Starting a garden can be as simple as tossing some seeds in the soil, watering them and watching them grow or it can be so confusing that you are stuck at choosing what to buy and how to start.
Have you ever felt that you always wanted to start a garden but it is just not happening? First step to any garden is seeds. There is lots of variety of seeds. Choice is a good thing but not when you don’t know what to choose from.
Do the types of seeds and the choices confuse you? If your answer is yes, then this post is definitely for you.
First lets define these types individually and then we can go onto comparing them choosing which one is good for you?
- Hybrid seeds.
- Open Pollinated seeds.
- Organic Seeds
- Heirloom Seeds
- Genetically modified seeds.
The following is not a seed type but a stage in processing of the seeds where they coat the seeds with a chemical.
- Treated seeds – Coated with a fungicide to prevent fungal attack.
- Untreated seeds – No coating done post harvesting.
Lets start with Hybrid seeds in detail.
In agriculture and gardening, hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. Hybrid seed production is predominant in agriculture and home gardening. It is one of the main contributors to the dramatic rise in agricultural output. The alternatives to hybridization are open pollination.
Lets say there are two tomato plants of different varieties, Yellow Cherry and Red Beefsteak. We know yellow cherry is yellow in color and smaller in size and Red beefsteak tomato has a bigger fruit. If we were to make a hybrid out of it, we will go ahead and pollinate the yellow cherry flowers with pollens from beefsteak or the other way.
Yellow-cherry X red-beefsteak
Yellow-beefsteak ,red cherry, yellow cherry and red beefsteak. The interesting combination in this is the new varieties of yellow beefsteak and red cherry. So you get the idea. New varieties are bred using this method .
NOTE: Hybrid seeds are NOT Genetically modified. I get this a lot from the people who walk into my store. The GMO process takes totally foreign genetic material and inserts it artificially, hybrid seed is created by cross-pollinating two or more varieties, usually of the same species. In most cases, hybrids will not reproduce themselves well, so the seed needs to be recreated through cross-pollinating for every crop. This is why hybrids are so much more expensive than open-pollinated varieties.
Pros: All the good characteristics of both the parent lines of the veggies used. Better vigor, resistance to diseases, higher yield etc.
Cons: Since the parent lines are chosen by breeders, one cannot make these seeds themselves unless they know the mother and father lines. That means you cannot save the seeds hoping that it will be the same variety you loved. It will still be the same vegetable 😉
As the name implies, Open pollinated seeds are left to be pollinated in the open. No intervention is done for pollination. Care is taken to keep different varieties apart so that they don’t cross pollinate with each other polluting the genetic purity.
Flowers are pollinated by bees/wind. They produce seeds and those seeds are saved. These seeds are open pollinated seeds.
Pros: Since they are open pollinated and pollination is between the same variety of plants, seeds can be saved and used in the next season.
Cons: If the plants of different varieties are not kept far apart, there is a high chance that cross pollination can occur and make the result unpredictable. Plants may not have the hybrid vigor displayed by F1 generation of seeds.
Heirloom seeds are a subset of open pollinated seeds. They are considered special due to their unique traits. It could be the color, shape, taste or plant habit. Our ancestors passed down these varieties for several generations. There are some heirloom varieties that are more than 200 years old.
Pros: Like I said before, they possess unique characteristics and it will be something that is not available in the market. Some are for flavor, texture, color, shape and so on.
Some of the heirlooms suffer from poor disease resistance.
Organic seeds are those that are collected from plants that are raised in an organic way without using any synthetic fertilizer or pesticide.No chemical has been used in growing of the plant, harvesting and collection of seeds.
Pros: The seeds are collected in a eco-friendly manner with less impact to nature.
Cons: The use of any untreated or organic seed means the grower or home gardener will need to be more diligent to plant the seed in optimal conditions. If you’ve never used untreated bean or pea seed, for instance, and your first experience with organic seed results in failure, your results may not be due to poor seed, but poor growing conditions. Whereas a treated seed may survive these conditions and still germinate and grow, an organic or untreated seed may fail. Just be sure you understand what your crops need for successful germination
Genetically modified crops:
GMO (genetically modified organism), or Genetically Modified Seed, is seed that has had foreign genetic material artificially inserted into its DNA.
These are crops whose DNA has been modified to include a specific trait/characteristic which does not occur in it naturally. The introduced trait can be for anything such as improving the shelf life, pest resistance, taste, improving nutrient content of the crop.
Several crops have been genetically modified and released to the public. One of them is Cotton. Bt cotton, to be very specific. There has been lots of opposition for GM crops and every country has a different policy towards GM crops. In theory, GMO can hold great promise for advancements but very little is known about the long-term impact on our environment, flora and fauna, or on us humans. There is simply not enough data to promote the use of this type of technology, which appears to simultaneously hold so much potential promise and danger. So lets forget about GMO seeds.
So which seed should you choose?
If you were to ask me this question, I would say the following
Good quality seeds can make all the difference when you are starting to garden. It is very encouraging and joyful when the seeds you sow germinates on time and grows to yield a good harvest. Most of them get demotivated if the seeds don’t germinate or doesn’t yield properly.
There are several reasons seeds may not germinate.
1.Seeds might have lost their viability
2.Not the right weather conditions
3.Sown too deep
4.Eaten away by ants or pests
5.Fungal infection/Damp off.
By choosing seeds that are treated step 4 can be avoided. Insects will not eat the seeds and also because of the fungicide coating, infection due to fungus is also avoided. I am not saying you SHOULD go for treated seeds, it is easier t use them especially if you are a beginner and you will save some frustration. Also, hybrid seeds will yield more.
For experienced gardeners:
Once we understand and know to provide the ideal conditions for the seeds to germinate and grow, we can choose any type of seed. Untreated seeds will not pose a challenge if you know how to give the ideal environment to germinate.
These are just guidelines to make it easier for you to start. I don’t endorse hybrid seeds or treated seeds. Each type has its own pros and cons. As a grower, spend time understanding them and choose the right seed.
So now that you know what different seed types are and how they are produced, you are one step closer to starting your garden. Aren’t you?
As always, feel free to ask questions /share comments.
PS: Sorry for the post without images.