This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

heirloom versus hybrid seeds

Betsy just sent me the link to an article in the NY Times about "heirloomism" and vegetable gardening: Heirloom Seeds or Flinty Hybrids?. Its a long article, exploring lots of aspects of hybrids and heirlooms. It also describes the new movement that goes beyond heirloom seeds, striving to "rebuild the regional farming culture that invented those cultivars".

Betsy says, "It hadn't occurred to me that the heirloom tomatoes could be at the root of the blight problem - too long a season with varieties that are not disease resistant. Interesting."

What do you think - do you grow heirloom or hybrid seeds? I think my garden has about 50:50.

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Blogger Kay said...

Have to log in to see that article.

I grow mostly heirlooms in my personal garden and all hybrids at my dad's much larger garden. I don't see an inherent evil in hybrids, until we start talking about GMO and patented genes, suicide seeds and salmon genetics in tomatoes... So, for the most part, if it grows food, it's my friend.

March 29, 2011 7:39 AM

Anonymous Ryan said...

You mention that you plant about an even mix of heirloom and hybrid. What is your experience with them? Do the hybrids actually tend to do better?

This will be my first season with any heirloom varieties. I'll be trying several heirloom tomato and pepper varieties.

March 29, 2011 8:51 AM

Blogger betsy kosheff said...

I like the fun colors and funky shapes of some of the heirlooms and the Brandywine tomatoes have been great. But here in Massachusetts, most of these heirlooms take too long - 90 days vs. 65 days for an early girl, which aren't great but better than nothing.

March 29, 2011 9:11 AM

Blogger Mama Papaya said...

Mostly heirlooms for us in general.

Bizarre addition to the blight tale. Last year we had our first major run in with late blight and it took out the hybrids, leaving the heirlooms pretty much unscathed. We had a very, very wet summer, which pushed off production until September/October (after going in the ground in April). We had one variety of heirloom that was partially impacted, but every hybrid was decimated. Bizarre, no?

Only thing I can figure is that the shorter cycle of the hybrids did not tolerate the longer cycle our wet summer mandated. But then again, our reliably June Silvery Fir tomatoes produced just fine in September last year.

March 29, 2011 9:55 AM

Blogger cathysue said...

This will be my first year of planting mostly heirlooms. I wanted to give harvesting seeds a try.

March 29, 2011 10:12 AM

Blogger Jody said...

We try to sell some of our produce roadside. We grow a few heirlooms for ourselves, but roadside shoppers aren't generally interested in the colorful or uniquely shaped stuff of heirlooms. They prefer what they find in the grocery store, so we use more hybrids. We have plenty of trouble with blight. We've heard compost tea helps. This year we'll try that.

March 29, 2011 10:18 AM

Anonymous Marlene said...

All heirlooms in my garden mainly because I want to save the seeds. I do like the idea that these things have been grown for generations and survived/adapted to their environments.

March 29, 2011 11:45 AM

Anonymous Marc @ GardenDesk said...

I grow an insane amount of tomato varieties each year. I used to grow mostly heirloom varieties because the flavors are so much better and there are so many interesting and unusual kinds.

Now I too grow about half heirlooms and half hybrids, because I tend to get more tomatoes from the hybrids. I guess it is because the heirlooms have less disease resistance.

I could sum it up this way: I grow hybrids for quantity and heirlooms for quality. :)

March 29, 2011 11:54 AM

Blogger Potted Farm said...

I definitely plant some of each, but I'm a HUGE tomato fan and the best tomatoes tend to be the heirlooms, so I think most of my seeds are. I do make an effort not to buy any GMO or hybrids, but it's not life or death to me.

March 29, 2011 2:36 PM

Blogger Mark Willis said...

I am not fanatical about either hybrids or heirlooms, and I grow some of each. In a bad blight year both types of tomato usually succumb. There is one variety called Ferline F1 that resists the blight better / longer than the others, but it still gives in sooner or later.

March 29, 2011 3:22 PM

Blogger cennis said...

NYT Paywall strikes again...more traffic lost. I guess they are making so much from this paywall they no longer need the hits for advertising.

March 29, 2011 3:38 PM

Blogger Daphne said...

I do mostly open pollinated plants for things that I can save easily. That way I don't have to buy seed from year to year and I can share them. But I sometimes buy hybrids for things like brassicas, onions, or corn. I don't have the room to grow enough of them to keep them genetically diverse (which those ones like to be) if I collected seed.

March 29, 2011 3:43 PM

Anonymous lee t. said...

100% hybrids for cukes and popcorn and sweet peppers and melons, mostly heirloom (one older hybrid) tomatoes - just haven't found many hybrid tomatoes i like yet. everything else is typically open-pollinated, but not necessarily heirloom.

i look for aas winners that are at least 20 years old; the fact that they're still being marketed generally indicates to me that they're really a good variety.

March 30, 2011 1:45 PM

Blogger Ron said...

All heirloom seeds in my veggie plot from baker Creek.

March 31, 2011 12:57 AM

Blogger Jannine said...

I grow both heirloom and some hybrids. I think what' more important than what type is rotation. We should be on a 3 year rotation for tomatoes

April 02, 2011 1:00 AM

Blogger Karen Anne said...

Almost entirely heirlooms, so I can save the seeds and likely get true varieties.

It's been interesting to note that the supermarkets here, although not the big chain supermarkets, have started carrying Brandywines and other interesting looking heirlooms in the past few years.

April 09, 2011 5:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer to do a little bit of both. Although I have to admit that I am not a professional when it comes to Vegetable Seeds and so I come here to learn rather than to teach.

April 28, 2011 12:35 PM


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