All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today. —Indian Proverb
How do you choose seeds? The seed catalogs are full of beautiful pictures that make you want one of everything. But there are differences. The main categories you need to be concerned about are heirloom, hybrid, and genetically modified (GM).
Heirlooms have been around a long time. They reproduce by open pollination (OP). You can save their seeds and use them next year.
Hybrids are made by cross-breeding plants with certain traits to make a plant that has very desirable qualities. There is nothing wrong with this, but you can’t save the seeds and expect them to produce a fruit like the plant they came from. Example: a labradoodle comes from a poodle and a labrador. But if you mate two labradoodles, you can’t guarantee they will look like the labradoodle parents. They might look like a poodle, or maybe like a lab. This is especially true in the first generation (same with plants, called F1). However, if you wait several generations till there are definite labradoodle characteristics bred in consistently, then you are more likely to get those results with the mating. Same with the seeds. However, by the time the seed companies have perfected the hybrids to that point, they usually patent them so that you can’t use the seeds. So if you order hybrid seeds, you will probably get great results. Your sweet corn will be bursting with sweetness. Your tomatoes will be large and juicy. You just can’t save the seeds. It really depends on if you want to be self-sustaining in your gardening, or if you want to rely on seed companies each year. Your preference.
GM is bad, in my opinion. They have altered the makeup of the plant by genetically engineering it. I stay away from these. (I’ll post on GM crops later.)
It would be preferable to buy seeds from a local company that has seeds that work well in your area and climate. However, you would have to research really hard to find such a thing, because the big seed companies pretty much rule the roost. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the catalogs sell products that work best for most people everywhere. But not as ideal as local. So probably most any seed catalog you come across is fine. Just look for heirloom or hybrid, depending on whether or not you want to save your seeds.
If you do want to save your seeds, an excellent resource in how to do so is the Seed Savers Exchange. Their website is www.seedsavers.org/Education/Seed-Saving-Resources/
Here’s a tip I learned the hard way last year: if you have certain seeds you want to plant again in the fall, like the cool weather crops of lettuce and spinach, you might want to buy those seeds in the spring. I looked in store after store this fall for seeds, and they had all been removed. I finally found some at a local country store/garden center called Eckerts.
Happy seed choosing!
PS If anyone wants to share what kinds of seeds they get and why, I’d love to hear. Do you get them from the catalogs, or from a store?