You Say Hybrid, I Say Heirloom…what’s the difference?

– Posted in: Backyard Gardening Tips
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What does your garden grow?  Do you grow Hybrid, Heirloom or GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) vegetables in your garden?

Nowadays with all the talk about not wanting to eat GMO vegetables and that they might not be good for your health, how do you know what you are eating?  And just because vegetables in the store say they are organic, doesn’t mean that the seeds are not GMO.

Organic gardening is simply that organic gardeners don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants.  There is actually a lot to learn about organic gardening including learning to compost your everyday kitchen scraps (not all scraps are good to use, for example, no potatoes, meat, or dairy products) and feeding your soil.  As the compost decomposes it not only adds to the soil’s nutrients, but makes food for the microorganisms that are beneficial to your garden.


There are 3 different types of seeds:  Heirlooms, Hybrid, and GMO

Heirloom Seeds are what the Backyard Genie searches for to plant.  It was a way to identify vegetable and flowers that had originated with a family and were passed down from one generation to the next, all the way to now.  The varieties are unique and rare, but also are very desirable by gardeners.  This means that generations after generations, heirloom seeds will produce plants resembling the parents, and do not naturally outcross.  The downfall to heirloom seeds is because plant breeders don’t work with these seeds to modify them, they don’t have much disease  resistance.  But as an organic gardener, you can work with the soil by mulching the soil surface and using fungicidal sprays to prevent disease spores.

Within Heirloom seeds there are broken down into: Commercial Heirlooms – these were open-pollinated and introduced before 1940; Family Heirlooms – that have been passed down for several generations through a family; Created Heirlooms – Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more; and Mystery Heirlooms – Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

Hybrid seeds are where plant breeders cross breed compatible types of plants in an effort to create a plant with the best features of both parents.  These seeds cross pollinate and will not produce plants with identical qualities.  You may see these seeds labeled F1 (first-generation hybrid) or F2, etc. My second choice is Hybrid seeds…these are the more common seeds that you find in seed stands at the hardware stores, and nurseries.  There is nothing wrong with this type of seeds.  I am just loving the history behind Heirloom seeds.  Not all the vegetable seeds that I plant are available in Heirloom seeds.

Gentically Modified Seeds that been altered using molecular genetics techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering.  The most common example of this is Corn that has pesticide Bt engineered into its genetics to make it resistant to certain pests. I stay away from this type of seed.

The Backyard Genie tries to use only Heirloom seeds.  I love to find out about the history of the seed and it makes gardening so much more interesting and fun!  Just think you might be eating a piece of history…and it will be oh so healthy for you!

The Backyard Genie




2 Comments… add one
Sharon WilsonNo Gravatar March 3, 2014, 4:02 am

I love heirloom! All my tomatoes except one are heirloom and I save seeds of my favorites. I also save my own bean seeds- 4 different varieties. They are the easy seeds to save & I hope to try some others this year.

Ramona WerstNo Gravatar March 3, 2014, 4:02 pm

That is so fantastic!!!

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