Early Girl hybrid tomatoes produce reliably and abundantly. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Hybrid veggie varieties can be great choice for the garden

Hybrid seeds often out-perform open pollinated

By Mary Lowther

Given that hybrid seeds can cost more than three times as much as open-pollinated seeds, are they worth it?

Hybrid seeds are not genetically modified; when plants with desired characteristics are intentionally bred, they are isolated from insects and wind and are hand-fertilized with each other to produce seeds that hopefully contain these characteristics to carry through to the next generation. When these seeds grow out and their flowers are also isolated and hand pollinated and prove to have these qualities, they have become “hybridized”, or inbred. Sometimes they have become so inbred that they are sterile and don’t produce seeds.

Hybrid seeds often out-perform open pollinated, exhibiting striking vigor, faster growth and tastier, more abundant yields. For example, one gardener harvested 280 one and a half pound “Better Boy” hybrid tomatoes from a single vine. “Melody” hybrid spinach produces early, prolific greens, and “Brock Imperial” hybrid asparagus sends up 30 per cent more spears that are thicker and more tender than standard, open pollinated varieties.

Hybrid varieties perform well for a variety of reasons. They usually have improved disease resistance, and can be designed to be more compact for today’s gardener with limited space. For example, “Little Gem” romaine grows only six inches tall and four inches around, yielding heavily when planted only six and a half inches apart. Because it also grows quickly, more plants can be grown in succession, increasing the harvest. Not all hybrids grow more quickly, though, so it pays to read the description. Our short summers dictate that crops quick to reach maturity will do best here, so early maturing hybrids may fill the bill.

One hybrid tomato that produces excellent tomatoes and viable seed every year for me is “Early Girl”. Next on my list is a hybrid spinach because I haven’t had much success with the open pollinated varieties.

Most hybrid seeds will strongly produce decent vegetables, while open pollinated may not. Decent storage allows the seeds to germinate well for several years, reducing the cost. Still, we are told that seed from these hybrids probably won’t grow true to the parent stock, if they grow at all.

Steve Solomon learned one way to skirt this problem by growing a similar, but open-pollinated variety alongside a row of hybrids. Both rows developed seeds that Solomon harvested and re-sowed the following year, alongside another row of the hybrid. Both rows again developed seeds that Solomon kept re-sowing each year and now has open-pollinated seeds carrying the same qualities as the hybrid.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan’s 49ers just miss fourth Grover Cup

Since the 49ers were founded, the team had never lost a Tony Grover Cup final

Mary Lowther column: Contemplating the compost heap

David made me a three-bin compost system

Sarah Simpson Column: Mistakes will happen but kindness prevails

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I… Continue reading

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

New ACT team will help Cowichan residents struggling with mental health issues

The Cowichan Valley ACT team will be one of six new teams being created across the province.

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read