Seed-Buying Tips from a Professional Seedsman


| 1/13/2015 3:57:00 PM


The Seed Industry’s Annual Cycle

Like the crops you grow at home, most commercially available seeds are planted in the spring, grow during the summer, and are harvested and cleaned in the fall. After cleaning and processing, the seeds are tested for germination and purity to insure they meet certain quality standards. At this point they enter the distribution network, being sold to the seed companies whose names you know so well – the companies from which you buy your seeds.

This schedule is not hard and fast, and there can be delays in the processing and cleaning that lapse into the new year which delay the entry of particular seed varieties into the marketplace. Almost everyone who has ordered seeds in the winter has encountered back-ordered items at one time or another. This isn’t because your seed purveyor is careless or negligent. It usually means that the company that produces those seeds – where they originate - simply hasn’t released them yet. Be patient when this occurs. By and large everyone in the seed business is hard working and sincere but inevitably there can be delays and lapses in production.

The Federal Seed Law

The other critical factor that affects the quality of the seeds you buy is the Federal Seed Law. This law regulates commerce in the sale of seeds, and is of particular importance because it requires that vegetable seeds meet certain germination standards. A key provision of these germination standards is the requirement that seeds must be tested every 15 months to insure that the seeds continue to meet minimum germination requirements. If they do not, they cannot legally be sold.

Here is a summary of the minimum germination requirements for our most common vegetable varieties:

• Artichoke: 60
• Asparagus: 70
• Asparagus bean: 75
• Bean, garden:70
• Bean, lima: 70
• Bean, runner: 75
• Beet: 65
• Broadbean: 75
• Broccoli: 75
• Brussels sprouts: 70
• Burdock, great: 60
• Cabbage:75
• Cardoon: 60
• Carrot: 55
• Cauliflower: 75
• Celeriac: 55
• Celery: 55
• Chard, Swiss: 65
• Chicory: 65
• Chinese cabbage: 75
• Chives: 50
• Citron: 65
• Collards: 80
• Corn, sweet: 75
• Corn salad: 70
• Cowpea: 75
• Cress, garden: 75
• Cress, upland: 60
• Cress, water: 40
• Cucumber: 80
• Dandelion:60
• Dill: 60
• Eggplant: 60
• Endive: 70
• Kale: 75
• Kale, Chinese: 75
• Kale, Siberian: 75
• Kohlrabi: 75
• Leek: 60
•Lettuce: 80
• Melon: 75
• Mustard, India: 75
• Mustard, spinach: 75
• Okra: 50
• Onion: 70
• Onion, Welsh: 70
• Pak-choi: 75
• Parsley: 60
• Parsnip: 60
• Pea: 80
• Pepper: 55
• Pumpkin: 75
• Radish: 75
• Rhubarb: 60
• Rutabaga: 75
• Sage: 60
• Salsify: 75
• Savory, summer: 55
• Sorrel: 65
• Soybean: 75
• Spinach: 60
• Spinach, New Zealand: 40
• Squash: 75
• Tomato: 75
• Tomato, husk: 50
• Turnip: 80
• Watermelon: 70



Note that these are minimum requirements and in many instances seed companies send you seeds that exceed these standards. Also, many companies test their seeds more frequently than every 15 months to insure that they are still going to germinate reliably.





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