Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Seven things to Consider before Purchasing that Seed Packet

Oh, the enticing allure of seed catalogues and seed packets. One of the things I love most about seed packets are the pictures. The pictures many seed packets have are incredible. They either show perfect specimens of a vegetable on the vine or being displayed on some platter or cutting board. There is very little else that appeals to my eye like a well-grown vegetable. But as much as I love looking at beautiful vegetables, I enjoy reading the seed packet description even more. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to the varieties I grow – I would actually prefer those 1000 words over the picture. Though others may scoff at the description, sometimes the description can tell a gardener much more about the variety of seed in the packet than the picture does.

Why I have problems trusting seed packets.

At times, the pictures on seed packets can be deceiving. Especially if the company selling them neither grew the vegetables or even took any of the pictures of vegetables that they sell seeds for. Perhaps the best advise for seed buyers is “Caveat emptor”, or "Let the buyer beware" in Latin. In this day in which so many things can be purchased online, it helps to have some additional support in knowing what one is dealing with “the real thing” before purchasing seed. Gardeners who are vigilant should be able to avoid being scammed.

The main reason why I bring all of this up is because I deal with this kind of problem all of the time. The seed I deal with always has a name, a description and a picture. More often than not, the name is the most descriptive thing. However, even the name is sometimes wrong and leads me to feel like I am (at least in part) wasting my time growing out so many cucumber varieties in search of something that actually matches its picture and description.

Misleading Seed Packets from a different angle.

Here are some basic things to consider when purchasing seed:

1. What is the seller’s intent? Is the seller more concerned about making quick money or is the seller attempting to sell a high-quality product.

2. What percentage of the varieties that the seller offer have they grown?

3. What kinds of genetic maintenance has the company done to ensure that the variety that is being offered is both what it is advertised as and continues to exhibit high-quality genetics?

4. Who is the seller’s intended customer? Is the seller more focused on large farm operations that require seed that produces identical vegetables which conform to mechanical picking, shipping and shelf life requirements or does the company care more about genetically variable seed that is grown on biodynamic soils and is valued for beauty and flavor over being completely identical. Note: I have come to find that highly biologically active soils naturally produce more consistently stable fruit. Many problems with variable fruit shape and size may be alleviated as the gardener works to maintain high fertility in within the garden.

5. How long has the seed company been around? Does the seed company have a reputation to maintain?

6. How dialed in are the seeds to the climate that is important to the gardener? If the seeds are from a completely different climate, or have been grown for generations in a completely different climate, they may not do well in the opposite kind of climate.

7. Ratings: Though ratings won’t tell a gardener everything, they will tell them a lot. Do growers generally trust the company? If not, why? Did the company respond appropriately to any complaints? Are there themes that would lead one to trust the company? Though there are many places to view ratings of seed companies, Dave’s garden would probably be a good place to start, as they have a whole section devoted to seed company reviews. Not that I would advocate changing anyone’s seed suppliers, but before purchasing seed from even some larger well-known company it may be a good idea to get “the scoop” on their ratings at "The Garden Watchdog" found at the Dave’s garden site.

"Would you be okay with these results?" Feel free to comment below.

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