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University of California
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Heirloom Seeds

Happy New Year 2012 to everyone! The parties are over, the leftovers are gone, and the weather is a little gray. What is a gardener to do? Well, there are some very wonderful seed catalogs available to spark your imagination and help you plan for a new year. They may even offer you the opportunity to plan for a spring or summer vacation centered on gardening events.

Two new catalogs for me both offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. An open-pollinated (OP) variety is one that breeds true from seed, meaning the seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring with the same characteristics. OP seed is produced by allowing the natural flow of pollen between different plants of the same variety. Heirloom varieties are OP varieties with a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group. They have evolved by natural or human selection over time.

A hybrid variety, on the other hand, does not breed true from seed. Hybrid seed is produced by crossing two different parent varieties of the same species. Hybrids do not remain true in generations after the initial cross and cannot be saved from generation to generation unchanged. So if you like to save seeds from your favorite flowers or super sweet tomatoes, this is good to know.

As I was looking through the beautiful pictures in Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I noticed that Crane melons were in each catalog. These melons bring back memories of my childhood in Sonoma County. The melons were introduced in the 1920’s by Oliver Crane whose family farmed six generations near Santa Rosa, California. The melon is a pear-shaped Crenshaw-type fruit that grows 3-5 pounds. The yellow green skin is covered in dark freckles and is ready for picking when the freckles turn orange. The light orange flesh has a great sweet flavor and takes 75-85 days to produce. Perhaps they will ripen even faster under Solano sun.

To get copies of the Seed Savers Exchange catalog from Decorah, Iowa go to www.seedsavers.org. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds can be found at www.rareseeds.com. Although Baker Creek is based out of Mansfield, Missouri, there is a seed store in Petaluma, called the Seed Bank, originally the first Bank of America building in town. Both catalogs have calendars of garden events for 2012 and even some free webinars that don’t require travel.

 

Posted on Monday, January 2, 2012 at 1:10 PM

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