The Disadvantages of Heirloom Seeds – Tiny Backyard Behavior

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So many gardeners today like to develop particular heirloom selection vegetation for a lot of totally different causes. I get it, heirlooms have plenty of nice qualities. However, what about their not-so-great qualities? 

Rising heirloom seeds can include disadvantages like pest and illness susceptibility, gradual improvement, low fruit manufacturing, labor intensiveness, and their potential to cross-pollinate with different plant varieties. 

Should you’re new to gardening, rising heirlooms may not be the very best place to begin for you. 

Hold studying to be taught extra about these disadvantages and to find out if rising heirlooms is an efficient selection in your backyard. I’ll additionally chat about hybrids and why they’re an excellent various when you’re scuffling with rising heirlooms.

What are heirlooms?

Heirloom vegetation are these which were round for a few years and handed from era to era. Just like “heirloom” objects that we would cross down for generations in our personal households, seeds may be handed down too. Some heirloom vegetation are a whole lot of years outdated!

These vegetation have remained true-to-type over time that means that the plant has not modified over time. If you plant an heirloom seed, you recognize precisely what to anticipate when it grows. In contrast to hybrid vegetation, that are bred for very particular traits, with heirlooms, what you see is what you get. 

There are tons of heirloom selection vegetation and seeds on the market in the marketplace. However, heirloom tomatoes and apples are by far the preferred of all of the heirloom fruits or veggies you may develop. I’m positive we’re all acquainted with Brandywine tomatoes or Cortland apples.

Many individuals select to develop heirloom vegetation as a result of their taste high quality and profile are usually considerably extra pronounced than their hybrid counterparts. Heirlooms are additionally necessary for anybody who’s seeking to save seeds. 

If you wish to be taught extra about saving seeds, you take a look at any of those articles:

How are heirloom seeds created? 

The method of growing heirloom seeds is kind of easy. The vegetation just about do the be just right for you. Should you let heirloom vegetation develop previous their prime, or go to seed, then it can save you the seeds for future plantings. Thus, you’ve your heirloom seeds. 

However, you may solely save seeds from heirloom vegetation to get extra heirloom seeds. Should you attempt to save seeds from hybrid vegetation, you received’t get vegetation which can be true-to-type within the subsequent rising season. 


One other factor that makes heirloom seeds totally different from hybrids is that they’re all open-pollinated. Open pollination merely signifies that a plant is pollinated by pure means like air, water, bugs, birds, and so on. 

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Hybrids are usually not typically open-pollinated as a result of they’re created in a closed surroundings, like a greenhouse, to forestall any likelihood of cross-pollination with undesirable varieties. 

This open pollination is among the causes that it’s doable to avoid wasting seeds from heirloom varieties however not hybrids. 

Do heirloom and natural imply the identical factor?

Nope! Oftentimes, these two phrases are used interchangeably, however they really imply two various things. 

The phrase heirloom merely refers to the kind of plant and the way it reproduces over time. Natural has extra to do with the rising practices concerned in manufacturing.

Heirloom vegetation may be natural or they are often non-organic. It simply relies on the strategies you employ to develop them. If rising organically is necessary to you, then be sure to purchase heirloom seeds which can be licensed natural. 

You possibly can inform if a product is licensed natural by in search of the “USDA Natural” label on the package deal. Seeds listed on-line can have an “OG” listed subsequent to them to suggest that they’re natural. 

Disadvantages of heirloom seeds

Though heirlooms have plenty of perks that individuals get pleasure from, in addition they include their very own set of challenges. Listed below are a few of the disadvantages that I feel are value mentioning earlier than you resolve if heirlooms are a good selection in your backyard.

Pest and illness susceptibility 

As a result of heirloom seeds are usually not bred to pick for sure robust traits like many hybrids are, they are usually extra vulnerable to pests and ailments. 

Many heirloom tomatoes that I’ve tried to develop have been shortly overtaken by blight earlier than they attain maturity. And for these of us working with smaller backyard areas, blight generally is a difficult factor to navigate as a result of it stays within the soil. 

Many sorts of hybrid zucchinis are additionally immune to powdery mildew which is a typical downside amongst cucurbit vegetation.

Having hybrid varieties which can be immune to blight and mildew is extraordinarily useful in relation to prolonging the lifetime of your backyard. 

Sluggish improvement

Heirloom vegetation can even take considerably extra time to develop than their hybrid counterparts. I’m going to maintain going again to the tomato instance as a result of they’re the heirlooms that I do know the very best. 

Many heirloom tomato varieties can take as much as 80 days to achieve full maturity with some taking even longer. Assuming you will get your tomatoes began early sufficient, it’s going to take all of them summer season to develop. Right here’s an excellent article with data on beginning seeds early.

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Hybrid varieties like Early Woman or Juliet can attain maturity in as little as 60 days. That’s virtually a complete month sooner than most heirloom varieties. 

Labor intensive

Heirlooms are usually a bit extra labor-intensive than many individuals could also be anticipating. As a result of they’re extra vulnerable to pests and illness, they require early and fixed scouting to remain on high of something detrimental that will come their manner. 

Heirlooms can even develop to be quite a bit greater than sure hybrid varieties. Chances are you’ll be pondering that that’s not essentially a nasty factor, however when your backyard begins to grow to be a jungle, it’s very simple to get overwhelmed.

With vegetation like tomatoes or sure squash varieties, they’ll require robust trellising programs to maintain them below management. Heirloom flowers and different fruit crops can even require frequent pruning to maintain them flowering. 

Alternatively, many hybrid vegetation are bred to be far more compact, making them simpler to handle and saving you house in your backyard. 

Much less fruit improvement

Whereas their fruits do are usually far more flavorful, heirloom vegetation produce considerably much less fruit than hybrid varieties. 

Relying on the wants of your property, this is probably not that massive of a deal to you. However when you’re into meals preservation otherwise you wish to promote the produce in your backyard, then not having sufficient fruit generally is a massive downside. 


As I discussed earlier, heirloom vegetation are all open-pollinated, making them nice for seed saving. However, with open pollination, there runs the danger of some vegetation cross-pollinating. That is particularly frequent amongst squash varieties. 

Should you save seeds from a plant that has probably crossed with a unique selection, your seeds won’t develop true-to-type when planted within the subsequent season. Within the case of squash, there’s an opportunity that the fruit is probably not edible in any respect. 

Are hybrid seeds higher than heirloom seeds?

It relies on who you ask. To me, one isn’t higher than the opposite however plenty of hybrid varieties simply work so a lot better for my backyard. I get extra meals with out the stress and fear of pests and ailments wiping out my vegetation. 

As I discussed earlier, rising heirloom tomatoes generally is a problem for me in my backyard as a result of I reside in a colder local weather (Zone 4!) and tomatoes take so lengthy to develop and ripen. Oftentimes, I get a frost earlier than my tomatoes are even prepared to choose. 

However by rising hybrid tomato varieties, I’m far more happy with my tomato harvests. 

For us gardeners on a price range, hybrid seeds additionally are usually cheaper than heirlooms and are a lot simpler to seek out in shops. 

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After studying all of these disadvantages, you’re most likely questioning when you ought to even purchase heirloom seeds in any respect. In the end, it’s as much as you to determine what’s proper in your backyard. 

If most meals manufacturing is your gardening objective, then possibly heirlooms aren’t a good selection for you. However when you like experimenting and making an attempt meals that’s bursting with distinctive flavors, then it is best to give heirloom seeds a attempt. 

Should you’re additionally into seed saving then heirloom seeds are the way in which to go since seeds from hybrid vegetation can’t be saved.

I like to recommend rising each heirlooms and hybrids in your backyard as a strategy to see what you want. Simply be sure if you purchase heirloom seeds that you simply’re ready to cope with their high-maintenance personalities and any challenges they might throw your manner. 

Try these must-have gardening merchandise

You don’t want a lot to start out gardening, however some instruments and merchandise will make a distinction in how comfy and efficient gardening may be for you. Listed below are my favorites:

  • Backyard Trowel. A superb backyard trowel will final you a few years. I really like how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the steel doesn’t bend and it has a pleasant grip.
  • Trimming Scissors. I take advantage of them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer season lengthy, and so they’re tremendous useful. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are additional good as a result of they don’t rust as simply.
  • Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes could appear old school, however there’s nothing like a fast sweep by the topsoil to eliminate small weeds – no bending required. I really like WOLF-Garten’s choice: this dutch hoe coupled with their common deal with.
  • Develop Lights. These develop lights from Mars Hydro are tremendous robust, but dimmable, so that they match each stage of development. They don’t put out an excessive amount of warmth and are very economical.
  • Seedling Trays. There’s an artwork to selecting the very best measurement for seedling trays in order that it holds the right quantity of water and provides the roots sufficient room to develop. These germination plugs are excellent when coupled with 1020 backside trays. 
  • Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll must feed your vegetation from the seedling stage, all the way in which to fruiting. This natural fish & seaweed mix is a really versatile choice. Use it half-strength for younger vegetation and full-strength for established vegetation.

Browse our record of instruments, fertilizers & pesticides, indoor rising merchandise and seed store suggestions – we hope you discover our choice helpful and it saves you a while!