Gardening, Urban Homesteading and Self-Reliance

Hybrid is Not a Dirty Word

I love seeds! There’s nothing sweeter on a cold and dreary Winter day than to peruse pages and pages of perfectly photographed vegetables glowing with health and not a sign of a blemish anywhere. They are a welcome reminder that the season of life and abundance is on it’s way even if it is spitting snow outside now. I pore over new varieties and choose far too many things for WeeHavyn’s tiny area. I will deal with realities later….now is the quiet season of hopes and dreams.

Saving seed has come into fashion lately. The abundance of news about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and seeds with a “suicide gene” has caused a general sense of nervousness. The human race instinctively knows how important these plants are to our continued survival. Many articles on saving seed have been written carefully instructing us all to purchase only open pollinated, preferably heirloom, seeds for saving. While this is good advice, it tends to discount any value hybrids offer.

It is important that people understand the difference between hybrid plants and GMO’s, as well as their purposes. A GMO is created when genetic material from one species is transferred to another completely unrelated species in a laboratory. This is something that could NEVER happen in nature (think a cow breeding with a tree). The most common purposes of GMO’s are resistance to the herbicide glyophosphate (Round-up Ready) and production of a natural insecticide (BT corn). The genetic code for these products (I don’t really consider them plants) is privately owned and saving seeds from any of these will quickly get you in legal hot water.

A hybrid is a cross between two varieties of the same species of plant (think black beans crossed with white beans to make grey beans). The result of this cross often has an advantage over both it’s parents. Perhaps it’s larger, or resistant to drought or disease. You can save seeds from hybrids and plant them, but some of the resulting plants will revert back to the traits of the original parents. However; if you continue to plant these seeds generation after generation, only selecting those that have the hybrid traits, eventually they will all breed true and a new open pollinated variety has just been created with all the desirable traits of that hybrid.

So if you’re dying to try that new, super cool looking purple cauliflower, don’t let the fact that it’s a hybrid put you off. Grow it anyway. Save the seed if you want. With a little persistence, you can name the results after your favorite crazy aunt.


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  1. Gene Abernathy

    Dear half-pint:
    I appreciate your brief and simple piece “Hybrid is not a Dirty Word.” I gained a new insight or two. Thanks.
    On another subject: I nave not seen on your pages a Contact button for getting in touch with you–if it is there somewhere I have overlooked it so I’ll try this way and hope I get a response from you about a matter.

    Specifically I’d like a few more details and thoughts about your emitter tubing irrigation of your strawberry barrels (made from 55 gallon drums).

    Generally, what is your watering cycle–how many minutes on and how many hours off and does it take to actually achieve optimal even moisture distribution all the way down to the bottom of the barrel? I realize irrigation timing will vary depending on the climate and weather. Here in northwest Arkansas my climate and weather is much the same as yours in Missouri.

    I built a strawberry barrel following your instructions–very time and labor consuming. My crop was nearly a total failure, partly because my manual top watering with a watering can by hand just did not suffice–the potting soil in the lower two thirds of the barrel eventually became deadly dry. Since I’m determined to grow my own strawberries to avoid the toxic store-bought kind I’ve got to get this watering thing perfected. A timer-controlled emitter system such as yours seems the way to go.

    Do you think burying a second emitter loop about halfway down in the barrel would be worthwhile?

    To save a lot of time and labor required in building another strawberry barrel from a 55 gallon plastic drum I’m now building a strawberry cage tower from fencing wire–the 2-inch X 4-inch grid kind, and 5-feet high. I’m making the cage about 20-inches in diameter. The inside of the cage is simply lined with landscape weed barrier cloth to imprison the potting soil. This can be put together in probably a tenth of the time required for the plastic barrel construction and costs very little for the materials, especially when one already has them left-over from projects these materials were actually made for. I’m going to install emitter tubing loops inside the cage, buried in the potting soil–one loop at the top, a second loop about 1/3 way down and a third loop about 2/3 way down. I realize I’ll have to get the timed irrigation cycle just right to avoid harmful over watering, The plants are installed in the cage all around and up and down simply by cutting small slits in the weed-barrier between the wire stays.

    I’m hoping to hear from you with your more detailed thoughts on the emitter irrigation system for both the barrel and the cage.

    Thanks again. Gene Abernathy


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