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These days, the seeds on display in garden centres are usually a mix of F1 hybrids and traditionals. And F1 seeds are invariably priced a quid or a couple of quid extra.

My question to expert gardeners is: when is it worth paying the extra money for F1s? Or rather, given that (I assume, for most of us) our time, energy and effort is more valuable than a few extra pounds spent on seeds, when is it ever not worth paying extra for F1s?

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Usually, if you are careful enough, you can control the soil conditions, nutrients, water and lighting pretty precisely. However, the differences in the genetic makeup of the plant is totally up for a game of dice. It is when that little difference matters to you, that you should get an F1.

For example, if you're a championship show rose grower, you would probably care for that little bit. You'd want your roses to all bloom in time, at the same time and look pretty consistent too, which is pretty much guaranteed with an F1, if you don't bungle up the rest of the variables.

If you're growing plants commercially and you want them to all be ready before a certain time (e.g., pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving in the US), you'd probably want to take the safer route and get F1s. However, if you're planning on continuing with them and propagating those plants, you should note that F2s are unstable. You probably already knew that. So that means getting F1s every year.

Normally, these are of no concern to the average gardener. Most people really couldn't care less if the package said that the roses were 4" in diameter and got ones that were only 3" or if their pumpkins matured a week or two late. But some might. If you fall in that group, you might want to get F1s.

Essentially, it all boils down to "Is it worth it to you?"

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i don't care about showing. but i do care about getting good germination and not wasting my time with seeds which only perform patchily. i thought that F1s offered better germination and better overall performance –  Tea Drinker Nov 23 '11 at 12:42
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@TeaDrinker: I don't know of better germination being a benefit of F1. (I don't know that it's not a benefit, though.) I would bet that germination is going to be affected more by age, storage, handling, and planting than by F1 vs OP. AFAIK, F1 varieties usually offer specific attributes that are an advantage over OP. E.g. a given F1 tomato variety might offer disease resistance and 5x more lycopene; or a given F1 pumpkin variety might be pure white with smooth skin. (And +1 to what yoda said.) –  bstpierre Nov 23 '11 at 14:02
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