Although they're often organic too, heirloom seeds don't have to be. In many cases, heirloom plants meet the guidelines of the USDA National Organic Program because they are generally grown by small-scale gardeners who have adopted organic farming practices. Some heirloom seeds or plants are organic, but not all heirloom seeds or plants are organic. Whether a plant is organic or not depends on its growing conditions, whereas heirloom seeds will remain traditional varieties regardless of whether they are grown in organic or inorganic conditions.
The way a heirloom seed is grown as it becomes a plant and produces its harvest determines whether or not the resulting plant and its fruits or vegetables qualify as organic. An important thing to consider for heirloom plants is whether they are organic or non-organic. In most cases, heirloom plants are organic because they are usually only used by small-scale gardeners who don't use pesticides or other harmful chemicals. However, there may be minor cases where chemicals are involved, since traditional plants do not always have an innate level of protection similar to that provided by hybrid plants and transgenic plants against diseases and pests.
Remember, heirloom refers to the inheritance of a plant, while organic refers to a cultivation practice. Heirloom seeds grow the same as normal seeds, but are classified differently in recognition of their history. For example, if you buy Bonny Best tomato seeds, they are labeled “heirloom” because the variety was originally introduced in 1908 and cultivated, the seeds were saved, and passed down from generation to generation. Organic farmers can use non-organic seeds if there are no organic seed varieties available to purchase in their region.
The viable seeds you need to collect will fall to the bottom of the jar, and the bad seeds will float upwards, along with the pulp and other additional plant material. So if you want to grow that strain at a later time, you'll need to buy new seeds instead of growing the seeds you saved from that plant. They're fun to read and add to the mystique of heirloom seeds, but there are many advantages to planting heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers in your garden. Unlike hybrid or transgenic seeds, heirloom seeds produce plants that are true to type, meaning that the plants are very similar to the parent plant, making it easy for gardeners to predict what the next generation of plants will look like.
Whether or not organic seeds are a better option depends on exactly what a gardener is looking for from their seeds and plants. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad process, nor does it mean that heirloom seeds aren't good value for money. West Coast seeds (specializing in garlic varieties) in British Columbia, and Florabunda seeds (they have some unusual flowers) are two other companies that are also good. Most of the time, heirloom seeds have been grown under organic conditions, although this is not always the case.
If you believe that the preservation of cultivars is an important effort for the future, then relics are a good option, as long as you save and distribute the seed. The only way to verify if a seed is heirloom or not is to check the variety and when it was first introduced. In addition, there is another category of cultivars that could be classified as “commercial heirloom seeds”, cultivars that were introduced many generations ago and were of such merit that they have been saved, maintained and transmitted even if the seed company has closed the business or in some other way has stopped working line. Because traditional plants are open pollinated, gardeners can save seeds from their gardens for replanting the following season, confident that the next generation of plants will be true to type.
Because relics are ancient, many of these seed varieties have interesting stories associated with them. Later Generations Seed from open pollinated plants or relics can be saved, and when sown they will produce plants that are essentially identical to the parent plant. .