Your Spring Guide to Heirloom Gardening

By: Melaina Gasbarrino

We all have at least a vague understanding of gardening, but what about heirloom gardening? We hear about heirloom tomatoes all the time, but what exactly does that mean? I have to be honest, the first book that I picked up on heirloom gardening I had no idea what wonderful world I was getting myself into. After reading that book, I now want to purchase heirloom seeds so every one of my fruits and vegetables will have a unique story behind them. If you're wondering why I've been so inspired by heirloom seeds, well that's because they are seeds originating from plant varieties introduced at least 50 years ago. Heirlooms are also non-hybrid and open-pollinated, in laymen's terms, an heirloom seed will grow just as its parent seed year after year unlike genetically modified seeds.

Because the seeds have not been tampered with, like that of genetically modified seeds, the varieties of fruits and vegetables that come about are nutritious and certainly delicious. The reasoning behind the great tasting side of these seeds is that because they have been bred and selected for generations upon generations, when you pick up a seedling of Chioggia (better known as Candy-Striped) beets you know you're getting the sweetest, most sugary red and white striped beets ever. Not only are they sweet-tasting, but heirloom vegetables showcase a diverse food supply, and most notably reduce our dependence on hybridization and monoculture farming.

One of the lovely things about being an heirloom gardener is that you (well, the lucky few who actually make a living off of this stuff) can explore the ends of the earth to find unique seed variations that are out there in the world. Picture yourself walking through the fields of Mexico, sampling rare fruits Down Under or exploring spices like never before in Morocco. Heirloom gardening also gives more of a sense of precision to the gardeners. It's not every day we stumble upon a chocolate striped heirloom tomato or black Spanish radish, so if they find these unique varieties, the gardener has to be sure to plant them with care to ensure the seeds stay marked as treasures from the past.

If you're wondering where you can purchase these fancy seeds, many garden shops sell heirloom seeds, or if you want to up the ante and plant some rare seeds, there is a plethora of websites where you can purchase a pack or two of seeds. And of course the beauty of growing your own heirloom garden is not only the fact that all your food will be overly sweet and fresh but also the fact that all those GMO's will be banished from your diet. When planting heirloom seeds be sure to read up on the exact distance each seed needs to grow so as not to tamper with the hundred year old seed variation. It certainly may not be smooth sailing to start that officially heirloom seeded-garden of yours, but with a little care and a lot of patience in no time at all you'll be able to boast of your own heirloom garden.

Do you have your own garden?

Melaina is from a small town in Ontario, Canada and as an avid environmentalist with a passion for focusing on healthy living. Having traveled the world and written about it every step of the way, she one day hopes to develop unique environmental educational programs for kids.

Photo: United Nations Photo

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