Heirloom, hybrid & open-pollinated seeds
Now that this year’s gardens have been put to rest, minds begin thinking about what to grow in 2018. Within each type of vegetable (tomato, pepper, etc.), there are numerous species of each. To determine what’s best for you in 2018, two decisions are needed. First, determine which species you really want to plant. The easiest way to do this is by reviewing seed catalogs.
Simply Google vegetable seed catalogs and then order some. Most are free.
Then, determine what type of seed you want to use. In deciding the type of seed, there are three different types — open-pollinated, heirloom and hybrid.
Each has something for gardeners, depending on their interests and values.
While open-pollinated vegetable seeds can be pollinated by hand, virtually all are pollinated by nature, using numerous insects, wind and birds. Unless contaminated by pollen from a different species, any resulting vegetable fruits will reproduce true seed. Thus, you can save seeds at the end of the growing season and be assured the seeds will produce identical fruit.
Heirloom seeds come from plants with at least a 50-year history and must be open-pollinated. Keep in mind, however, that not all open-pollinated plants have been around long enough to be heirlooms.
Hybrid seeds come from plants genetically engineered to provide a desired characteristic such as taste, amount of production, size, etc. Hybrids can occur in nature due to cross-pollination with different species, but most hybrid seeds for sale have been produced by humans to achieve the desired result.
They are usually labeled as F1.
You can save fruit seeds, but they’re what is called genetically unstable and thus will not yield true or be as vigorous when planted the following year. In other words, you need to buy new seed each year to get the desired results.
Wall has a B.S. in Forestry from Oklahoma State University and an M.A. in Business Management from the University of Nebraska. He lectures throughout the area on gardening and is the vegetable gardening manager at Northeast Texas Community College.