Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland is my go-to book when I’m planning what to grow in the allotment. It gives excellent advice on varieties that cope well with the colder climes north of the border – in windy, frosty, shady conditions. While the RHS website and Gardeners World are fantastic too, I generally find they cater more for gardeners in England, and the south at that.
Last year, I chose the varieties that I best liked the description of (colour, hardiness, taste), but this year, with new-found knowledge of the f1 hybrid vs open-pollinated seeds debate, I’m making a conscious effort to opt for heritage varieties instead.
Here’s my reasons why:
- Sustainability: I like the idea of collecting the seeds from the veggies I grow this year and using them again next year. By doing this over the years you can help the vegetables adapt to local conditions where they are grown and eventually increase your yields. What’s not to like about that?
- Taste: New, F1 varieties are often developments and/or crosses of older varieties, bred for greater reliability and resistance to disease. Apparently flavour can often be lost in that process. If I’m growing my own I want to make sure I’m growing the tastiest.
- Cost: my mum recently recommended I visit the Real Seeds website, and I was amazed to see how cheap heritage seeds are in comparison to h1 hybrid varieties, and how many more seeds you get! As a frugal Scot, this is certainly a good selling point.
- History and heritage: historically thousands of different fruit and vegetable varieties were grown on a small scale for people who lived off the land. In my mind it would be terrible if these varieties became extinct because we were all using new h1 hybrids. How amazing would it be to grow vegetables that you can then pass on through the generations – to your children and your grandchildren?
All that being said, I’m certainly not boycotting hybrid seeds. According to RHS advice, these can produce bigger plants, resist disease and can be more robust – incorporating the best of both worlds. And quite frankly, I need as much help as I can get in the allotment!