Since I don’t know much about heirloom seeds plus I love learning about gardening and supporting home-based businesses, I asked Mary of Back to Basics and Mary’s Heirloom Seeds to share her expertise on heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are vital to maintaining our food supply. The potato blight famine in Ireland in the 1840’s was the result of depending on one potato variety from South America which wasn’t able to resist disease in the Irish countryside. It can happen today if we aren’t careful.
Hi! My name is Mary, and I blog over at Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen. I also run an online heirloom seed company, Mary’s Heirlooms Seeds. We try to live as sustainably and frugally as possible. Growing our own organic produce and helping others grow their own is the simplest way to save money and live “green.”
Have you ever grown your own kitchen garden? It can be as simple as a few herbs in a container or as elaborate as turning your backyard into a food production machine. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to dig up your lawn or spend hours planting and pulling weeds to reap the benefits of your own kitchen garden.
Heirloom Seed varieties are a must for any garden. An heirloom seed has been saved and passed down from generation to generation. These seeds have been carefully cultivated and are considered a great value to the recipient. Some say an heirloom variety is 50 years old or more. Some heirloom varieties have been passed down for over 100 years and others for over 400 years.
Hybrids and GMO varieties are not heirlooms. These have been genetically “tweaked.” We call GMO varieties “franken-seeds,” and they are not welcome in our house OR our garden. I have written about GMOs many times.
Heirloom varieties are often called rare because they aren’t “mainstream,” and if you do find them in the store (as produce), they’re expensive! Heirloom seeds are not necessarily organic, but most companies, like Mary’s Heirloom Seeds, state that their seeds are organic and un-treated. Why untreated? Some companies use a chemical anti-bacterial to keep their seeds from growing mold. Personally, I stay away from treated seeds. I don’t need added chemicals thank you very much!
My top 5 favorite veggies to grow are Tomatoes, Peppers, Lettuce, Cucumbers and Eggplant. (Editor: check out Mary’s notes on companion planting for each vegetable.)
That’s not to say that these are the easiest to grow but they’re my favorite. In my opinion, the easiest plants to grow in a kitchen garden are greens: Extra Dwarf Pak Choy Cabbage, Pak Choy Cabbage, Little Gem and Tom Thumb Lettuce.
Peppers are a must for a kitchen garden. Think about how much the grocery store sells certain produce. My local store charges $3.99 for peppers. That’s CRAZY! For $4, you can get a packet of pepper seeds and grow hundreds of pepper plants by saving seeds from each harvest.
Tomatoes may not be the easiest garden item to grow, but if you use the companion planting method, you should have a healthier, more abundant harvest. Companion Planting is based around the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another. For example, planting Marigolds, Basil, and Borage around Tomatoes will help deter tomato hornworms, repel flies and mosquitoes, and attract bees and butterflies.
Depending on your tastes, Radishes are a great addition as they are ready in as little as 23 days.
The easiest herb to grow is Basil. I have grown Fine Verde, Genovese Basil, and Dark Purple Opal Basil in the garden, and the recipes I have made are spectacular! (Editor’s Note: I love growing basil, too, for making pesto. I don’t believe you can have too much pesto, but…if you’re overwhelmed, freeze it in ice cube trays.)
New Arrivals include 2 more varieties of Swiss Chard: Fordhook Giant and Vulcan. These are a must in our kitchen garden since we can snip off a few outer leaves as needed, and the plant continues to grow. I make a tasty Garden Veggie Egg Bake with homegrown ingredients and Chard is perfect for this creation.
Additional links for getting started
If you have additional questions on how to get started or which varieties to choose please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org