The Farmers’ Register 8(1): 35 (Jan. 31, 1841)

From the Cultivator

We have known and heard of considerable loss and disappointment from seeds, particularly onion seeds, not growing. We have thought and inquired in reference to the cause, and the result of our cogitations and enquiries may be thus stated:

Without a certain degree of moisture, seeds will not germinate. On dry, sandy soils, and in a dry season, it seems highly probable, then, that seeds may be deprived of the requisite degree of moisture; perhaps receiving just as much as will mould them and destroy their vitality, or being so near the surface as to be injured by the sun's heat and light.

But the seed may have germinated, and have commenced to send out their roots and stem stalks and yet be destroyed. If the soil is not pressed closely to the seeds, and very dry weather occurs just at this period of the process of germination the root being too distant from the soil, and too feeble to draw any supply of moisture, the liquid food of the plant contained in the fermented seed may be dried up, and the life thus destroyed.

If you would avoid disappointment and loss from seeds failing to grow, the preventive process is indicated by a knowledge of the causes most frequently productive of this result, which we think are those stated above. If you sprout your seeds before putting them into the ground, you will preserve them from the first cause of failure, but if you pulverize your soil thoroughly and press in this state with a hoe, spade, or roller, upon the seeds thus sprouted, the root stem will soon and surely derive sufficient moisture from the soil.

In a few instances I have found my neighbors blaming the seed as useless, particularly of onions, carrots, and parsnips, when I have obtained a little of the seed and found it to sprout quite well. You may easily save yourselves from such reflections, or from the temptation to blame others, by sleeping the suspected seed in warm or tepid water, from six to twenty-four hours, according to the size and hardness of the seeds, and then setting it away in a warmish place for a day or two. If good it will sprout in this time; if kept warm in a darkish place, and it does not sprout in this time, the seed is faulty.

In connexion with this subject, I may state that several circumstances incline me lo the belief that corn which has been sprouted—no matter in what steep—is safe from the ravages of the red or wire worm. It has been fashionable to steep in a strong solution of copperas, and to ascribe the safety of the seed in this state not to the change which fermentation has produced in the germ or chit which is usually first attacked, but to the change in the taste from the copperas. We have known corn soaked in simple water—in water alone—to escape from the attacks of the worm as well as that soaked in a copperas steep. Until this matter is made more certain, however, I would hold it bad husbandry to neglect the copperas, as in addition to the change produced by heat and moisture, we have also the disagreeable taste communicated by this salt.