Today is one of those cold blustery winter days that give me a good reason not to go outside. Instead, I’m cuddled up near the wood stove 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 check out my book, The Garden Seed Saving Guide, available in print and E-book.
I decided to write this post 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.
From that post came several pages of seed sources, which have now been melded into the Heirloom Seed Sources page featuring a healthy list of resources for open-pollinated, heirloom and non-gmo seeds. Some of the businesses and non-profits listed have taken the Safe Seed Pledge, while others specialize in organics or rare and unusual seeds. And for those living in the Ozarks, there is a large selection of truly local seed sources, too!
Keep in mind that some of these source, mostly non-profits and seed banks/exchanges, may charge for catalogs or require an annual membership in order to obtain seed. Most offer your choice of print or online catalogs and a variety of ordering options for your convenience.
If you are, 0r know of, an organization or business that should be included in this list, I’d love to hear about them!
Happy Seed Hunting!