If this is a new concept for you then let me take a moment to explain what I mean. Oh and if this isn’t new to you then feel free to skip ahead. Locally adapted plants refer to plants that have become used to your local conditions. This means they survive better than newly introduced varieties. This would typically be the species that are native to an area but new species can adapt as well. We see this when new species are introduced (either on purpose or by mistake) and they thrive and in some cases can become invasive.
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Before this becomes too dark, let’s bring this back to the discussion at hand. Now it’s important to note that we really can’t even have this conversation without two keep components:
- You need to grow open-pollinated (preferably heirloom) plants
- You need to save your own seeds
So to properly address these two points I would refer you to my post on 5 Reasons you need to grow heirloom seeds as well as my video on how to save your own seeds which I will post below.
So just so we are all on the same page, you won’t be able to locally adapt your plants unless you are saving their seeds. Why? Well, say the seeds you bought came from California, USA and that you live in Ontario, Canada like I do. Those my friends are some seriously different climates! So seeds that were produced there will be locally adapted to Californian pests, climates and diseases. This is great if you live in California, not so useful in Ontario.
So with all that out of the way let’s look at the top 4 reasons why you as a micro homesteader should locally adapt the plants you grow. This is one of those small but mighty things. So even though the list isn’t long, I hope that these 4 points resonate with you and that you take up this practice in your own micro homestead.
1 – Fewer pests
When plants become locally adapted they are better able to withstand the pests that are local to your area. Why? Well, it works like this. When you grow the seeds you bought, some will do better than others. This is partially due to the seed, genetics and all that jazz. But also it is due in part to you keeping the seeds from the plants that are strongest. If your plant is killed off by the pests in your garden then there are no seeds to save. The magic happens when one plant survives the pests and you save the seeds from it. This means the genes in this plant are better adapted to your pests. So when you plant the seeds in the next year there is a better chance that those plants will survive again.
2 – Fewer diseases
Much the same can be said about the diseases plants face. If you live in Canada like me and you are buying seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds which is located in Missouri, USA there are going to be some significant differences in climate, plant diseases and pests. So when I take those seeds and plant them some may succumb to differences in climate and the diseases it presents. By saving seeds from the strongest plants I select the plants with the best genetics for MY location. Over the years this can have a dramatic effect!
3 – Increased yields
This one is a by-product of points 1 and 2. By savings the seeds from the strongest plants that can withstand your local pests and plant diseases you ultimately end up with increased yields. There is something truly satisfying in knowing that you are building your own personal seed bank of seeds that will thrive in your garden!
4 – Less money spent
One of the things I love about heirloom seeds is that you can save them. This is one of my 5 reasons you need to grow heirloom seeds. And if you’re saving seeds then you don’t need to buy them. But that doesn’t stop me from buying other varieties, but in theory, this point is sound LOL. If you are saving your seeds (and not buying loads more) then you are saving money and growing food, which is also saving you money and is WAY better for you than the stuff from the grocery store.
One thing to keep in mind if you are saving seeds is to use blossom bags for things like tomatoes and peppers. This is to prevent cross-pollination, which is important so that your seeds produce plants that are true to type. For things like squash, you can gently tie the flowers closed after you hand-pollinate (if you want to know more you can check out this video on hand pollinating squash).
So this is really a post about the benefits of savings seeds! I hope that this encourages you to save your own heirlooms seeds. It is such a gratifying process. I leverage it a lot to build my seed bank by pairing it with participating in seed exchanges. I can take a single seed and turn it into many more! It’s amazing to grow a plant and feed your family. But it’s even more special when you grow that plant and feeds your family from a seed you saved from a previous year. So there you have it! 4 reasons to use locally adapted plants in your micro homestead.