Before I tell you about these two great sources for heirloom vegetable seeds and flower seeds, allow me to tell you why I think buying heirloom seeds is so important.
A Little History Helps Make it Clear
A handful of companies now control most of the world’s seed supply. In the last few decades giants like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and Bayer have been buying up seed companies around the world.
Here’s Why They Were so Anxious to Buy Seed Companies
Before June of 1980, a plant or animal could be owned, but not the genetics of that plant or animal. A Supreme Court ruling in that month ok’d the patenting of life forms on the bases of their genetic coding. After that ruling the patent office granted more than 1800 such patents.
Suddenly, companies with no historical interest in seeds —- you guessed it — the chemical and pharmaceutical firms – began purchasing seed companies. (And yes, that encompasses vegetable seeds and flowers seeds.)
So all of a sudden they’re not only in the business of selling genetically modified seed to farmers, but the home garden vegetable seed and flower seed business as well.
Frank Morton, a plant breeder put it well when he said, “There is a direct threat to our food system when we have a preponderance (dominance) of genetic resources controlled by institutions whose only goal is profit.”
This consolidation of the seed industry has caused a drastic decrease in the variety of seeds available, but it’s not the only cause.
People are choosing to grow hybrids rather than open-pollinated varieties. Since seed companies are in business to earn money, they discontinue the heirloom and open-pollinated seed varieties that don’t sell. Many will become extinct. Once lost they can never be replaced. The diversity and variety that is important to our very existence and a healthy ecological system is threatened.
Seeds from hybrids do not produce plants identical to the parent plant. If you want the same plant you have to buy the seed again each year.
Heirlooms and Open-Pollinated
Basically heirlooms are those vegetables and plants that have been grown for several generations from seeds saved from year to year. All heirlooms are considered open pollinated because their seed will produce plants which will be just like the parent plant.
Exceptions to the rule:
(There are some plants that will naturally be cross pollinated with other plants even if considered open-pollinated. For example, peppers of one variety can cross pollinate with another. So if you save seed, you may not get just what you bargained for.)
Why is Diversity Important
Environments throughout the earth change over time. Freezing, drought, flooding, high or low light availability, soil nutrient deficiencies, ph values, and fluctuating temperatures are only a few of the variations that occur. Diseases, predators, and parasites vary with the passing of time.
You see all this on a small scale in your own garden every year. The variances can be very slight and cause one thing to do well and another not to.
The subtle differences in plants and animals increase or decrease the probability that some will survive to reproduce and others won’t.
These subtle differences can be termed genetic diversity. It is this genetic diversity that is the most important defense for adapting to future environmental uncertainty in any species – plant or animal.
Taste and Reliability vs. Production and Shipping
Most heirloom vegetable seeds (and flower seeds) have been around 50 years or more. They’ve been handed down through multiple generations because they taste good and are reliable.
In breeding most modern hybrids, taste and nutrition has been sacrificed for greater production and an ability to ship well.
Two of the Greatest Benefits of Heirlooms
- One of the best things you can do for you and your family is to try various heirlooms and choose what grows best in your garden. Then save seeds from those that perform to your liking. After a few years, you will have a seed strain that is more resistant to local pests and diseases and perfectly adapted to YOUR garden.
- Buying and growing heirlooms makes me (and can make you) less dependent on seed companies.
With so many varieties disappearing and disreputable agro-giants like Monsanto taking over more and more of the seed industry, it seems only common sense to me to find heirloom vegetable seeds and flower seeds suitable for my garden. That makes me more independent and not so much at the mercy of the giant food/seed industry.
And, if I have to or want to, I can save the seed and be assured of having the same quality of plants and vegetables next year and in future years as I had the year I bought the original seed.
Hopefully, the small reputable companies that sell heirloom seed will be able to survive the future so that the great heirlooms of our grand-parents and great-grand-parents will not be lost to the public.
Two Small Companies – Good Sources
Only this past year I’ve discovered two small companies that sell heirloom vegetable seeds and flower seeds. These folks really have their hearts in what they do and they make it really nice for the rest of us. Each is different and reflects the personality of it’s owner(s).
I’ll tell you a little about each and what I found impressive at the time of this writing, but I encourage you to check them out for yourself.
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
(update Oct 25, 2021 – I no longer purchase from this company)
Scott and Julie Slezak – inspired by Scott’s Grandfather – quit the rate race and moved to the country. They bought 20 acres in mid-Michigan on which to farm and raise their children.
They named the business after Julie’s Grandmother who started the gardening tradition in Julie’s family and passed her knowledge down throughout the generations. And most importantly to you, they are passionate about heirlooms.
Whether you’re a beginning gardener or have many years of experience you will be inspired by Annie’s Heirloom Seed’s website. There are so many heirloom vegetable seeds to choose from, but Scott and Julie have made it fun.
If you just can’t decide on the variety of vegetable, you can select from the Annie’s Favorites category. These are varieties chosen by Julie and Scott for either superior taste, ease of growing, excellent yields, or additional beauty. It makes the choice much easier and you won’t be disappointed.
I think you’ll especially enjoy checking Annie’s Collections. My favorite under that is Garden Collections. Why? Because there are 13 more collections! If you don’t know what to grow for fall you might choose Annie’s Fall Garden Collection or Annie’s Overwintering Garden Collection.
Julie and Scott’s suggestions for new gardeners in the Beginner’s Garden Collection is excellent. I was especially impressed with the Lettuce Mix within that Collection. (And you know what a lettuce lover I am!) You don’t often see all those great lettuces together in a mix.
Diane’s Flower Seeds
Diane Linsley, owner of Diane’s Flower Seeds, lives in Utah. Her husband enjoys helping her in the garden when he’s not working. Diane’s “employees” are her two teenage daughters who help an hour or so each day.
Her selection of perennial seed is one of the most impressive I’ve seen and many varieties are rare. Annuals include both modern and heirlooms.
Vegetable and Herb seeds are offered along with many rare varieties of tomatoes.
Although she has not officially introduced any of her creations to the public, Diane breeds daylilies and offers the seeds from that breeding to you. If you want to have some fun check out some of these. You can click to see pictures of both parent daylilies on the site and then when you grow the offspring in your garden you’ll see the birth of a new and unique flower — different from any other daylily in the world!
While you’re exploring be sure and check out some of the great articles like: Starting Seeds Indoors, Saving Flower Seeds, Container Gardening in a Nutshell, Starting Daylily Seeds and dozens more.
If you’re a Rose lover you’ll want to read about Diane’s Secret Organic Fertilizer Recipe for roses while you’re there.
Thankfully, some great heirloom vegetable seeds and flower seeds are still out there, although they may be a bit hard to find at times. These two small heirloom seed companies will help make your search easier and more fun.
Check them out and let me know what you think.
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Thanks, I did not know this at all. I am going to send your letter to my daughter who is married to a man that he and his dad raise cattle. Of course they garden also. I doubt they know about this and will find your article newsworthy. Also, my husband and I love beets. We are having a terrible time getting them to grow. Most of the time they don’t even pop their heads out of the ground when planted. This is so frustrating. Any tips would be appreciated. We live in Piedmont North Carolina. Thanks. Pat
I’m glad you found the article informative and hope your daughter will too.
I grow only a few beets every year. I mainly grow them for their tops, although there is nothing much better than roasted beets.
You might want to try soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to aid germination. Try a fall crop in a nice sunny spot. Sow seeds about 1/2 deep and 1 inch apart right in the garden. Try a few different varieties to see which does best for you. (Bull’s Blood is a pretty variety that I grew for the first time this year.)
Of course – it goes without saying – like most vegetables – beets like soil that has been deeply prepared, has good drainage and includes plenty of organic material.
My main harvest is the beet green — so I don’t thin them. But if you want the roots as your main harvest, thin the seedling when they are about 2 inches high to 3 or 4 inches apart. Rather than pull up the seedling to be discarded, use scissors and cut them so as not to disturb the remaining plants.
I mulch to keep soil cooler and moisture in.
Hope this will help Pat.
You picked two of the best. I have done business with both Scott and Diane and couldn’t recommend two finer people. Their heart is in their work and it shows.
Sure appreciate your taking the time to confirm my feelings about these two small companies.
Scott (and Julie) and Diane are great to deal with and I agree with you —— their heart is in their work and it shows!
Nice to have you reading TMG. Hope you’ll stay with me.