Organic Seeds, Non-GMO Seeds and Heirloom Seeds
A guide to help you choose between companies selling organic seeds onlineA seed glossary for the home gardener
Certified Organic Seeds
Organic seeds are harvested from certified organic crops. The seeds may be a hybrid or heirloom variety. Organic farmers must seek out organic seed in order to qualify for USDA Organic certification. If they can't find organic vegetable seed or organic herb seed they're allowed to use conventional, untreated seed.
An heirloom is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination. Heirloom seeds are considered to be passed down from prior generations of plants that have been cultivated for their positive traits.
Open pollination is pollination by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms. The seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those plants. Breeding is uncontrolled and the pollen (male parent) source is unknown, open pollination may result in plants that vary widely in genetic traits. Open pollination may increase biodiversity. Our organic seeds are open-pollinated unless labeled as hybrid.
Hybrid seed is produced by manually cross-pollinated plants. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance, and so forth. Hybrid seed cannot be saved, as the seed from the first generation of hybrid plants does not reliably produce true copies. Therefore, new seed must be purchased for each planting. Being a hybrid seed does not mean that these plants are genetically engineered.
Open pollination is the key to seed saving. Plants that reproduce through natural means tend to adapt to local conditions over time. They evolve as reliable performers, particularly in their localities. Your local Master Gardeners can be an excellent resource with more information on any seed savers exchanges.
Determinate types bear a full crop all at once and top off at a specific height; they're often good choices for container growing. Preferred by commercial growers who want to harvest a whole field at one time, or home growers interested in canning.
Indeterminate cultivars develop into vines that never top off and continue producing until killed by frost. This is a favorite of organic home gardeners who want ripe fruit throughout the season.
Vegetables, Herbs and Flowers by USDA growing zone
Our products highlight the growing zones where they are likely to grow best, but conditions in your garden or home can make a large impact.
Safe Seed Pledge
As one of a select number of seed companies to focus on organic or sustainably grown seed, we have signed the Safe Seed Pledge. You will not find any GMO (genetically modified) seeds, nor seeds that are treated with fungicides. We also stock as many heirloom and open-pollinated seeds as possible, to help farmers and gardeners continue growing for generations to come. Please review our organic seed catalog online, and ask your local garden center about carrying our seed product in your neighborhood. You can also find a large selection of our seed starting supplies in our website.
More information on organic certification can be found on our blog here.