What are heirloom seeds?

An increasingly popular style of gardening, using heirloom seeds to grow vegetables is perfect for gardeners who like fresh, healthy home-grown produce, but what are they and why should you use them?

What are heirloom seeds?

Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down through generations of a plant because their produce is valued for their flavour, productivity, hardiness or adaptability.

Why use heirloom seeds?

Heirloom seeds can be used to grow many different types of plants, from vegetables and fruits to a large range of flowers. The benefit of growing heirloom vegetables from seeds is that the produce may have unique colours, textures or tastes that are hard to produce in large quantities.

Another reason why using heirloom seeds is a good idea is that, like when propagating, you can save money by using the seeds from plants that you already have.

Are heirloom seeds organic or GMO?

A common misconception is that all heirloom seeds are organic. While many varieties are organic, some heirloom seeds may be produced utilising fertilisers or pesticides so it’s best to check with the producers of the seed.

However, one thing that you can be sure of is that heirloom seeds aren’t GMO (genetically modified) produce. That’s because genetically modifying a seed is the opposite of what an heirloom seed is – a seed that is passed down through generations of the fruit due to positive characteristics.

The difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds

Hybrid seeds are produced by crossing two genetically different varieties of seeds together to gain positive traits from both plants. This differs from heirloom seeds, which are created through open-pollination. That means they have been pollinated naturally, either by bees, birds, insects, the wind or by using seeds.

Growing heirloom vegetables

Heirloom seeds are ideal for growing at home or in small market gardens. Some common vegetables that grow well from heirloom seeds include varieties of tomatoes, capsicums, pumpkins and potatoes.

When planting heirloom seeds, there isn’t any difference to any other vegetable. Prepare your soil by adding some compost to it. Then dig a small hole for the seed, pop it in a couple of inches below the surface and cover it back up. Make sure you compact the soil to remove any air from the hole. Then you can add a liquid fertiliser and water liberally.

Get planting

Check out our great range of seeds and plants online or at your local Bunnings.

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Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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