6:00am

Sat February 1, 2014
The Garden Report

Beware Of Winter Seed Fever

Hybrid tomatoes are unique but don't produce reliable seeds.
Credit Darren Abbey / Flickr - Creative Commons

The recent warm weather may have given us spring fever, but now that it’s snowy and cold there’s not much for a gardener to do but read seed catalogs, walk garden center seed racks and seed shop online. You should be wary of the potential dangers. 

Tom Throgmorton Weighs The Pros And Cons Of Seed Selection

It’s easy to get carried away when browsing for seeds. Last year I ended up with a ton of potatoes, sixty flats of onions, fifty tomato plants, about the same number of peppers. I didn’t even bother counting the basil plants.

Catalogs, seed packets and the internet provide general growing information. They may say "don’t let plants wilt;" "transplant in five weeks;" or "sow one seed per cell." Detailed seed sowing depth, light requirement, germination temperature and specific treatments that help with seed sowing and garden space planning can be found with a little searching.

I like to buy the self-producing open pollinated veggie varieties which epitomize the classic version of "The Birds and The Bees." The seeds can be saved and grown year after year.

Unlike open pollinated plants, hybrid varieties are the result of the crossbreeding of two or more other varieties, creating an entire new plant with unique qualities. Cosmos has a precise, pink colored flower and all of the seeds are pink as well. A hybrid tomato contains the best traits of the other varieties it was cross-pollinated with. 

F1 hybrids have very strong traits because they are the first generation of the hybridization process. The downside is that F1 and all other hybrids do not produce reliable seed that can be saved and used year after year. 

With the landscape covered in snow, it may seem premature to start dreaming about spring. But it isn’t too early to plan for a fun and successful gardening season. Just be careful with the amount you get.  

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