Protecting Heirloom Seeds

I didn’t get to post yesterday my internet was out.  We  had a lovely quick moving storm (yes I said lovely, I do enjoy watching storms)  that brought high winds and hail knocking out the lines along the lake and fried my modem.  By the time it was discovered it was 7 pm and the repairman needed to call in a crew to protect him along the road.    I laughed and told him to go home, spend time with his family and have dinner I would be just fine without internet connection overnight.  What surprised me was how relieved and a bit confused he was that I wasn’t going to demand the repair be done right then but I did feel for him as his shift should have ended three hours earlier.


Now back to the subject of today.  There are many considerations which go into what I will grow each year, Tuesday I talked about one reason to grow my own food and that was to avoid the possibility of buying GM produce.  Without labeling I have no idea if the potatoes, peas or any of the other foods in my supermarket have been manipulated, and the last thing I want to do is have to carry around a list of foods I am wary of or have to memorize them.

As I promised today I wanted to share with you the reasons I decided to only plant organic heirloom seeds and this subject ties in nicely with the challenge this week at Reduce Footprints to plant a garden.

This is what Small Footprints asked of us this week:

This week, plant something edible. Plant in a garden, raised bed, a container, etc. If you don’t have space outside, consider herbs or lettuce in a small pot placed in a kitchen window. Try placing some seed potatoes in the ground (dig a small hole and drop them in) … then sit back and watch them grow. If you’re moving into autumn, consider planting a fruit tree or perhaps a nut tree. The idea this week is to plant food.


OR …

If growing food just isn’t going to work for you, please offer other ideas for enjoying local, organic produce.



I have the peas, carrots, red leaf romaine lettuce and the first batch of tomatoes in the garden beds.  My strawberry bed is bursting with strawberries that should be ripe within the week!  I don’t know who’s more excited the little ones or me.  ;-)   I have ground cherries (something I was introduced to through the book Paradise Lot I discussed in this post)  started indoors along with bell peppers and more tomatoes in my window.   With all the rain we’ve had my order of top soil has been delayed until it dries enough to be properly screened which is why the rest of my garden isn’t in yet.

My heirloom peas, 50 plants total.

My heirloom peas, 50 plants total.

So why did I choose heirloom varieties for all my seeds?

There are two main reasons I chose organic heirloom seeds.  The first has to do with the nutritional values.  Take a walk around your local grocer and count the varieties of each vegetable or fruit.  How many varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, apples, etc do they carry?  In our store I can find 2 types of mushroom, 3 types of potatoes, currently one variety of tomatoes and apples…4 (which includes an organic variety of a non-organic type).  How many different apples are there? Worldwide there are 7,500 and in the US 2,500 different apple varieties are grown.  Yet I am unable to find more than four at my local store.

garden poetry

Each apple will provide us with a slightly different taste and varying levels of nutrients.   I believe variety is best for my health and strive to mix up what I eat. Another example would be tomatoes.  I am growing three different types of tomatoes this year.  When it came to watermelons I choose three different types that are not normally sold in my area, and never sold at in the stores.  I found this article which discusses which nutrients are the highest in each color of corn that supports my belief that the more variety I include in my diet the better off I am.

Besides nutrients and flavors I am also concerned that we may lose our heirloom seeds in the not too distant future.  The company I chose to purchase my seeds from is finding it harder each year to acquire heirloom seeds.  When saving seeds from one year’s harvest the seeds are tested to be sure they have not been contaminated by GM seeds.  Each year more and more seeds, especially corn, tests positive for contamination. 

By buying heirloom and having small plots of these plants growing all over the country (and world) we have a better chance to save these seeds from extinction.  When I purchased my corn seeds I also purchased a lovely red popcorn seed, if even a handful of individuals in each state or providence planted heirloom seeds we would ensure finding at least a few in each area without GM contamination which would allow us to keep these seeds in supply.

garden sign

The final reason has to do with crop failure.  Last year I lost some of my spaghetti squash to powdery mildew.  I am new enough to growing squash that I had never heard of powdery mildew. This year I am prepared to be proactive to protect my plants, but that experience brought to mind the Potato Famine from Ireland.  As I understand it from my history lessons the people were so dependent on their potato crops that when they failed that year due to weather conditions people starved.  What happens today if the few varieties that are grown commercially should start to fail, whether it’s due to super bugs or weather conditions such as drought, do we starve?  By planting heirlooms which are different from the commercial varieties I hope this will protect m garden from failing.  It may be a stretch but it’s one thought lurking in the back of my mind.

do you consider heirlooms important in your garden?  Would you ever consider cheaper seeds from discount stores that may be contaminated by either Gm seeds or pesticides?




26 thoughts on “Protecting Heirloom Seeds

  1. Glad to see the internet back Lois and the storm passed by quickly.. there have been some supper big storms of late.. We have had one or two here too with showers of hail, and a few wind spouts thrown in… which is unusual for the UK…

    We always try to buy good quality organic seeds.. you may pay a bit more for them but they are worth it.. Last year we left a parsnip in the grown to seed.. I would never have believed how tall it has grown into seed… at least 5 ft high… We also left in some leeks to go to seed too… We are going to experiment with these seeds next year to see how they grow.. even if we just put on row in along side the bought seeds..

    The strawberries are looking good too… I put straw under our bed last week.. I took a few pics I posted… We have lots of flower so hopefully will have a good crop..

    We don’t use pesticides either.. We have grown tubs of flowers such as marigolds and lupins… Lupins attract black fly.. the hope is they will head for the lupins and not the veggies.. We now have put them down the sides of the allotments.. and the marigolds are in between the cabbages.. Apparently they give off an odour insects don’t always like.. so we shall see how that works. as we were over run with white fly last year.. xx


    • Sue, I feel good about who I bought my heirloom seeds from, both Stacy for the tomatoes and the small family business for the rest. It’s definitely worth the slightly higher cost.

      Our strawberries are slow to ripen but that’s okay I am just relieved I didn’t lose them during the extra cold winter as they are in a raised bed so not as protected as if they were directly in the ground. I need to put some straw under mine as well. I hear this is going to be a rainy summer so I don’t want any rotting from touching the soil.

      I am behind on planting the flower seeds, hopefully tomorrow. We found our first black flies here. Never saw them before. There is a lot different from previous years. We lost almost our entire bat colony so the mosquitoes are a problem for the first time, not looking forward to seeing what will arrive to attack the garden.

      I’m sending you positive thoughts for a healthy garden this year.


  2. We haven’t had time to maintain our garden recently so I’m excited that the farmer’s markets are open again. I hate buy produce of any kind at the grocery store.


    • Christy, I have two more weeks to wait until our farmers’ market reopens and I can’t wait. I have the date marked in m calendar. ;-) I’m like you I hate to buy produce from the store any more, actually I have found after a couple of years shopping the farmers’ markets I don’t like being in the grocery stores at all.


  3. I sometimes wish I had a big garden and a little (read huge) glass house so I also could grow tomatoes and watermelons :)
    I look forward to follow this project! Good to see you again! Have a great day!


    • Hi Johanna, I thought you quit blogging. Hows the little one doing?

      I wish I had a greenhouse myself but I have to be happy with what I have, which is more than most people. My top soil was finally delivered today after a rainy patch that delayed it. Tomorrow the seeds and rest of the plants go in the garden and it’s just a matter of keeping my fingers crossed that all take well.


      • She is doing great, thank you! She had a tough time with allergies, but now it’s better. Yes I have taken a long leave of absence from the blogospere, but it’s nice to check in on you and others and see how everything is going. I think of you at times! Hopefully I will have a bit more time at my hands in the future, or at least more energy now when the children sleep more.

        That sounds like a wonderful and in time delicious project! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!


  4. I don’t seem to be the best gardener… I try but between the weather and the local animals, something gets the crop before I do! Although now the worst of the heat is behind us, I might have another go. I have heirloom/heritage chickens for the same reasons! – K x


    • Kara, I just lost two of my tomato plants to animals. The one was uprooted and carried away!

      I never thought about chickens being heirloom/heritage but that makes sense. I’ve seen farms that raise chickens for financial means and some are so heavy they can’t even walk, not the way nature intended them to be.

      Good luck on trying a garden now.


  5. I hope you don’t have any powdery mildew this year. However, it seems like every year some of my plants get it, but they usually survive and produce. The worst for the squash are the borers that put big holes in the stems right at ground level. The plants never recover from them.

    There are several of us that have been sharing saved seeds from last year. It’s free and we’re passing on good varieties that have worked for us.


    • Live and Learn, I hope not to have powdery mildew again this year. I am prepared though with a recipe I’ll spray on the plants every few days to see if I can prevent it. I haven’t had the borers, I’ll keep my fingers crossed neither of us encounter them.

      How nice you have friends you can share seeds with. That does make expanding the types of plants you grow cheaper and you know exactly what you are getting.


  6. I love to see a productive garden as yours it’s a pleasure to the eyes :)
    As a beginner I just took seeds I had from the organic foods I regularly buy and plant them but never thought of looking for heirloom as it’s all in containers and doesn’t always last from year to year but it’s a comforting feeling to know that there are people out there with proper gardens who strive to keep alive the varieties…
    I’m glad to hear those seeds are tested for GM before being sold, it’s very positive to know it’s under control.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


  7. All my garden seeds are heirloom varieties and as many as I can afford are organic. Earlier this week I stopped at my food coop for flax seeds and was excited to find all their seeds were reduced to $1.99. That is half the normal price and I bought some of everything that I plant in my garden to keep for next year. I will keep them in a jar with a couple of those packets that keep things dry, saved from nori packages, and they will be fine to plant next year. Score!
    I do buy my flower seeds as cheap as I can find them because I don’t eat what they produce.


    • Cynthia, what a great deal you found, that’s close to half the price I paid for many of my heirloom seeds. I store my saved seeds in cleaned prescription bottles with a few grains of rice to keep them dry.

      Since I plant my flower seeds far enough away from my edible garden plants I do pick up a few packets of cheap seeds from local stores. I don’t know if they have been genetically modified, boy I sure hope not, but in time I’d like to stop using annuals and replace the flowers with perennials I can trust.


  8. It is outrageous that the decision-makers are failing to provide information to the citizens about if a food item is GM. I hope more people will opt for the alternative of growing their own food like you.


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