Everything You Need To Know About Growing Heirlooms

Would you want to grow heirlooms? Here is a detailed guide:

If you have been reading articles on survival and preparedness, then you have realized that they are recommending heirloom seeds over the hybrid seeds. There is a good reason for that.

Some people might think that the choice of seeds is irrelevant if they offer the food they need at the end. But as they learn more about heirlooms and their popularity, they are adopting heirlooms slowly and this trend is likely to continue for many years.

That is due to the nice taste and flavour the plants offer. Most of them are chemical-free and non-hybrid.

So, What Are Heirlooms And How Are They Different From Other Types Of Crops?

Heirlooms are a subset of open-pollinated and hybrid plants. Hybrids are an offspring of two or several breeds, species or varieties of plants that humans manipulate genetically. The hybrid plants breed differently from the parent plants and they can be sterile.

You should not confuse hybrids with GMOs, which are genetically modified organisms. Producers of GMOs alter the organisms through genetic engineering. For example, they can take a gene from one species of fish and add it into a tomato species.

Open-pollinated plants refer to the plants pollinated naturally by wind, insects, birds, water and mammals. Seeds from open-pollinated plants produce fruits and seedlings that look exactly like the parent plant. Some experts call them the “breed true” plants.

Heirlooms are different from the hybrids and open-pollinated plants in that they are a subset of the two. Typically, the plants get the name after they are passed from one generation to the other. Here are the three things that make them unique. [1]

They Have A Longer History Behind Them

Heirlooms have a very long history but unfortunately, they have no official definition. Purists do not add a variety into heirlooms category unless it has existed for more than 100 years.

The plants have a long history and are rich in culture brought from many parts of the world. They have wonderful names and stories associated with them too.

They Are An Open-Pollinated Variety

Most heirlooms are open pollinated and some of them are created. A good example, someone might cross-pollinate two heirloom varieties to create a new one with better qualities. The plant arising from the pollination will be a hybrid.

The hybrid can grow out and pollinate naturally. The growers store the seeds from the plants and they start the cycle again. That continues for many years and the plants are passed from one generation to the other.

No Commercial Organization Owns Open-Pollinated Or Heirloom Varieties

Heirloom varieties are a public domain. Unlike most commercial seeds, heirlooms do not have a secret parentage and any gardener can grow them.

They have a longer history than that of hybrids and not all open-pollinated fruits and veggies are considered heirlooms.

Why People Are Opting For Heirlooms

Some people might think that heirloom seeds are fragile and they need more attention when planting but https://elliotthomestead.com shows that the situation is different.

Those who believe that do so because hybrid seed producers lie to them to market their products. Here are some of the reasons you should opt for heirlooms too.

Heirloom Vegetables Have A Good Taste

Anyone who eats heirloom vegetables will tell you that they have a better taste. They are juicy, have more flavour, are plump and each time you taste them, you will identify something that differentiates them from the other types of vegetables.

One of the reasons the vegetables have a good taste is that the gardeners do not use chemicals to control diseases and pests. The plants are grown organically.

The vegetables and fruits you see on shelves of supermarkets are hybrids that the producers design for mass production and to be perfect, but mostly, they will have little or no flavour.

The reason behind their lack of flavour is that one plant has to produce as many fruits as possible for the gardeners to make more profit. Unfortunately, they do not have the energy to put in every fruit.

Heirloom plants are different. Even though the yields are much lower, you will get top quality fruits and vegetables.

Open Pollination

Did you know that most gardeners prefer going back to their stores whenever they need seeds? Do not do that. By getting seeds from the plants you grew in the previous year, you will end up with poor quality fruits and vegetables or even nothing at the end of the year.

Whenever you slice fruit and see seeds inside, you should not plant them. Just throw them away. Hybrid seeds result from close pollination, which means that someone pollinated the plants to create a different plant that has the qualities of the two pollinated plants.

On the other hand, open pollinators allow the plants to pollinate naturally with the help of wind, birds and bees. So, you do not have to buy seeds each year.

They Are Less Expensive

As we have stated, you do not have to buy seeds each year. However, if you are not ready to keep seeds until the next planting season, you can buy them from a local or online store. By purchasing them, you will save yourself more money.

At first, the seeds will appear expensive, but because there will be need of buying seeds each year, you will end up saving more money.

And when branching to newer varieties, you can consult the local enthusiasts on the ones to go for. After you have found the right ones, you save them in your seed bank.

They Have A Longer History

Heirlooms have a long history and therefore you are likely to eat the same fruits and vegetables that your great-great-grandparents were eating hundreds of years ago.

The earlier generations have passed them down the line. Your work should be researching on various varieties and choose what your ancestors consumed. You will realize something great about them.

They Are Available In Many Varieties

Each time you visit a supermarket, you are likely to find the same vegetables and fruits you left the last time you were there. They are unlikely to change that trend, which means that you will continue eating the same food items you have been eating for many years.

You should not be stuck to the variety of carrots and tomatoes you have been eating almost daily. You can try out other varieties that have better taste and better nutrition. Hybrids are trained to choose red tomatoes alone and leave the other colours.

They do the same when choosing other types of fruits and vegetables. However, by choosing heirlooms, you will end up diversifying what you consume.

They Are Friendly To The Environment

For some individuals, this might not sound like a big deal. However, because you will be buying fewer seed packets, you will dump lesser packaging. To save your seeds, you need a small space and if you have been buying hybrid seeds each year, you already know that you need a larger space to store the packaged seeds. [2]

Heirloom seeds come with many benefits and you will love them.

The Funky And Fabulous Names

If the benefits of heirlooms are not appealing to you, their stories and names will influence you to research more on the plants, here are few examples of the marvellous plants.

  • Drunken Woman Frizzy-Headed Lettuce – this one is hard to resist.
  • Moon and Stars Watermelon – this watermelon has a huge gold moon and starts on the rind.
  • Dragon Tongue Beans – if you are ready to start growing dragon tongues. This is a perfect choice.
  • Mortgage Lifter tomato – M.C Byles from West Virginia bred the Mortgage Lifter Tomato so that he could make more money at a time he was struggling to pay his mortgage in the 1940s. It took him around 6 years to breed the tomato and to get a stable variety. He sold each plant for $1 and finally paid off his $6000 mortgage.
  • Rattlesnake beans – you just need to drop a few seeds of this on your kid’s hands and tell him to plant a few rattlesnake beans.
  • Tiger melons – tiger melon is different from the other melons. It has a size similar to that of your child, it is bright yellow and has many yellow zigzag stripes.
  • Cherokee Trail of Tear Beans – this variety of beans originated from the Smoky Mountains and transferred to Oklahoma during the 1838-1839 winter death march. The trail was characterised by over 4,000 graves.
  • Mascara Lettuce – people named it mascara lettuce due to its brilliant red colour and frilly leaves.
  • Depp’s Firefly tomato – the name should sound unfamiliar to you especially if people in your area do not grow the tomato.

How To Collect Pure Heirloom Seeds?

To grow heirlooms and save more seeds for another season, you have to protect your plants from cross-pollination.

The primary goal of doing that is to collect seeds. And to do it, you have to leave a big distance between the plants of different families.

You can also use physical barriers like bagging or caging techniques. Some pumpkin varieties cross-pollinate with others to produce a new generation of hybrids.

However, at times, there might be no need for maintaining a pure breed, particularly if you are not planning to preserve seeds.

The plant would still produce the right fruits for the variety even after cross-pollination – only the seeds will change.

If a honeybee collected pollen from Dixie Queen watermelons and pollinated Crimson Sweet Watermelon’s flowers, the resulting fruit would be a Crimson Sweet. As we have stated, cross-pollination will not affect the fruit – it will affect the seeds inside that fruit.

When planning to save seeds from the pumpkin, you should be worried about the pollination. To practice successful gardening, you have to choose only the varieties suited for your local climate.

Talk to the local nurseries to see whether they offer varieties that can do well in your area. Check what your neighbours have been growing and ask for guidance from the heirloom seed companies.

That way, you will get beautiful colours, flavours, wonderful names and rich heritage. To help you choose the best heirloom seeds, here is a list to try.

Top 6 Best Heirloom Seeds To Buy:

Survival Garden 15,000 Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds

The Survival Garden 15,000 Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds from Open Seed Vault provides many seeds for your garden at a low price.

The supplier provides them in a packaging that will help you preserve them for many years, so you do not have to use all of them at once.

Actually, you can use a single package for very many years if you store them properly.

Open Seed Vault offers a wide range of seeds, including two survival seed kits. The Herb Garden is the most popular option and it comes with 12 varieties of non-GMO, non-hybrid herb seeds.

You will get thyme, basil, chives, dill, oregano and many cooking herbs in addition to exotic herbs like cumin, savoury and cumin.

The supplier has a package offering more than 32 varieties of fruit and vegetable. So, you will get both fall and summer planting seeds – seeds range from zucchini to beans and more than 15,000 others.

Pros

  • You can keep the survival kit for over 20 years
  • The seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO and chemical-free
  • You will get an instruction packet and the starting peat packets

Cons

  • It is hard to differentiate the seed varieties when in the kit
  • You will not get seed starting pots
  • The reviews on Amazon are few

16,500 Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Survival Garden 40 Variety Pack

You might be an avid gardener who enjoys growing fresh vegetables or fruits for home use or a survivalist planning to stock up more for the future but the 16,500 Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable seeds are a good choice.

The wide variety of seeds includes 16,500 heirloom seeds and over 40 varieties of beet, beans, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe.

The supplier grows and packs all the seeds in the United States and each variety is open-pollinated, non-GMO and chemical-free.

In addition to the wide variety of heirloom seeds, the pure pollination allows 100 percent germination rate. You will get a 48-page instruction booklet and 4-inch gardening scissors.

Pros

  • The seeds are of great quality
  • The supplier offers an extensive variety of seeds and varieties
  • Offers both fruit and vegetable seeds
  • Guaranteed 100 percent germination rate
  • The seeds are chemical-free

Cons

  • The fruit varieties are limited
  • The seed counts are on the average side

Heirloom Seed Bank with 55 Varieties of Vegetable Seeds by Heirloom Futures

Here is another non-GMO, untreated non-hybrid vegetable variety to try. The seeds are more popular and with many five-star reviews on online stores. The producer offers a package of seeds for anything you might need to start your vegetable garden.

Moreover, the seeds will take the guesswork out of your seed selection process. The supplier includes germination rate, seed counts, test dates and the origin on the package to facilitate successful gardening.

All the seeds come in recloseable moisture-proof packs that are already sealed. You can store them for a long time after planting.

Pros

  • The seeds are ideal for any veggie garden
  • The packaging looks good and prevents damages to the seeds
  • The seeds are 100 percent organic and they are non-GMO

Cons

  • The supplier pre-selects the seeds so you do not get the chance to select a variety for individual plant
  • The seed varieties are plain

Survival Essentials 135 Variety Premium Heirloom Non-Hybrid Non-GMO Seed Bank

Here is another massive collection of survival garden seeds from Survival essentials. Like the other heirloom seeds on this list, the 135 Variety Premium Heirloom Seed Bank is a great starter kit for people who want to grow various heirloom vegetables on their garden.

The 135 seed varieties in the pack include various vegetables, fruits like melons and other plant varieties. You will get culinary and medicinal herbs. You can use the free microgreens kit to grow your seeds indoors throughout the year.

Pros

  • Most of the offered vegetable and fruit varieties are ideal for all climates
  • Most of the gardeners who use the pack are happy with the results
  • You will have a micro-greens kit to help you practice indoor gardening

Cons

  • The seeds are not chemical-free
  • It is hard to differentiate the seed varieties
  • You will have to purchase the planting materials separately

22,000 Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds, Survival Garden, Emergency Seed Vault

After ordering the Non-GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds, you will receive 34 individual seed packs.

The packs contain broccoli, lettuce, beets, melon, cabbage, carrot, mustard, cauliflower, pea, onion, pumpkin, chard, celery, radish, cucumber, eggplant, spinach, thyme, basis, watermelon, tomatoes and many others.

With the right conditions, all the 22,000 seeds can germinate and therefore produce 13,000 pounds of food. The seeds come sealed to maintain their freshness.

Pros

  • 100 percent non-GMO seeds and non-hybrid seeds
  • All the seeds are open-pollinated
  • Contains vegetables and fruit seeds

Cons

  • Short long-term storage
  • Limited seed varieties

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Non-GMO Survival Seed Kit

With 50 seed varieties and 9,500 seeds, this non-GMO Survival Seed Kit is a worthy investment for any home gardener or doomsday preparer. The kit offers 100 percent organically grown non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds that the supplier open-pollinates.

So, expect more than 8,000 healthy plants. Moreover, you will enjoy organic fresh vegetables such as crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, refreshing watermelons and crunchy carrots. The foil-laminated package is resealable and the seeds have an 85 percent germination rate.

You can store them for over 3-5 years in a resealable jar. The 33-page guide will be helpful during the planting.

Pros

  • The seeds are non-hybrid and non-GMO
  • All the seeds are open-pollinated
  • High germination rate
  • You will get a resealable moisture-proof package

Cons

  • The seeds are not certified organic
  • You cannot store them for a long time
  • Not suitable for all climate zones

Conclusion

Growers of heirlooms know that the plants are all different. You will always have fresh vegetables and fruits in your home regardless of the season – you do not have to visit the local grocery.

On the other hand, hybrid pollinators design their plants to grow on set schedules so that they can produce fruits during the same period.

Heirlooms do not follow any set schedule. The above guide and the list of top seeds in the market will help you start heirlooms gardening.

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melissa

I am a homesteading enthusiast, a published writer, and director at elliotthomestead.com. My experience in areas such as brand management, graphic design, and photography are valuable additions to our writing team. When I am not writing or publishing anything, I am out gardening in my small farm or cooking. I am also an herbalist, an experience I use to spread the word about sustainable living.

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