DIY / Grow

Choosing Seeds

A few guidelines to make the best seed selections.

Choosing Seeds
Scott Sporleder, Photographer

Spring is when we get serious about seeds! Here are a few guidelines to help you make the best selections.

When it comes time to plant your garden beds, you’ll have to decide whether you want to buy seedlings from the nursery or start your own seeds. If you choose to start your garden from seed, the advantages are many:

  • You can select interesting, tasty heirloom vegetables suited to your climate
  • Seeds are cheaper than buying plants and last for a few years
  • Homegrown seedlings are generally fresher and stronger than nursery seedlings
  • If you start a bunch of seedlings, you’ll have spares to sell or share with friends

When choosing seeds for your garden, you will likely come across hybrid, heirloom, and open pollinated varieties. Each offers benefits, but the most important thing is to buy your seeds from reputable sources, as seed packets are not always clearly labeled. A quick note about each:

  • Heirloom seeds are typically distinguished by their old age and history of being passed down within a family or community. As a result, heirlooms are adapted to a specific climate and offer a distinct flavor or look. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means you can save their seeds among other things.
  • Open-Pollinated seeds are pollinated by natural mechanisms, such as by insects, winds, or birds. They are more genetically diverse and slowly adapt to their surroundings over time. You can save these seeds because they produce “true-to-type” plants like their parents.
  • Hybrid seeds are crosses between two plant varieties and can occur on their own in nature or by human manipulation. Commercial farmers and some household gardeners favor hybrids for their vigor and specific traits. The downside is that their seeds don’t produce “true-to-type” plants, which eliminates the possibility of seed saving.

The Ecology Center recommends heirloom seeds, which have also been bred over time to have strong, vigorous traits, and can also be saved from year to year.



GMO’s are when two organisms that would not normally be able to share genetic material are spliced and combined in a laboratory to create certain features. This could be a combination of a plant and an animal or even a pesticide.


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