What is the difference between heirloom seeds and unmarked or hybrid seeds?
Many of the new seeds are treated with chemicals to protect the seed from rotting or being nibbled on by bugs. Others are treated with a fertilizer to help them grow. You will see this information marked on most seeds packets if they have been treated.
I myself do not like treated seeds. I grow using organic methods and do not trust the chemicals used on the seeds and some seeds are not good for children, birds or other small animals to eat and this concerns me.
You will see the term hybrid seeds on some packages. This means the seeds have been raised and pollinated specifically to have special traits in the flowers or vegetables. This is good if you are looking for a special color in a flower, a certain height, earlier production or a heartier vegetable. Commercial growers often choose hybrid seeds for a firmer vegetable that will ship better or an early producer.
Heirloom seeds are seeds that are true to their original parents and have kept the same traits for generations. Many of these seeds are becoming rare and garden enthusiasts are trying to keep the varieties alive and available to the public throught seed saving programs and special programs.
I prefer the Heirloom seeds. I think the produce has a better taste, particularly the tomatoes and peppers. There are also varities offered in heirloom seeds that are not sold in stores and most seed catalogs. I prefer unique and unusual plants in my garden and the heirlooms provide them.
There is also often a history with an heirloom seed and I like mixing gardening and history. I have a sunflower called “Grandfather’s Sunflower” that has been passed down in one family for over 100 years. I have no idea what kind this sunflower is but it stands 15 foot tall with a sunflower head that is 12 to 20 inches across. This seed is priceless to me and was given to me by a good friend. It was her great great grandfather who originally saved this seed.
One disadvantage in Hybrid seeds are that they can not be saved and grown the next year. Because they have been specially bred and raised the seed will not stay true to the orignal product you grew in the garden. Sometimes they will not pollinate at all or you get a unusual or inferior plant. Liking the unusual I have tried this, and its been fun but if you are looking for a reliable crop or flower hybrid seeds need to be purchased each year.
I like saving seeds from my garden. It’s fun and it’s history; that’s why I prefer heirloom or regular seeds but gardening has different meanings to each person and the only way to know your preference is to try all the seed varieties.