are open pollination. Today most will also be labeled “heirloom”.
There are only a few questions to be decided before choosing your seeds. You of course have to decided on the variety of whatever vegetable you want, but it is also important to decide early if you want to harvest your own seeds for the next years garden. If the answer is yes, then you need to focus solely on heirloom plants. If the answer is no, then you can use any type of seed that you like.
Another factor to consider in making the choice between open and closed pollinated seeds is risk factors. Most hybrids have been designed to be disease resistant. The various diseases that plants are susceptible to vary from region to region. If you are in an area that has a high incidence of certain plant destroying diseases, you might want to look into using the close pollinated seeds to prevent the loss of your crop. Information on local crop diseases if available free from your local county extension office.
Given the uncertain times we are currently living in, I prefer to use open pollinated seeds for the most part. I will often try new varieties of one vegetable or another that is available as a closed pollinated seed, but I try to keep the majority of my garden planted in open pollination seeds.
Not only does harvesting my own seeds mean that I don’t have to buy new seeds for the next year, but it also means that I am saving a great deal of money. For the past 5 years I have harvested my own seeds. This means that for the past 4 years I have not had to spend any money at all on seeds for the garden, making all of the produce I raised cost me next to nothing. I have raised 4 years worth of vegetables on less than the cost of a 10-pound bag of potatoes!
Of course in that time I have tried new varieties of closed pollinated plants so I have spent a bit more, but I didn’t have to spend that money to feed my family. In uncertain economic times, that is a great feeling.