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Are you tired of experiencing more garden failures than successes? The quality of your seeds might be to blame. As living organisms, seeds adapt to their environment and are greatly influenced by the way each generation is produced. Even if two packets of the same variety of seeds have the same name, they might not be created equal. Therefore, when shopping for seeds, it’s important to ask whether the seed will thrive in your garden.

If you’re looking for seeds that allow for saving year to year, open-pollinated (OP) varieties, including heirlooms, are an excellent choice. OPs are meant to evolve over time and can produce a next generation that looks mostly like its parent plant. This isn’t the case with hybrid varieties, which are created through deliberate crosses between two genetically distinct, homozygous parents. Hybrid plants produce seeds that don’t grow true to type and will instead produce a next generation that expresses an unpredictable range of traits.

The seed industry has followed the hybrid money, leading to a decline in the availability and quality of open-pollinated seeds. This is why it’s important to know the original source of the seed and who bred it, as well as where and how it was produced. With open-pollinated varieties, diligent management of each year’s seed crop is necessary to maintain their quality. By selecting for plants that show improved vigor or disease resistance, and getting rid of the plants that are obviously not adapted to your growing system, you can ensure that the variety will remain true to type.

The term “heirloom” refers to a type of open-pollinated variety that is either at least 50 years old, or 100, or has survived outside the commercial seed market for more than 50 years by being passed down within one family or community. Heirlooms are loaded with precious genetic diversity and are critical to our cultural, agricultural, and botanical heritage. However, the term “heirloom” doesn’t guarantee quality or success, and a strain of an heirloom that hasn’t been cared for can become a glimmer of its genetic origins.

When it comes to sourcing high-quality vegetable seeds, careful seed sourcing is critical. Understanding the differences between open-pollinated and hybrid varieties, as well as the importance of maintaining open-pollinated varieties, can help you grow a successful and resilient garden. By choosing the right seeds for your garden and taking care of them, you can ensure that your plants will thrive and produce a bountiful harvest.