Oh, the Dumbness

I’m a pretty smart person but I am the first to point out my limitations, brain-wise. Last night I had a startling realization regarding the gardens, specifically the seeds, that has me kind of bummed. It’s fixable, but I’m kicking myself.

The exact opposite of "heirloom"

See, I thought buying organic seeds was the most awesome thing ever, and in some ways it is. Organic is clean, healthy, and reasonably reliable to not give you eyeball tumors. So we’ve laid in a bunch of organic seeds, germinated them, raised them to young adulthood, planted them in the garden.

However, “organic” is also not a guarantee of “heirloom,” and if you’re concerned about seed saving and sustainability, which I am, you’ll not get reliable results in the second generation of planting. That aspect, which I *know* about, never even factored into my choosing organic-only seeds. It rested in the back of my brain doing me absolutely no good until I’d already made the mistake.

Last night, the fiance brought home some organic seeds from Home Depot, and they’re cool. All of a sudden, my brain goes, “Wait a second. Does ‘organic’ mean they’re also ‘heirloom” or ‘non-hybrid’?” And immediately my brain replied with, “Probably not, or they’d be labeled ‘heirloom’ or ‘non-hybrid.'” Several gardening friends and some panicked Googling confirmed this. By mistake only one of those packets of organic also happens to be heirloom (maybe 30 different plants?).

It’s like one of those fucked up questions from a junior high IQ test: “A train leaves Amsterdam at 6:25 a.m…” only it turns out the answer is: “Donna’s not very bright.”


We’ve always looked at this farm from a sustainability viewpoint, with an eye towards learning how to save seeds and exchange them, how to live off the land season after season, eventually coming to rely only upon ourselves. Organic only seeds does nothing to promote that. Trying to germinate and grow reliable varieties from hybrid seeds is a no-go. They can fail to germinate, fail to blossom and fruit, or will almost always return a new variety that is not as hardy as the original, or is mutated in some way that renders it unusable as a seed source in the future. Good for one generation only. Again, I KNEW that. And I’m sure the organic-only vegetables and fruits will be delicious and frankly, it’s not a hugely expensive mistake, except in terms of time. But it makes me want to smack myself.

There’s a solution to this. I’ve only used one-third of the total garden space available and there’s still time to get seeds germinated and into the ground, or even direct sow and have them come up this season. So today I’m cruising Seed Savers Exchange and choosing the basics, organic AND heirloom. Also going to give Baker Creek Heirloom a try, but only if they have organic options.

And know this: If Donna leaves on a train from Amsterdam at 6:25 a.m., she’s not going to fuck this up again (and she’s going to need a shitload of coffee).

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