Heirloom seeds are our first choice for planting in our garden. In this post, we’ll go over what heirloom seeds are and the best places to buy them.
What are Heirloom Seeds?
Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation.
To be considered an heirloom, seeds are usually fifty years old or older. Some have even been passed down for hundreds of years.
Heirloom seeds are also open-pollinated. Open-pollination happens by natural means such as wind, insects (especially bees), and birds. The seeds from these plants can be saved and planted year after year, and you can expect exactly what you planted to come up.
Heirloom seeds are not hybrids and they are not genetically modified.
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What are the Benefits of Heirloom Seeds?
There are so many benefits, but here are a few of the reasons we usually choose heirloom seeds for our garden:
One of the main benefits of heirlooms is that you can save seeds from these plants. Unlike hybrid seeds, when you plant an heirloom, you can expect it to produce true to its type. What you plant is what you can expect when you use heirloom seeds.
If you want to be self-sufficient when it comes to gardening, learning to save seeds is a great idea! And that’s one of the main benefits of choosing to grow heirlooms. You’ll be able to save seeds, year after year. Done correctly, you can even pass seeds down to your children and grandchildren!
Another reason to plant heirloom seeds is to preserve a bit of history. I love the fact that these seeds have stood the test of time.
I also love knowing that my grandmother may have planted these same heirloom vegetable varieties in her victory garden during the Depression.
(This book is the best resource for learning how to save seeds!)
This quote from the book Seed to Seed says it well:
Our grandparents and their ancestors were seed savers by necessity. Their best plants were carefully selected to produce the next year’s seeds, which were traded over the back garden fence with neighbors and faithfully passed down to each new generation of gardeners.
Heirloom vegetable varieties are often said to have a better, richer flavor than hybrid varieties.
I haven’t compared the flavors myself, but it’s a common opinion of many gardeners. To me, it just makes sense that the more natural food is, the more likely it is to be more flavorful.
Natural Resistance to Disease
According to Seed to Seed, heirloom seed varieties often have a natural resistance to diseases:
Few of these family heirloom varieties have ever been available commercially, until just recently. Many have been grown on the same farm by different generations of a family for 150 years or more. This often resulted in the seeds slowly developing resistances to local diseases and insects, and also gradually becoming well adapted to climates and soil conditions in family gardens throughout the United States.
Where to Buy Heirloom Seeds
Through the years we’ve purchased our garden seeds from a variety of sources. Here are some of our favorite places to buy heirloom seeds.
In 2020, when so many companies were out of stock or not shipping (because of being overwhelmed with orders), we discovered True Leaf Market. They also have some great seed collections!
If you’re new to gardening and you’re not sure which seeds to order, try one of their seed collections.
We have purchased in the past:
- Granny’s Garden
- Bugout Seed Bag
- Culinary Herb Collection
Any of these collections will help you get started with your garden this year!
The Bug Out Seed Bag is an Emergency Seed Assortment of Annuals and Perennials featuring seeds that are:
- Open Pollinated
The Bug Out Seed Bag delivers 34 of the easiest and most prolific fruit and vegetable seeds for emergency preparedness and home gardening. Sealed in a weatherproof mylar bag, each of these 34 heirloom varieties can be safely stored for both emergency and seasonal planting without fear of spoilage.
Baker Creek has been our primary source for heirloom seeds for many years now. I think we started buying seeds from them almost 15 years ago!
We’ve also been to their spring planting festival a couple of times, which I highly recommend. The planting festival gives you a chance to interact with gardeners from all over the country, and it’s a lot of fun!
This is another company we’ve been ordering from for years, and we’ve always had a great experience with them.
Always a great experience with Johnny’s.
An excellent source for vegetable seeds, culinary and medicinal herb seeds, and more! You can get their free organic gardening eBook here!
This is a new company to us, but they have had fast and reliable shipping.
We’ve had a great experience with Seed Savers Exchange.
Another tried and true company.
Find More Gardening Inspiration:
- How to Grow Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide
- 12 Tips for Growing Tomatoes
- How to Make a Flower Planter
- Gardening for Beginners: The Ultimate Resource Guide
- How to Make Mint Tea with Fresh Mint Leaves
- How to Make Your Own Comfrey Salve
- Our Favorite Gardening Books
We recently started some of our plants under a grow light in the garage. And, we just added two more raised beds to our garden!
Are you planning a garden this year? What’s on your list of things to grow?