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

Original drums recovered amid offers to replace stolen Chemainus church set

Chemainus United Church grateful for actions of a caring community

Shawnigan Lake’s Kubica gets 25 to life for murder in California

Former Shawnigan Lake man convicted of killing woman in 1990

Who’s running in Cowichan?

A list of Cowichan candidates for the upcoming provincial election

Police seek help in naming Cowichan farmstand theft suspect

Video captured man prying cash box out stand on Norcross Road

Duration of Tour de Rock stop in Chemainus much shorter than usual

Four alumni riders don’t get to come for breakfast in COVID year

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians not following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

Most Read