Confession time , I wasn't always a gardener in fact when Dane and I first started gardening twelve years ago I had far more fails than I had success with.
To get started in gardening our biggest success came from buying hardy seedlings from the local market and because we were on a very low income at the time with debt, we'd acquired in our 20s pre kids I started to question how we could start our garden in a more affordable way to help us save money on groceries to pay off those debts.
This is where my love of seeds began. We got a really dodgy $50 plastic greenhouse you know the type one that if not anchored down will be blown away in the wind. Which is exactly what happened to our first lot of successfully raised seeds! I can be stubborn when I set my mind to something, so I didn't give up and re sowed all the seeds and were rewarded with amazing crops that we watered by hand using recycled milk bottles filled up at the rain tanks. We had our best pumpkin harvest to date that year!
We've come a long way since those days but sometimes I do still buy seedlings and I want to say although I am an advocate for starting from seed and have a business selling seeds there is absolutely no shame in buying seedlings!
So that said what exactly is an Heirloom seed and how is it different to other seeds?
heirloom means these are seeds from plants that have been passed down from generation to generation and are typically open pollinated that have not been modified through genetic engineering or had anything applied to them that might make seeds sterile and unable to be saved by future gardeners.
When you choose your seeds ask the seller if they save the seeds themselves or where their stock comes from. Many seed re-packers do not know where the original seeds have come from so always prioritize small scale growers but if they don't have that variety, you want to ask that supplier where their seed comes from.
When you start your seeds make sure you use a good quality seed starting mix and follow the directions on the packet. The packet should tell you the soil temperature needed and if you are in a cold climate like we are you might need the help of a heat mat and grow light. You can make this sort of set up for under $100 using a plastic tub, heat mat and lights are available from Ebay. Once the temperature outside is warmer they can be moved to a greenhouse to be on potted until the outside temperature is warm enough.
To thin or not to thin - There's many benefits to thinning your seedlings and only keeping the hardy ones. I'm a softy and instead on pot all the seeds in the punnet into individual pots. Once they have grown and I have planted out what I need the rest go to my local crop swap for other gardeners.
Growing plants from heirloom seeds can be incredibly rewarding and is a great way to start your garden while getting access to rarer varieties of plants you might not be able to source locally.
I do want to end this by saying as gardeners we all have a responsibility to ensure any seeds and plants we grow don't turn into invasive environmental weeds. What might be a friend in my garden could become a foe in yours so do your research and Happy gardening!