Monthly Archives: February 2012

Shopping for seeds

Chroniflower, of the subspecies caulicannabanis

My vegetable raised boxes are filled with wonderful mushroom manure and compost and I am ready for the season to begin.  Choosing what to grow and what seed to purchase has become quite a daunting prospect.  For a gardener who specializes in perennial and shrub borders, I suddenly was faced with an entirely different set of rules and growing techniques.  I was then faced with the most important decision of all:  what type of seed to order.  Genetically Modified Organism or GMOs also called Generically engineered or GE seed,  Open pollinated heirlooms, F1Hybrids, Organic…   Really?  I am seriously overwhelmed!  And if this is my thinking, I would assume there are many of you, first time vegetable gardeners in the same position.  Here are some of the main facts that have been helpful in sorting out where I should get started.

GMOs are in my mind out of the question.  Granted, most GE seed is being produced for the major food producers.  The problem is, there is no way to really segregate those seeds in nature.  They will contaminate the general pool and there is very little we can do about it.  Just this month 83 organic farmers are in court against food giant Monsanto in an effort to stop them from suing farmers where GE plants have contaminated their fields.  There is now more scientific evidence also that GMOs are harmful to our health and that of the livestock that feed on those crops.  “Expanding the use of GMO crops and the use of Roundup worries toxicology and public health experts for numerous reasons. Ample evidence shows that Roundup inhibits a plant’s ability to take up micronutrients essential for human survival. Livestock animals need these nutrients, too, and Jeffrey Smith, founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology, says veterinarians are finding livestock livers’ universally low in manganese, a nutrient used in many metabolic processes. This, he says, is likely an affect of the Roundup pesticide and Roundup Ready gene. Roundup is also linked to more than 40 plant diseases, and the rise of hard-to-kill superweeds.”  Read more about the latest research in this great article from the Rodale Press

Organic seeds are grown in rugged conditions and without herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or tons of water.  Conditions that are more suitable for an organic  home garden so I am all for organically grown seed.

F1 Hybrids are plants that have been manipulated manually to represent the best traits of one genus in order to get just the right qualities necessary to suit the market.  For example, if we want fruit that matures in less time or we want all the fruit to be ready at the same time.  Some are bred to have tougher skins and some  even are selected so that they take up as little space as possible so more plants per sq. foot can be grown.  This are industry and big commercial agriculture standards.  It allows the fruit to look identical and transport better.  None of these measures come without a cost to the individual traits of the plant and fruit.  Hybrids also require more product and water as they are culled and grown in very controlled environments.  Here is a good New York Times article on Hybrid Vs. Heirlooms.  They make the argument that there are some Hybrids out there that are great tasting and decease resistant.

Heirloom varieties are those which have been grown for some fifty years or more, some being traced back sometimes hundreds of years.  They are the product of many generations of careful selection for specific traits.  Some are kept in specific geographic areas where they perform well.  It stands to reason that this varieties are vigorous and produce exceptional fruit.  The great advantage of heirloom is the ability of saving the seed of your favorite varieties to replant or share.

After doing all this research I have come to the conclusion that Organic Heirloom seed is the answer for me.  Now I feel more confident as I immerse myself into the wonderful catalogues and dream of the crops that will follow…  Oh, the wonderful variety of purple cauliflower ‘Purple of Sicily, speckled lettuce ‘Forellenschluss’ or the beautiful purple leafed beetroot ‘Bull’s Blood‘.  I can’t wait to taste these and many other almost forgotten beauties that can not be found in the grocery store.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden
is the anticipation it provides.”  

saying by W.E. Johns,
The Passing Show

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