Seeds may be stored in either cloth or paper bags. The greatest enemy to the preservation of seeds is moisture, but the conditions in an ordinary living room are satisfactory, although neither high nor low temperatures affect the vitality, provided the seeds are well cured and the humidity is low. It is a well-known fact that seeds do not keep well in the South, because of the great amount of moisture in the air. The hot weather also hastens deterioration. Some seeds, as that of turnip, cabbage and radish, may mold unless kept in well-ventilated bags.
Buy the best; the price is secondary. It costs much more to produce good seeds than poor, because the time of experts and the most severe roguing are required. For example, certain well-bred strains of Jersey Wakefield cabbage tested at the Pennsylvania State College were found to be much more profitable than others. (Pa. Sta. Bul. 96.) A few more dollars a pound for seed is not worth considering when there is assurance of increased profits.
Buy from reputable houses; they desire to serve you well. All good seed houses have specialties in which they take great pride, and it often pays to patronize these houses when such varieties are wanted. Special commercial growers sometimes purchase, a year in advance, liberal quantities of the same variety from different houses. Each lot is then tested and the best is used for the regular plantings the following year.
Several states have enacted laws to regulate the seed trade. Such laws have doubtless been valuable, but it is an extremely difficult matter to control by law. Legislation is needed more for farm seeds than for garden seeds, as impurities are seldom found in vegetable seeds. Many firms are making an honest effort to sell good seed, but errors in labeling may occur, and inclement weather may affect the vitality of seeds, and unjust penalties might be imposed if legislation were too severe in this matter. There are humbugs in the seed business, but why should they be patronized when there are so many reputable dealers, although even the most reliable dealers may make mistakes?
There is a prevailing idea that growers should change seed after using the same strain for a few years. If the seed is selected at home without care or intelligence, this advice is in order. On the other hand, if the fundamental principles of breeding are observed, why should it be necessary to discontinue a strain of merit for one of unknown value? A change of variety is a different proposition and this can often be done to advantage.
All good varieties now in cultivation were once novelties. Advancement hafts been possible because novelties arouse universal interest, although comparatively few of them ever become of great value. The grower, however, never knows when a novelty may become more valuable than an old variety he has been growing perhaps for many years. The testing of novelties, then, is of economic value. The producer who is specializing in only a few important vegetables can well afford to test the novelties. One of superior merit might materially increase profits if substituted for a long cultivated variety. A sample packet of seeds is sufficient to test a novelty and therefore the expense is slight, while the reward may be great.
Fresh seed usually germinates more promptly than old seed, although there may be advantages in sowing old seeds. Many gardeners claim that fresh seed of the cucurbits (melons, cucumbers, squashes, etc.) tends to produce more vine and leaf and less fruit than seed several years old. But fresh seed is generally preferred and is particularly important when the vitality of the seed is low, as with onion and parsnip.