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Term Definitions


A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) provide a class of legal ownership protection and ultimately exist to create profit for their owners.  The goal of the mainstream seed industry is to force growers to purchase new seed every year. They hope to break thousands of years of the agricultural practice of farmers saving seed.

Heirloom Seed

The definition varies from person to person, company to company. An heirloom plant variety is one that has been carefully preserved, and handed along from generation to generation for generally 50 years. At a minimum, an heirloom variety must be, open-pollinated seed, not an unstable hybrid,  and certainly not genetically modified!


A plant resulting from the cross mating of distinctly different parental types. If a gardener save seeds, their resulting crops will not be true-to-type and will exhibit various traits from its parents.  Many of the outcomes pursued by hybrid breeders are aimed at enabling industrial-scale production, such as the ability to withstand rough mechanical harvesting, or heavy pesticide usage. Other outcomes aim to appeal to retail seed buyers through superlative visual traits, or extreme sweetness. Hybridization has been highly successful when judged by commercial profitability, but that success has come at the cost of other plant traits that have been traded away in the pursuit of "bigger, brighter, sweeter, unbruisable and chemical-compatible" cultivars. Nutrient value, natural hardiness, natural pest resistance, and gene pool diversity have been given short shrift in the process. Even flavor has been compromised where it was selectively incompatible with traits deemed essential for large scale production, or less lucrative than traits presenting flashy eye-appeal. Plant hybridization has proliferated over the last several decades, to the point where commercial seed catalogs today are predominantly filled with hybrid seed choices.  All seeds at Clear Creek Seeds are Non-Hybrid. 

Open-Pollinated Seed

A seed which produces offspring just like the parent plants. Open-pollinated seed allows growers to harvest and save seed for the following year.

Heirloom gardeners are, of course, aware that the term "open- pollination" is a bit of a misnomer, because there is nothing at all open about the pollination of many heirloom vegetables. Take squash and pumpkins, for example. They cannot be left to pollinate each other willy-nilly, or the resulting offspring will be mongrels. While some may be interesting, the original type will be lost. Like the squash family, the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and their kin) also cross readily, as do several other vegetables. Gardeners who hope to save seed of such vegetables have to isolate either the plants or their flowers to prevent such unwanted crossings.

Organic, Certified

Certified Organic refers to products grown under guidelines as mandated by the National Standards on Organic Agriculture. To become certified, growers and processors must keep very detailed records, adhere to the standards, have soil and facilities tested, keep copious records, and pay certification fees and duties (effectively taxes).

Hardening Off

Hardening off is the process of adapting a plant that has been grown under protective shelter - indoors or in a greenhouse - to full outdoor exposure. Over a week or more, the plant is exposed to increasing intervals of time outdoors so that when it is planted in the garden it can make the transition with a minimum of transplant shock.

Determinate tomatoes

Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet).  They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die.  They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or "suckered" as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container (minimum size of 5-6 gallon). Examples are: Rutgers, Roma, Celebrity (called a semi-determinate by some), and Marglobe.


Indeterminate tomatoes

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season. They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. The need for it and advisability of doing it varies from region to region. Experiment and see which works best for you. Because of the need for substantial support and the size of the plants, indeterminate varieties are not usually recommended as container plants. Examples are: Big Boy, Beef Master, most "cherry" types, Early Girl, most heirloom varieties, etc.


Pole bean plant

Pole plants produce beans throughout the growing season on a vine that continues reaching taller.  Pole varieties will produce ample deep green beans throughout the summer up until frost, on 6- to 8-foot-tall plants.  They’ll need a tall teepee, stake or trellis-type support to provide the best harvest.  Pick ripe beans often to keep the plant producing throughout the season.


Bush bean plant

Bush beans grow on a compact plant but the beans mature all at once. For those who plan to can their green beans, bush varieties are the most convenient.