Growing Heritage seeds: The Heritage Seed Library.

Image courtesy of the Heritage Seed Library Facebook Group

Heritage plants are open pollinated varieties that have been grown for many years and usually passed down through families or groups – green heirlooms.

In 2020 I have decided to dedicate some space to growing heirloom vegetables; trialling seeds that are a little different and saving the seeds for my own stock. Early this year I signed up to the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) and was very excited when the seed list for the 2020 choices arrived in the post today.

The HSL is a charitable organisation that aims to conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely avaliable. Serving as a seed bank, they source rare varieties, grow these to increase the collection and then share seeds with members.

Commericalised growing has produced reliable varieties that produce high yields and good disease resistance. However, there is great cost involved in the trialling and legalities of listing new seed varieties so it often isn’t cost effective for seed companies to develop the range of heritage seed into a commerical supply. This means that variation in crops is lost year and year – unless hobbiests and chartiable organisations work to save it!

Open-pollinated simply means that pollination occurs by a natural mechanism (insect, birds, wind etc). A great diversity in plants can be produced increasing variation between plant populations thus allowing plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions. When saving seed it is important to ensure pollen is not shared within similar plant species as they will likely cross. This is fine if you wish to have a go at developing your own seed, but if you can isolate varieties you will keep a strain truer to the original heritage plant.

The membership at the HSL brings a choice of 6 varieties for an annual fee. These are my choices. I have chosen mainly beans. I am planning to increase my beans for drying as another aim for 2020!

Do you grow Heritage varieties? Do you save your own seed? Share your experiences! Join us on our Facebook group for some discussion!