How to Choose the Best Seeds for your Garden
When you initially start shopping for seeds you may be overwhelmed at the amount of seed varieties for each type of vegetable. Should you choose hybrid seeds? Open pollination? Dwarf varieties? Genetically modified? Each variety of vegetable seed is slightly different, so it is important to look at the details of each. Seed varieties are created by cross breading different plants based on their growth characteristics. Take for example a gardener in Alaska who wants to grow tomatoes, but the short growing seasons prevents the tomatoes from reaching maturity. This gardener would want to choose a seed variety that has been bred for the shortest possible maturity dates.
Buy Seeds Locally
Some plant nurseries and seed companies will sell seeds from plants that have been grown locally. This is almost always the best option for a backyard gardener because you can be assured that the plants will grow successfully in your local climate. There are many genetic variables to consider when growing a garden and it is best to take the advice from a local expect. Buying seeds on the internet without doing detailed research is a common pitfall among novice gardeners. This can be avoided by taking to your local nurseryman and getting advice on where to buy seeds from locally grown veggies.
Hybrid seeds are developed by crossing two parent plants of different varieties with goal of solving some type of genetic shortcoming. Usually, the goal of a hybrid seed variety is create greater yields for harvesting or resistance to disease. Hybrids can be very effective in this respect and some record breaking vegetables have been grown from hybrid seed varieties. The primary drawback is that the seeds from a hybrid plant will not produce quality seeds (or any seeds at all) when mature. This will require you to purchase new seeds for each growing seasons. It will not be possible to save your seeds for future planting.
Open Pollinated Seeds
Open Pollinated Seeds are created when a male and female plant of the same variety are bred to produce a plant identical to the parent plant. Nature is usually responsible for the pollination of the plants via insects, birds, or just the wind. If you choose to grow open pollinated seeds it is usually recommend that you ONLY grow that variety. If you grow multiple varieties of the same vegetable it is possible they will cross pollinate, which will likely create subpar plants during the next growing season.
Dwarf vegetable varieties have been developed to produce fruits and vegetables of a lesser size than normal. The root systems are shallower and the plant will require fewer nutrients to grow to maturity. Of course this will lead to smaller yields when you harvest, but it will also save a great deal of space. Dwarf seeds are often the best option for container gardening or those working with very limited space.
Genetically Modified Seeds (GMO)
Genetically modified seeds are created by altering the genetic structure of a plant in a laboratory. This is employed primarily by the commercial agriculture industry to increase disease resistance, increase growth rates, and produce higher yields. Unfortunately, the long term effects of consuming GMO foods is not well understood, and therefore it is recommended to avoid growing them in your garden. There is overwhelming evidence supporting the health benefits of growing organic food, so it is hard to recommend anything else.