What are heirloom seeds and what are the benefits of using them in your garden?
When starting our gardens, one of the first purchases we make is seeds. We may not think twice about where we source our seeds from, but it’s actually one of the most important decisions we make for our gardens and planet.
Like many things, seeds have been exploited by modern farming practices for decades. The goal for conventional growers has been to produce and modify seeds that turn into a crop that is pest- and disease-resistant, can be shipped long distances without spoiling, and are hardy for the handling processes. Of course, they’re trying to produce the best of the best, but there are many disadvantages to hybrid seeds.
Hybrid seeds are artificially created by crossing two or more varieties of a certain plant. The biggest disadvantage is that you can’t save the seed—as in, it produces fruit for that year, and then goes dry. This is designed so that you buy more seeds year after year. Another downfall is that even though these crops are resistant to pests or diseases, they’re often not chosen for their taste.
Enter Heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means they will produce plants roughly identical to their parents and you can use them year after year. Choosing heirloom seeds connects you to generations of growers and farmers, and also exposes you to some really neat varieties like blue potatoes, purple carrots and deep black tomatoes. Fruits and vegetables used to be so diverse in colour, shape and flavour, which means they also used to be diverse in nutrients.
We’ve lost a lot of our heirloom seeds due to modern seed farming, but there’s still hope. There are some amazing Canadian companies that are actively working on preserving genetic biodiversity and saving our rare plant varieties. You can be part of the heirloom community too and continue the legacy in your own garden. This list is broken up into provinces so that you can choose seeds that will be most compatible with your growing zone, area and climate.Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash
- The Seed Company: High-quality vegetables, herbs, and flower seeds (some heirloom available)
- PEI Seed Alliance: Grown by small sustainable farmers, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds
- Eureka Garlic: Seed garlic grown with no chemicals. Can be reached at (902) 836-5180
- Vesseys: Not exclusively organic, but have organic and heirloom varieties available
- Annapolis Seeds: Rare and diverse organic and heirloom seeds, maintaining Maritime bioregion
- La Finquita: Cold hardy greens, herbs, wild edibles
- The Incredible Seed Company: Open-pollinated vegetables, herbs, flowers, tree seeds and more
- Hope Seeds: Non-GMO, untreated, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds
- Revival Seeds: Organically-grown, open-pollinated vegetable and flower varieties
- Corn Hill Nursery: Hardy fruits, shrubs and trees, vines, and flowers
- Mapple Farm: Unique heirloom vegetables
- Atlantic Pepper Seeds: Heirloom specialty pepper varieties that are suited for colder climates
- Solana Seeds: Small seed company offering heirloom and rare vegetable, flower and exotic plant seeds
- Tourne-Sol Co-operative Farm: Ecocert-certified organic and heirloom, open-pollinated seeds
- Stems Flower Farm: Selection of flower and vegetable seeds
- Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds: Organic heirloom and certified organic farm-selected seeds
- Kitchen Table Seed House: Certified organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds (with heirloom options)
- Terra Edibles: Organic, open-pollinated, (some) heirloom varieties of flower and vegetable seeds
- Urban Harvest: Certified organic seeds and seedlings, promote ecological diversity
- Matchbox Garden Seed Co.: Certified organic, open-pollinated, rare and heirloom seeds
- The Cottage Gardener: Organic heirloom seed-house and plant nursery, non-GMO
- Heritage Harvest Seed: Heirloom/heritage seeds, open-pollinated, non-hybrid, untreated
- Mandy’s Greenhouse: Heirloom and heritage vegetable seeds
- Wildrose Heritage Seed Company: Open-pollinated, GMO-free, untreated heirloom seeds
- A’bunadh Seeds: Short-season open-pollinated and heirloom seeds
- Casey’s Heirloom Tomatoes: Open-pollinated tomato seeds
- McKenzie Seeds: Flower and vegetable seeds (heirloom available)
- Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company: Preserving and restoring native Canadian wildflowers with seeds that are hardy to survive prairie winters
- Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds: Certified organic seeds for sprouts and microgreens
- Prairie Garden Seed: Collection of ancient grain seeds and a set of open-pollinated vegetable and flower seeds.
- Bradley Creek Garlic Farms: Specialize in certified organic garlic
- Brother Nature Organic Seeds: Organic, heirloom and heritage vegetable, herb and flower seeds
- Eternal Seed: 350 varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds and 80 flower and herb varieties
- Eagleridge Seeds: Endangered heirloom seeds suited for northern and temperate climates
- Rasa Creek Farm: Organic seed garlic
- Salt Spring Seeds: Open-pollinated, untreated, non-GMO heirloom and heritage seeds
- Sunshine Farm: Organic, heirloom seeds
- West Coast Seeds: Ethical, untreated, organic and heirloom seeds