It’s the middle of the winter and all we can do is dream about the warm weather ahead. As far off as that day may seem, it’s quickly become time to get our seed orders ready and seeds started. By the end of next month, pretty much all of our seeds will be planted in seed trays to grow up into our starter seedlings that will be planted directly into the garden.
Before getting into that seed buying frenzy, make sure you learn a few things and put together a strategy. The world of seed buying has become a complicated and confusing process. Genetically modified crops have flooded our food crops and garden seeds are no different. It has become more important than ever before to source everything, even exactly who grows the seed we buy and how they grow it.
Monsanto, the leader in GMO has been buying up a large number of seed companies over many years and now own almost half of the home garden vegetable seed market. They also have been quietly buying up many heirloom seed varieties.
The key to having a truly organic garden, without any questions about the effects of genetic modification, is asking the right questions before buying all of your favorite seeds.
Types of seeds:
It’s important to have a basic understanding of what the different types of seeds are and the terms that are used. Here is the basic rundown:
Hybrids: Hybrid seeds are the result of cross pollination. When growing hybrid seeds, the first generation plants will typically be very similar. The second generation, however, may lose some of the desirable characteristics. These are typically not useful for gardeners who save seed.
F1 Hybrids: These are basically the first generation of two different parent plants. This can happen in nature, but is usually created through hand pollination. For annual plants, new hybrids have to be created every year. Perennials are typically reproduced through cuttings or tissue culture.
Open pollinated: Seeds that are saved from plants that are allowed to pollinate by natural means such as insect, bird, wind, etc.
Heirloom: Heirloom seeds are plant varieties that have been passed down through generations within a family, community, or region. Heirloom seeds are always open pollinated. However, not all open pollinated seeds are heirlooms.
Guide to buying GMO-free seeds:
- Find companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge. The Safe Seed Pledge is signed by seed companies that do not buy, sell, or trade genetically modified seeds. Check out their website for the master list of companies that have signed this listed state by state
- Avoid companies that are now owned or distributed by Monsanto subsidiaries. It seems like every day Monsanto is acquiring a new company and a whole new slew of seed varieties.
- Buy heirloom seeds. They might be the trendy option right now but for good reason. Look around and do your research. Find locally adapted and time tested varieties. Ask what the local farmers have had success with. There are so many amazing heirlooms available. I usually try out at least a handful of new heirlooms each year. Save the seed from the best plants for next year.
- Go organic when it’s available. Because seeds are not considered a food product, legally allowable pesticide levels are higher. Since the growth time to seed is also much longer than growth for leaves or fruits, the accumulation of chemicals in the plant mass is much higher. Avoid this everywhere you can. Plus, it’s always a better idea to support the organic growers.
- Check out your local seed swaps. It’s a wonderful way to learn what all of the gardeners around you are growing. Swap successes and failures on top of a few seeds.
Get those GMO-free seed orders placed and get ready to reap the rewards. It’s time for me to get back to picking out my own!