Lesson in Heirlooms

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by seedspreader, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    Hi all,

    I DIDN'T have time this year (we had just moved into this house in February) to plan and grow a big garden. My goal is to go all heirloom, but I don't know enough about them. My past garden experience has been the typical hybrid "burpee" type plants or starts of hybrids sold locally.

    Am I correct in understanding that an Heirloom plant is only self-fertile and won't/can't be hybridized? I mean if I get 12 varieties of heirloom tomatos next year will they cross and mess up my seeds for the next year or do I have to have some serious seperation between the two?

    I need a lesson in heirlooms from those who grow them exclusively. I am in NE Ohio my zone could be called 5.5

    Forgot to add that the small raised beds I DID grow are doing fabulous. My tomotoes are weeks ahead of others in the area and very big. I had scads of 5 year plus composted horse manure sitting around here.
     
  2. whiterock

    whiterock Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Heirlooms are generallyopen pollinated or self pollinated. Hybrids are the result of crossing the open pollinated varieties to develop a plant with (Hopefully) the best characteristics of both of the parents.

    Any open pollinated plants will cross, however some are unlikely to cross unless planted close to each other. If you separate your varieties you can still maintain the variety as pure.

    Distance varies according to the plant type. Tomatoes and beans for instance need only to be separated by a few yards, while corn needs a mile or more.
    Go to

    www.gardenweb.com

    and look at the heirloom board for lots of info.
    Ed
     

  3. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    Living in Ohio, how in the world would I ever grow Heirloom corn then??? I don't think it's possible to get a mile away from corn here.

    That was actually going to be one of my questions, I want to get some of the corn from Ken Sharabok or someone who got it from him for next year, but will it stay true to it's nature???
     
  4. whiterock

    whiterock Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It can be done. Adjusting planting dates so that your corn is ready before or after the hybrids is the easiest way.

    Other practices can become very complicated, very quickly. The plant breeders will plant 6 or 8 rows alternating the varieties to be crossed, then remove the top of the stalk ( male flower) and harvet the ears from those rows for hybrid seed.

    To keep a few plants pure for seed, use a paper liquer store bag over the developing ears and on male flower, when time to pollinate, move from male flower and immediately cove the ear this will allow those ears to produce ture seed. It's a form of artificial insemination for plants.

    See if you can find some old textbooks in agronomy or plant breeding. It's been over 30 years since I took those classes in college. Lots of ways to manually breed the plants to cross them or to keep them pure.

    ED
     
  5. whiterock

    whiterock Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another thing you can do is a google search for plant breeding techniques. I just did and there is a wealth of info on the net.
    Ed
     
  6. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You could try planting 8-10 rows of sunflowers in between and around the corn that will help stop the pollen spread.
     
  7. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    So how about tomatos, do those need to be spread all over God's green acres to maintain integrity?
     
  8. john#4

    john#4 Well-Known Member

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    Zeal,

    Get the book ‘Seed to Seed’ I got mine from seed savers exchange, I don’t have it any more, lost everything.
    This book is a bible. It just deals with pollination, how to use short distances, how to save and store.
    This is the only book you will need. It covers all vegetables.
    Joun#4
     
  9. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Zeal, generic suggestions for tomato variety spacing is 25 feet. That's due to a few of the smaller cherry and currant varieties being notorious for being able to cross with any other tomato. For most of your ordinary tomatoes, 10 to 15 feet is ample to assure almost 99% purity. Even at 5 feet, the odds are around 95% in favor of good seed. I go with the 25 feet for very special varieties which I want to be 100% pure. Cherry tomatoes are grown in containers so that I can keep them at least 10 to 15 feet away from any large variety. If you are growing some tomatoes just for seed, the sure-fire method would be to plant a triangle and save seeds only from fruit on the inside of the 3 plants.

    Martin