Today is one of those cold blustery winter days that give me a good reason not to go outside. Instead, I’m cuddled up to the wood stove dreaming about gardening. More specifically, I’m dreaming about seeds – wonderful, open-pollinated seeds devoid of genetic modification and over-hybridization. My seed dreams consist entirely of varieties that are either tried-and-true open-pollinated heirlooms, or rare and unusual varieties of open-pollinated fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, those kinds of seeds don’t have to live only in my dreams, because thousands of varieties of unique open-pollinated seeds are readily available to the home gardener – if you know where to look.
While most gardeners have a healthy list of favorite OP veggies and flowers, many are more than willing to try out at least a few new varieties each year. For example, no matter what happens, I will always grow heirloom Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Absolutely nothing beats this variety for consistent and abundant production, impressive disease resistance and high tolerance of the hot, droughty conditions so common in the Ozarks. The same is true for OP Waltham Butternut squash. I have grown this heirloom winter squash for the better part of 12 years and have yet to lose a single plant to the hordes of squash bugs that show up in the garden every year.
Having my personal pet varieties doesn’t limit me to one kind of pole bean or one kind of winter squash. In fact, by trying new varieties, I may actually find something much better. Besides, I love having something new and interesting growing in the garden. It adds a tangible layer of challenge and expectation that I don’t get with the standard fare.
As a gardener, I am constantly tempted by the vast array of fruits and vegetables available. Anytime I am offered a new kind of seed or plant, I almost never say “no”. But as a seed saver, trying out new vegetable varieties can sometimes be a little tricky. I will not give up my tried-and-true varieties if it means I can’t save pure seed. However, it is simple enough to plan ahead and take the necessary steps to assure that related varieties within the garden don’t cross pollinate one another, leaving me free to plant nearly anything my heart desires.
Of course, I can’t separate gardening from seed saving. After all, one of the best things about growing OP crops is that it is possible to save the seed from year to year. Even if I don’t plant that variety ever again, I can always share the seeds with someone who will. If you’re interested in learning the basics of seed saving, you can check out my handbook, The Garden Seed Saving Guide: Seed Saving for Everyone, available in print and all e-book formats.
I decided to write this article after perusing some of last year’s posts on gardening and seed saving. One very popular article was, Garden Time: Do You Know Where Your Seeds Come From? in which I discuss the benefits of buying seed from local sources. That article led to the creation of our Seed Companies & Nurseries page, which is one of the most viewed pages here at Show Me Oz. If you live in Missouri, Arkansas or Oklahoma and haven’t yet seen this page, I highly recommend it. Also, if you have any additions to this page, I would love to hear about it.
Since I was dreaming of seeds, I decided to compile another list called Heirloom Seed Sources. This time, the list features sources for open-pollinated, heirlooms and rare and unusual seeds and plants – the seeds of my dreams. While a few of the sources listed are traditional seed sellers, others are non-profit organizations or individuals. Most of these have a catalog of some kind and all are a wealth of information on growing and saving seeds of significance. Keep in mind that some of the non-profits, including a few seed banks and seed exchanges, may charge for catalogs or charge an annual membership. I cannot personally vouch for every single entity listed, but I have attempted to find credible sources for those that are listed. As always, if you know of an organization or business that should be included in the new page, I’d love to hear about it!
The Garden Seed Saving Guide: Seed Saving for Everyone Whether you’re a weekend gardener, homesteader, or serious survivalist, saving seeds is a money-saving skill that every green-thumb should to have. An excellent resource for beginners and experienced gardeners alike, The Garden Seed Saving Guide takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving seeds. If you want to save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid genetically modified food crops, The Garden Seed Saving Guide is for you.