Gardening: Purchase seeds that fit your values and budget

Spring is only a few months away and it is time to think about purchasing seeds. Wondering about the different pricing of the seeds? The cost of seeds is related to the length of time and labour it took to develop produce the seed.

Open pollination means the plants were pollinated by insects, wind and rain. The seeds will produce plants with genetic diversity be it size, color or shape. In some plants the differences will be noticeable, in others it won’t. Large commercial seed growers grow acres of the same varieties being careful to keep plants separated that could cross pollinate.

Smaller operations, where there is less space between similar planting are likely to see more diversity.

Unless an effort has been made to pollinate plants, all gardens plants are open pollinated. When saving the seeds from open pollinated plants, expect the seeds to produce plants similar to their parents but there could be a few surprises.

Hybridized plants, are where two different cultivars of the same plants are chosen and purposely pollinated. The parent plants are chosen from a large number of plants each parent will have dominate traits that will complement the other producing a new improved cultivar. The aim is to have consistent fast growing plants that are disease resistance, and produces a large number of flowers or fruit/seed. It is also important that the produce in a commercial operation mature at the similar rate, are tasty and survive the transport to market.

Plants that have been hand pollinated are denoted as in F1( Filial 1) in catalogues. Filial came from the Latin Word filius meaning son and filia meaning daughter. In English Filial means first children.

When a F1 plant is hybridized by itself or another F1 plant the seeds of this plant is considered an F2, second generation. The quality of the plant produced from an F2 seed depends on the pollination. If it was pollinated in a commercial field, chances are that the plant will contain many of the same attributes of its parents and grandparents. The plants will have more diversity than plants from an F1 seeds.

It is suggested that homeowners do not save seeds from F1 plants as the plants may have been pollinated by plants that are not F1 and the seeds may produce plants that are recessive and not do not have desirable characteristics.

Organic seeds are seeds that come from plants that have been grown following the rules and regulations set out by Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The seeds must have been harvested from certified organic plants, grown on certified organic land using only approved products. They must be harvested, packaged by equipment that are only used on organic crops. The seeds must be stored separately from non-organic seeds.

Untreated seed is seed that has not been treated with any fungicides but is not considered to be organic.

The terms heirloom and heritage seeds have been used interchangeably in North America. They refer to plant varieties that have never been intentionally hybridized. These plants have always been openly pollinated which makes for a diverse plants.

Heritage seed varieties that are now available are ones that survived by gardeners growing plants and saving seed from their best plants for a number of generations or seeds that people did not consider viable to hybridize.

Pelleted seed has a coating making the seed larger and easier to plant.

GMO, genetically modifies organisms are not available as garden seeds. Purchasing GMO seeds requires a large purchase and a thick contract. Do not expect GMO seeds in the stores anytime soon.

There are many different varieties of seeds on the market. Purchase the type of seed that fit your budget and values.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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