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

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.


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

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: It’s the highway’s fault!

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design.

Moira Mercer spent her summer riding her e-bike around Cowichan Lake and beyond, collecting any empties she found along the way. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

Staff meetings can be difficult when everyone has his own agenda. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Garden additions at request of staff

I’ll sow the catnip in flats on the seed table inside

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: Snowballs fights and dead spiders

Even if it doesn’t end up how we hope, it’s the trying that matters most.

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Most Read