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Want to Save Seeds? Why you Should Know the Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Seeds

One of the items on my “Things to Try in 2018” list is to save seeds from my garden. With the various seed categories which one will give me the greatest success? The difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds is a big topic that anyone attempting to save their own seeds needs to know. Other than that the different varieties are personal preference. I’ve listed some of the categories in my blog today to help you decide.

Major Seed Categories:


Open-pollinated seeds: this sounds so magical to me. I imagine pollen floating through the air. Pollen stuck to bee legs, weighing them down as they flit from this tomato bloom, onto that tomato bloom. Rolling their striped furry bodies on the flowers in pure-bee-glee.

What you Need to Know:
  • Pollination occurs naturally via insect (bee, butterfly, etc) or wind.
  • These seeds have genetic variety – their traits are diverse and naturally acquired.
  • They have been hardened to a specific area over time.
  • Open-pollinated seeds could also be heirloom seeds, but it’s not a requirement.
hybrid seeds


Hybrid seeds are created by farmers/gardeners who pollinate two different varieties of plant to create something better. Perhaps one tomato plant is a high producer, but has a dull color. Another plant has a nice yellow color, but is a low producer. The farmer may selectively pollinate the high producer with the bright yellow plant in order to grow a bright yellow, high production plant.

I can’t help thinking of hybrid seeds as purebred dogs. Bad traits are bred out of the dog generation after generation, and soon you have a dog prone to hip dysplasia and a bad disposition.

What you Need to Know:
  • Pollinated by humans with two different varieties of plant to create a new variety.
  • Varieties are created in order to produce a good plant based on good traits from the parent plants.
  • Each year these seeds become less effective.
  • Their hardiness and success rate dissolves each year.
  • Not a good option for seed savers, you will most likely need to purchase new seeds each year.
  • If you do succeed in growing seeds the following year, the characteristics will have changed, and the plant will become open-pollinated.
  • All hybrid seed packets are labeled with a F1 designator.


Heirlooms remind me of dresses made from feed sacks. They remind me of my great grandma’s garden, and canned tomatoes lining her pantry. There is something really romantic about them. I think of Victory Gardens in every yard. Of bags upon bags of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps.

Heirlooms have history. They have character; they are stable and consistent. These seeds know where they came from, and they are proud of it.

What you Need to Know:
  • Usually a seed that has been passed down from gardener to gardener through the generations.
  • The seed variety must be at least 50 years old to be considered an heirloom.
  • All seeds are open-pollinated.
  • These are very stable in their characteristics.
  • Most people believe that heirloom seeds produce better flavor than non-heirlooms.

Other Seed Categories:


If your seeds are organic, it simply means they were produced on an Organic Certified farm. If you grow the seeds, and then spray your plants with Round Up, there really is no point in buying organic.


  • Scientists alter the plant DNA in order to be resistant to pesticides.
  • An unnatural approach to gardening.
  • There is an enormous amount of controversy, and debate, around GMO seeds.
  • If concerned with GMO – check with your seed company to ensure they have a GMO free promise.

The Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Seeds

Knowing the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds I know that I will purchase heirloom, or open-pollinated seeds, in order to save for next growing seasons. I may opt to purchase hybrid seeds for specific plants that I don’t want to save seeds from. There are some plants that I don’t have time to collect their seeds. Carrots are not something I care to attempt. I may take the extra time to save some seeds, but probably only from plants that I can easily gather from. It doesn’t take much to pull seeds from a tomato, a squash, a bean, or a pea. If it is necessary to let a plant go to seed, and to head down to the garden with a paper bag; I’m just not there yet.

So there you have it. Do you have a preference as to which seeds you buy? Are you a seed collector? I would love to hear any tips or tricks you have for me.

Tags : gardenseedstomato

The author mother_spruce