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What's in your Mailbox?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

The mail carrier is currently catching his breath after a hurried season of delivering holiday cards and packages. The many flower and seed catalogs will be the next thing showing up in our mailboxes courtesy of the post office. Starting in January, which is typical, now you can expect the catalogs you have requested and a bunch more you had not.

Each year every seed house is trying to outdo the others with offerings of bigger, better blooms, fruits or vegetables. With the growing trend of growing your own vegetables and fruits, that is not a bad thing at all. As you sit at the kitchen table and read the catalogs, your head may begin to spin a bit with all the descriptions and jargon that goes with it. Flower size and color are straightforward enough, it is the terms used to describe vigor, disease resistance and other terms that can be confusing. Here are a few explanations.

F1 Hybrid

F1 is the designation use to identify the first generation of plants produced by crossing two parent lines. These offspring often have more vigor, better disease resistance and yield more.

Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom varieties, which we have used for decades, when grown today, flower and set seed, usually come true- to-type when open pollinated. Heirloom plants are grown and seeds produced commercially in a controlled setting to ensure true-to-type offspring. Heirloom seeds are not automatically considered organic unless grown in that manner.

True –to-Type

Open-pollinated varieties or hybrids are uniform for important and obvious traits such as appearance and vigor, and after seed production, the next generation of seed is consistent with the previous one. For hybrids, both parents have similar dominant traits, so when crossed the F1 generation will look like and produce flowers and fruit consistent with the parents. Examples include heirloom varieties and commercial breeding lines.

Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are produced using certified organic methods including approved organic pesticides and other products and could be heirloom varieties as well as hybrids that are more modern.

Hybrid Seeds

Hybrid seeds are any seed cross-pollinated in a controlled or non-controlled environment, grown traditionally or using organic methods using parent lines. Hybrid seeds could be, organic or

Disease Resistance

Many of our hybrids have been bred to provide disease resistance that we have gardeners cannot prevent or would be difficult to control. This helps us reduce the amounts and kinds of fungicides applied to the plant or soil. For each family of vegetables or flowers, there will be different sets of initials. There will always be a chart or footnotes in the catalog describing these. An example would be for tomatoes. You should expect to see several sets of initials there (VFNT, TMV, FR, etc.). Plant breeders have provided resistance against more than 15 different Tomato diseases.

Gardeners should try a new variety or vegetable every year along with their favorites. Check out the new foliage shapes and colors of the many lettuces we now could grow. Look at the new colors of Bell peppers or Swiss chard. We now grow Beets and use the beet tops too. There are Watermelons that are just the size of cantaloupe.

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