Let’s grow together! Legacy vs Hybrid | Opinion


Gardeners look forward to January. Christmas is over. Out-of-town vacationers have returned to where they came from. Home life has returned to normal. My special moment has arrived. I confess that I share this special moment with my dog, Betty and my husband, David. The fireplace is warm and cozy. My hot chocolate is smoking. Dog treats are ready. My chair is equipped with a footrest and a cover. Tablets, pencils, graph paper and my trusty iPad are in place, ready for action. All around me, there are catalogs; seed catalogs to my right, seed catalogs to my left, seed catalogs behind and in front of me, all stacked and in no particular order. All gardeners around the world love to browse the catalog in January. January is the planning and preparation for spring. Among the many decisions, one is whether to choose heirloom seeds or hybrid seeds. Let’s start.

One could imagine Grandma’s roses or tomatoes and how they looked year after year. They may have smelled and tasted the same year after year. It basically describes an inheritance. Although they have a “likeness” about them, they can also be unpredictable. The plant may produce fruits that are less uniform in appearance. One may be larger than another or have a different shape from another. The harvest of an heirloom can mature at different rates. This means that two tomato plants planted at the same time may not produce tomatoes at the same time. An heirloom is a plant variety that has been cultivated for many decades. Think of them as a plant that is passed down from generation to generation.

When choosing an heirloom, one can expect the same plant characteristics each time. This is labeled as being “true to the plant” or retaining its original traits. And, it is obtained by open pollination. Open pollination means that plant varieties have been pollinated by bees, birds, wind, or other natural ways. In turn, the heirloom nectar and pollen then become a food source for pollinators. I escaped better flavor, more fragrance and stable seeds are the benefits of growing heirloom seeds. Nostalgia might be my personal best reason for choosing heirlooms. Heirloom seeds come with an amazing story and stories. Heritage plants can be traced back to the 1700s. They come from all over the world and bring with them cultural and religious significance. Some have a story of what is my favorite medicinal purpose (being a nurse). You may want to select a legacy and trace the history of your choice.

Hybrid seeds, on the other hand, can provide a more disease resistant and uniform result in cultivation. Hybrid means the cross pollination of two plants with different genetic traits. Consider as an example the cross between a male donkey and a female mare with a mule as the preferred offspring. The intention is to create a plant with preferred traits. Large growers enjoy the best control and predictability of yield and maturity results. Other built-in benefits are disease and pest resistance, climate adaptability, larger harvest, and aesthetic characteristics. The cost of hybrid seeds is higher. Cost may not be a significant factor against the desire for early ripening, disease and pest resistance, and aesthetic benefits. Some gardeners want fast-growing produce with little effort. They like the color, the big fruits and the reliable results. The variegation and range of colors may be more available with a hybrid choice, but unfortunately they are not reproducible from plant, to save seed, and back to the next plant generation.

Other gardeners are more traditional and use more traditional methods.

Many gardeners are known for growing vegetables and this comes with healthy canning and eating practices. It has been noted that gardeners find their varieties of open-pollinated plants to be more flavorful and fragrant. The main disadvantage of hybrid seeds for avid seed gardeners is that seeds from a hybrid cannot be saved and used for the next growing season. Hybrid seeds will not reproduce the same plant when planted in the second generation. That doesn’t mean they can’t try, though. Who knows, what comes out of the ground might be some level of funky you can enjoy and brag about to your friends.

And, then, what will be your choice? I still haven’t decided what my choice will be. Most likely, I will have both.


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