Growing Heirloom Vegetables, Seed Saving, and Exchange

heirloom tomatos in a box

Growing heirloom vegetables provides your family delicious flavors, and with seed saving and exchange you help preserve plant genetic diversity. Many of the remaining seeds of our ancestor’s choice crops passed down through the generations are labeled heirloom seeds and seedlings at your neighborhood garden center.

While industrial agriculture has provided benefits, there are also consequences. “Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.”

The public has shown renewed interest in growing their own food, saving seeds for their children, and exchanging them with others. Seed Savers Exchange has over 13,000 members and saves over 20,000 seed varieties while making them available to the public on their website and through garden centers.

credit Botanical Interests

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated by insects and thus stay true to their parent’s characteristics. Hybrid offspring don’t. “Hybrids are a seed savers’ bane,” wrote the South Dakota State University Extension. “Plants that grow from seed saved from hybrid plants generally are less vigorous, more variable, and usually have smaller blossoms and yield less than their parents. Because F1 (First Generation) plants contain genes from two very different lines, their progeny (“F2” generation – or the “grandchildren” of the hybrid) will behave more like outcrossed plants, having a random assortment of the genes from either of the F1 parents – the desired ones along with the bad ones. Some plants may look like the F1 hybrids, but others may look and grow quite differently. Subsequent generations will have even more variability.”

‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes farmed by Native Americans and the ‘Rutgers’ tomato developed in the 1930s are but two of the thousands of tasty and interesting heirlooms available to you. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has available to you a rainbow of colorful native corn varieties that were a staple throughout the Americas and continue to do so today supported by your gardening purchases.

Glass Gem Corn available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Earth Works Garden Center has a seasonal selection of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds and regional farm-grown heirloom seedlings available.

Seeds are big business for those supplying the over 47,000 Florida farmers like Shells Feed & Garden Supply in Tampa, Florida. Whatever your agriculture seed needs, Shell’s Feed can find an option including heirlooms and bulk seed from these suppliers: Ferry Morse, Livingston, Hart Seed, Sandia Seeds, and Seedway. They nurture the gardening community at their garden center and online.

The Learning Center at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply

For a wealth of information on growing heirloom vegetables also consider a visit to Reems Creek Nursery 10 minutes north of Asheville, North Carolina where you’ll find seeds from High Mowing, Botanical Interests, Sow True Seed, and Livingston. They provide organic certified, heirloom, open-pollinated, and hybrids along with a knowledgeable staff, workshops, and events.

Reems Creek Nursery

And for additional suppliers visit our list of 60+ FREE Seed Catalogs. Plus, for help growing heirloom vegetables in Northeast Florida visit us at Earth Works Garden Center. We also provide landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions throughout Northeast Florida. Contact us with your questions and to book design consultations at 904-996-0712.

Earth Works proudly serves clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.


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