The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A hankering for hybrids

Hybrid seedsI love saving seeds from heirloom vegetable varieties. But when it comes down to a choice between saving free seeds from potentially problematic plants or annually purchasing seeds of dependable hybrids, I always choose the latter. It's just a better use of time and money to spend five bucks on seeds and know I'm going to harvest a bountiful crop rather than ending up spending fifty or a hundred bucks over the course of the year buying that vegetable at the grocery store.

Our annual seed order went in this week, about $90 spread across two companies (Johnny's and Jung) to get the exact varieties I know have done well here in the past. Hybrids I felt were worth paying for included Pontiac onions, Lunchbox Red peppers, Bolero carrots, Metro butternut squash, Vision corn, Harmonie cucumbers, and Diablo brussels sprouts. The other dozen vegetable varieties will be planted with either home-grown seeds or leftover packets from last year where I ordered too much but know from experience the seeds will still sprout.

Now it's your turn to chime in. Which hybrid varieties do so well in your garden that you're willing to order the seeds every year?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hi Anna and Mark,

I wonder if 'real' soil tests have any place in making sure crops do well? i.e.- Adding trace minerals known to be deficient to the compost heap? Then remeasuring a year or so later.

Some folks say yes for certain. I still wonder.

That said, granite dust and sea water have done very well for me.


Comment by John Thu Jan 28 10:00:33 2016

I'm still getting my feet under me with a lot of the crops in the new homestead. This will really only be my third real gardening year here. And last year was an anomaly of drought/heat.

I don't bother with seeds for tomatoes. I buy cheap 6 packs late February and pot them up successively in my greenhouse, until they go outside. It limits my selection, but I go with an early mainstream hybrid for my main tomato and then whatever cherry tomato looks good/is available.

I go hybrid with as much as I can, because until I'm ready to really be serious about seed saving, I only save a few (and mostly I've chosen to save the veg that already existed here as volunteers from the previous owner - a siberian kale, some type of bread seed poppies, calendula, red broadleaf mustard, borage. In particular my seasons are cool nights, all summer long. So I want short-season hybrid cucumber, both summer and winter squashes, and I might even try a short-season hybrid melon this year. Until I figure out broccoli with hybrids, I don't want to try OPVs. Hybrid vigor and all. It also helps me learn about my climate.

I want to have a more successful garden before I start adding any significant seed saving. One thing at a time. So I will actually search out hybrids, if the description looks climate correct and has the right 'flavor' notations. I favor Territorial Seed, Kitazawa Seed, and Nichol's Seed; all from here on the West Coast.

Comment by Charity Thu Jan 28 10:23:03 2016
Sweet red bell peppers... my hybrids last year way out performed the heritage... i will plant them again.
Comment by Drb Thu Jan 28 17:35:38 2016
Half the seeds from hybrids will again be hybrids. The other half will revert to the original parents. Those parent genotypes are not necessarily "bad," just "not as good" as the hybrids. Unless you're producing commercially and need to maximize yields, who cares? There's always more than we can use ourselves at harvest time.
Comment by doc Fri Jan 29 08:25:29 2016

Johnny's Cabbage--Storage #4, Johnny's Carmen Peppers. Tomatoes--I wish I could get seed for Early Cascade. a really great tomato. Fedco Seeds Have lots of good germinating open pollinated seeds, I think the best overall seed co out there.

A lot of disease resistance has to do with soil. Be sure to get enough Calcium in. read steve solomons the intelligent gardener. Pay attention to Cu and Zn. Ca and P help produce protein. K and N produce carbohydrates. Plant further apart if you have the room.

If you are not organic, use Growers Mineral Solutions, I use it and don't have to spray for potato bugs and I have loamy sand which doesn't hold much water or nutrients. The Growers solution has all the nutrients a plant needs.

That's what I know from 40 miles south of the canadian the adirondacks. We garden big time and use 5 tractors-- fords 8N, 3000, 4000; Case 311, Farmall Super A. Have a root cellar and corn crib.

Dave Rogers

Comment by David Rogers Sat Jan 30 06:13:05 2016

About Harmonie cuke seeds, I had copy and pasted this from somewhere on the internet, maybe from someone on

“Last summer, I set out to determine what I'd get if I saved seeds from a hybrid cucumber. Why? Because Harmonie is the world's most prolific and tasty cucumber and resists whatever blight tends to kill all other varieties on our farm in short order. But the seeds of the hybrid are expensive, so I didn't want to have to spend $12 on them each year. Thus the experiment to see what would happen if I saved some seeds... 95% of the cucumbers that I grew from my saved seeds turned out to look and act just like their parents. The plants that looked different were clearly that way because of hybridization with Muncher, an heirloom variety I was also trialing last year (but wasn't as impressed by). Sounds like, as long as I stick to growing Harmonie cucumbers, I can safely save seeds from this variety despite the fact that it's a hybrid. Success!”

Comment by Rebecca Tue Feb 16 14:21:43 2016
Rebecca --- That's pretty funny because your quote is actually from me. :-) However, after further experimentation, I was less pleased than I had been initially. Although the offspring looked like Harmonie, they didn't seem as prolific and blight-resistant. So I figured I'd go back to the original for a sure bet.
Comment by anna Tue Feb 16 14:28:03 2016

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