Understanding Terminology in Seed Catalogs

F-1 or Hybrid–  Is a cross pollination of two plants generally taking the best and strongest traits from the parent plants.  A hybrid has many good qualities that are highly desirable such as:

Productivity-  produces more produce.  They will traditionally ripen all at once and need shorten growing time.

Disease Resistance-  more resistant to blights and other diseases.

Strength-  produces in bad weather or under less than ideal growing conditions.

Consistent-  same size with fewer blemishes.

Longevity-   holds up much longer.  longer shelf life.

Some of the not so great things about hybrids are that they lose flavor.  You can not save the seeds from them.  They won’t grow true the next year.


Open Pollinated –   Is a non hybrid that can reproduce itself and generally remain true.You can save the seeds

Heirloom–   Here is a word that is used a lot.  An heirloom seed is a seed that has been saved and passed down from generation to generation.  Has to be 50 years or older.  Pre WW2 usually.  All heirloom seeds are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated seeds are heirloom.  Some good traits in an heirloom seed are:

Stability-  they produce a large amount of seeds  Seeds can be saved and you will have consistent plants.  For example the tomato you grew this year will be the same you will get next providing optimal growing conditions of course.

Taste- heirlooms are more flavorful.

Disease Resistant- they have a long record. a stronger plant having proven itself over the years .

Varying sizes, shapes, and colors.

Some negatives about heirloom if you want to call it that.  Are they have individual sizes, shapes, and colors.  Are less productive meaning the produce less fruit and needs a longer growing time.


Here are a few more definitions you will hear a lot.

Annual– completes its life cycle in one growing season.

Biennial– completes its life cycle in two years.

Perennial–  a plant that needs more than two years to grow and will come back year after year.  if grow in the proper hardiness zone for that plant..

Certified Organic– produced without the use of chemicals.  it must be produced under very strict regulations and Certified by the USDA.

GMO or Genetically Modified Organism–  Mostly used in commercial applications only.

Determinate Tomato–  These are often tomatoes best for patio or containers.  typically the grow to about 4 to 5 feet tall  They tend to ripen all at once.  They will often ripen first in the growing season.  Great for canning.

Indeterminate Tomato–  these tomatoes grow tall anywhere from 6 to 20 feet tall.  they will produce all the way up to first frost.  Typically these will be your slicing and salad tomatoes.  great for canning also.