In the management of seed growing by contract, various methods are employed. In many instances stock seed is furnished to the grower by the seed house or by the man with whom the grower has contracted. This stock seed is supposed to be carefully bred and grown under the direct management of experts. In the production of high-grade seed, one of the most important factors is furnishing the best stock seed to the grower. The stock seed is sometimes furnished free to the grower, but the usual practice is to make a charge, which may be paid when the seed is obtained before planting, or it may be deducted from the value of the seeds grown.
Many intelligent and reliable growers do not depend upon a middle dealer or a grower, or upon a seed house, for their stock seed. They have established a reputation for well-bred seeds, and can often demand higher prices than growers who are furnished stock seed.
The greater part of the seeds sold in the United States is grown in this country, although there are many exceptions. The chapter on the culture of the various classes of vegetables gives additional information upon this subject.
Seeds are grown on an extensive scale where natural conditions are most favorable; soil, climate and the cost of labor are all important factors. Many crops, as the cauliflower, cabbage and pea, thrive best in a cool climate and, therefore, these seeds are grown to the best advantage in the North. On the other hand, as watermelons must have plenty of heat and sunshine, we find that Georgia conditions are ideal for this crop and the growing of good seed; pepper and eggplant seeds may be grown in the cold parts of the North with success, but for large yields of plump seeds the warm, sandy soils of New Jersey furnish ideal conditions; lima beans are grown in California because soil and climatic conditions are favorable to the best crops; the Puget Sound district furnishes splendid conditions for growing cauliflower seed. Many other examples might be given. Some seeds are grown almost entirely in foreign countries because of cheaper labor.
One of the most important operations in growing high-grade seeds is "roguing." A "rogue" is a plant that is off type, and should not be allowed to produce seed. The discarding of such plants is called "roguing," and the quality of the seed from the standpoint of uniformity in the ultimate crop depends mainly upon the thoroughness of this operation. It is absolutely necessary for some one who knows the true or most desirable type to inspect every plant before it is allowed to produce seed. This is the step in the production of seeds for the large commercial houses which needs the most improvement. Roguing is generally practiced, but in too many cases it is not sufficiently severe. The right soil and climate cannot do everything. Scientifically conducted breeding plats and rigid roguing are the two greatest needs of American seed farms.
It is claimed by many that it does not pay commercial gardeners to grow their own seeds. It is argued that seeds may be purchased from commercial houses at less cost than they can be grown at home; that home growing is troublesome; that gardeners do not have time to give the matter proper attention; that facilities for harvesting and cleaning are usually meager; and that most gardeners do not possess the necessary knowledge to grow good seed.
There is much truth in all of these arguments; notwithstanding, many expert gardeners grow a large percentage of their seeds. These men hold that they cannot afford to take chances in buying seeds; that they know the requirements of their markets and can select seed with this knowledge in view, together with other qualities which they regard important; that although their soil and climate may not be ideal for seed production, skillful breeding may produce better seed than is procurable on the market. In diversified gardening it is seldom practicable to save many seeds, but where only a few special crops are grown it is often highly desirable. Most of the seeds used in vegetable gardening will always be supplied by great seed houses, although there will probably be an increased tendency among specialists to grow their own seeds.
Various methods are pursued in the harvesting and cleaning of garden seeds, and further instructions are given in the chapter devoted to the various classes of vegetables.
Seeds should not be harvested until fully ripe or mature. While this is true, it is equally important to be prompt in gathering the crop when the proper time has arrived. If sprouting or molding does not occur, the seeds will discolor if left too long on the stalk, and this is always objectionable when they are wanted for com- . mercial purposes. Seeds are generally ripe when the pods or seed capsules turn yellow, or the fruits, as tomatoes and melons, lose their firmness.
Bright, sunny weather should be selected, if possible, for the harvesting of crops which require threshing. The plants should be thoroughly dried before threshing, and it is always better to select days of low humidity for this operation. Whatever the method, whether by flailing or by machines, the greatest care should be exercised to prevent breaking the seeds or the seed coats. Windmilling is necessary for further cleaning of the seed.
In securing clean seeds, vegetables such as tomatoes and melons must stand for some time in their juices to remove the mucilaginous covering. A common method is to throw the cut or broken specimens, or sometimes the pulp, into any convenient vessel, as a crock, tub or barrel, and stir daily until fermentation has loosened the covering about each seed. Then the operation may be completed by washing. To prevent the discoloring of seeds, the fermentative process should not be continued longer than necessary.