Regionally Adapted Seed
The Secret of Great Gardening
Written by Petra Page Mann
When Heirloom Gardener asked me to write about the significance of regionally adapted seed for their Winter 2019 issue, the fact that such a story is of value to a nationally-distributed magazine gave me more than a sliver of hope for the world.
As a child in New York, I thought watermelons were an absolute waste of valuable garden space. I was a whimsical child, but still practical. With long, trailing vines yielding a single fruit and sometimes none, my anticipation was almost always unrequited. Every few years we’d give them another try, only to reach the same conclusion by September: We should have sown more tomatoes, more lettuce and more beets. Less watermelon.
I could not have been more wrong.
Like our reticent red peppers, eggplants lacking abundance, late-blooming dahlias and unenthusiastic peanuts, I simply needed different seeds to have different experiences. Sowing seeds adapted to your region makes all the difference.
Local Seed is the Heart of Local Food
The oaks growing on my farm in the Northeast are very different from the oaks growing in California.
If regionally adapted oak seed makes a difference, why not lettuce? Tomatoes? Life on Earth depends on everything becoming better adapted, in fact.
Just as local food tastes better, gardening is easier and more abundant when the seeds you sow are regionally adapted to thrive in your region.
There is, perhaps, no seed more regionally adapted than those you save yourself.
In the meantime, there are many extraordinary stewards who save and share their passion, understanding and seeds with you.
But first, let’s put on a wider lens.
A Brief History of Seed
Each seed tells the story of an entire life history, millions of years in the making. A few seeds, in a single generation, may travel the globe. But most will stay within their watershed and, most likely, their microclimate. In this way, seeds become profoundly adapted to place.
Agricultural seed tells an additional story–one of human relationship. For the last 10,000 years, these seeds have slowly adapted to place, spreading first on our backs, then by camel, then by boat. Fast forward to 2019: most seed companies offer seed from all over the world. How did this happen?