"And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after his kind; and God saw that it was good."
A seed, when duly considered, shews forth the infinite wisdom, power and goodness of the Almighty. As it was in the beginning, so it continues to be, true to its original creation, never diverging or degenerating from its true character. New varieties are produced from seed, and great improvements attained by the skill of the cultivator; but the properties of the plant remain, and have so remained for six thousand generations of annual plants. Wheat never has, nor ever will turn to chess, as some most ignorantly and persistently affirm to be the case. Nor do potatoes ever grow upon the roots of the Gillyflower plant. "While conducting the New England Farmer many years since, a gentleman from Maine sent me a sample of potatoes, which he assured me were generated and produced, (not from seed) but originated and grew upon the roots of that plant. He called if "the Gilly-' flower Potato." It was in vain that I attempted to show him the impossibility of the thing, he was certain this was the origin of the potato; and what appeared strange tome, was, that he found those who sustained him in the theory that new species of plants might be produced by chance, and that a potato might originate on the roots of the Gilly-flower.
It is interesting to notice the great diversity in various species of seeds, in their shape, size and mode of scattering or spreading themselves abroad. The most minute 2 seed contains a perfect germ within itself, not to be seen perhaps without the aid of a microscope, but there it is, "the seed (or-bud) in itself" as perfect as that of the bean, which is seen by the naked eye: Many seeds have a most beautiful appearance when viewed by the microscope; for example, the quite small seed of Portulaca, when thus examined, resembles some splendid sea shell, with all the brilliancy of color, which graces some of these wonders of the sea.
By the sudden bursting of the capsule of some plants, the seeds are scattered some distance around: such for instance as Phlox, Lupin, and many others. The seed of Asclepias, Thistle, and others, have a silky appendage, by which they are wafted by the wind to distant parts of the country. The seeds of the Maple and other plants and trees are so constructed that they float upon the water and thus find a lodgement upon the banks of a stream many miles from their starting place; others will not germinate until they have passed through the stomach of a bird, and such are deposited wherever the bird flies. Seeds buried in the earth may remain many years, or ages, without germinating, but when brought up by the plow to the surface of the ground and exposed to the air, germinate and bring forth a plentiful crop of weeds. The earth seems to be full of seed. Earth taken from the bottom of deep wells or mines, when exposed to the sun and air, often produces vegetation. Some seeds when excluded from the air and moisture, retain their vitality for almost an indefinite period of time.
It is often asked, how long will this or that variety of seed retain its vitality. In answer to this inquiry, we reply, that it depends very much as to the manner in which seed was cured, and how it has been kept. We have tables stating the length of time the different garden seeds may be considered good.
These tables approximate to correctness. For instance, the Cucumber, Squash, Melons, etc., are laid down as good for ten years, I have, however, known very bright-looking Marrow Squash seed be worthless the first year. This was occasioned, no doubt, by drying the seeds by the fire or in an oven. Onion seed is sometimes spoiled in consequence of its having been packed away before it was thoroughly dry, which caused a slight fermentation so as to destroy the germ. Onion seed is worthless after the second year, but if the seed has been sunk in water to clean it, as is sometimes practiced, the seed is good only one year. I have known Onion seed that was perfectly dry and corked up tight in a bottle, to vegetate freely when eight years old; but if the seed should be bottled up in a damp state, its vitality would be lost within one year. Not unfrequently imported seeds, which have a long passage over the water, acquire dampness so as to swell the seed and start the germ; such seeds, if planted immediately, will all vegetate, but when dried again, very few will start. I have known Peas, Radish, and other seeds to be spoiled in this way.
How much longer than the ten years, laid down in the book, Cucumber seed will retain its vitality, I have not yet learned. About eighteen years since we imported from London a small lot of Sinott's Early Frame Cucumber, which was said to be very fine for forcing. The seed was very expensive, £4 sterling for one quarter of a pound; we sold only small packages of it, and having most of it left over, concluded to plant it for seed. It proved very productive, and the seed was sold in small parcels for ten years. Thinking it would not be safe to sell from it any longer, it was tied up in a bag and put in a tight bin in the garret, where it remained seven years, when it was discovered one day, and curiosity tempted me to test it. I counted out 14 seeds, 10 of which vegetated. As gardeners prefer old seed if it will vegetate, it was put up for sale again. The next year, a gardener inquired for old Cucumber seed. He was informed we had some eighteen years old, and if he would test it and report the result, he should be welcome to the seed. He afterwards informed us that he counted out twelve seeds and planted them, and every one vegetated. So I think this seed will be good until it is twenty-one. I once made a trial of Old White Turnip Radish seed, which is set down in the table as retaining its vitality four years. "We raised a large quantity of this one season, sufficient for our sales for four years. At the expiration of this time there were a few pounds left, which were tied up in a bag, marked old seed, with the year, and shut up in a tight bin in a loft. After it had remained ten years in confinement, it was taken out to throw away, but I had the curiosity to test its vitality. The result was, every seed vegetated. I might go on and give the result of various experiments made-with seeds to test their vitality, but I have given enough to show that no certain rule can be laid down on this subject, as so much depends upon the manner in which the seed was saved, cured, or kept. Flower seeds, like vegetable seeds, vary in the length of time they may be relied upon as good. Balsam seed is good from 6 to 8 years. Larkspur, Pink, and many other seeds will not vegetate freely after the second year; the same is the case with the Aster. Hollyhock seed is good five years; Gilly-flower seed about the same length of time, and it is said the older it is the better, if it will vegetate, as it will produce more double-flowers. I should occupy too much space were I to give the result of all the experiments I have made with flower-seeds. I have found by long experience that the only safe course to pursue in relation to seeds is to test all, new and old, before offering them for sale, by counting out a certain number of seeds, and planting them in pots and placing them under the glass of the green-house or grapery, and then count the number of plants which appear.