Why are there so many seeds in each seed packet? Does anyone know?

Adelaide, Australia
August 14, 2011 4:33am CST
I checked the expiry date on a packet of basil seeds I found & it said I need to plant them by the end of this month! The problem was, it was a full packet & the seeds needed a whole 20cm plant & row spacing. They recommended a separate pot for each seed. Where was I going to find over a hundred pots to plant these tiny buggers in? Does anyone know how many seeds there are in a small packet of sweet basil? I just wanted a few leaves to add to my salad each day & not a full commercial-sized lot full which I then need to harvest somehow between the time they're ready & before they rot & then I need to dry them as I can't use them all at once. Who do they think they make these seed packets for? I think they should make "salad mix seeds", so we don't end up with a quarter ton of the one thing! What do you reckon? How do you manage this problem? Has this ever happened to you? Anyone up for a quarter ton of sweet basil in six weeks time?
9 responses
@Davilag (22)
• United States
14 Aug 11
*Smiles at you!* I know what you going through! So MANY seeds ! So little space! Okay here's the reason why- For every batch of seeds there is a possibility that several won't seed. They will be 'broken' to where they won't make a plant. So, what you do is plant several seeds in the same pot. When they start to grow, wait a little bit so you can see which ones are the strongest... remove the extras that grew too but aren't as strong. Usually I can plant about 6 or more seeds in one pot and only 3-4 will actually grow! I then remove the least viable ones or move them to their own containers...depends on how much guilt I have! lolol It just makes it easier to ensure at least one plant will come of your hard labor. Good Luck with your planting!
• United States
14 Aug 11
Oh my! I meant to add 'what to do with extra seeds'... Okay instead of trying to use up all of those seeds- because even after putting 6 or more into one pot you are still going to have a ton left over. Fold the opened end of your packet down and tape closed. Wrap with a paper towel and place inside of a ziplock (re-sealable) baggy. Place your baggy of seeds in a cool DRY place and you will have seeds for next year too! I know of friends who have used the seeds from the same packet for 5 years in a row! Just keep them from getting wet and mildewy and they should be fine!
@vandana7 (99500)
• India
14 Aug 11
Does he need to - store them I mean? After all once the plants grow he will get fresh set of seeds, isn't it?
• United States
14 Aug 11
Not necessarily... He doesn't have to store the extra seeds. But once a plant grows and produces the seed it can be hard to tell when they've seeded properly. I mean if you aren't sure and then you get the seeds before they have matured then you have seed that won't produce viable plants next time. I know that I myself have a hard time figuring it out. I have grown okra. To make okra grow to seed you wait till the last harvest and allow the okra to grow crazy big. When okra is too big it's very 'woody' and tough and not good for eating but the seeds are great for next years planting. Anyway, if you have never grown okra before how do you know for sure when the last harvest is? :)) Saving the extra allows him to decide whether he wishes to plant again next year and to learn what the different stages of the plants growth are.
@RawBill1 (8531)
• Gold Coast, Australia
14 Aug 11
Mate send them my way and I will plant out the whole acreage with the basil! I think that the seeds will last a while longer than the expiration date on them though. We have seeds here in packets that expired 4 years ago! I have still managed to get some of them to germinate. But not all of them! I do know what you mean though. Unless you have a decent sized garden, you will generally not need that many to get a good crop going. Especially if you save the seeds from the first crop to use again in the second crop or if the plant self seeds readily as some do. I guess sharing with friends is the best method there. Getting together with like minded people in a community seed swapping program might be what you need. There should be groups that do that in your area.
@RawBill1 (8531)
• Gold Coast, Australia
15 Aug 11
Sometimes it does help to soak some seeds before planting them. Not sure about whether this is particularly more effective with expired seeds or not. Someone out there on the interweb should have an idea though! Pink buckwheat? That does not sound right at all? Yeah, the local organic growers group here (which I have been meaning to join and get back into) have monthly meetings where they not only swap advice on planting, but also seeds and produce. Now that I have more room to plant stuff everywhere, I really should get back to their meetings.
• Adelaide, Australia
17 Aug 11
Oh no! I just threw the buggers out & the bins go out today! Bugger. Now I guess we'll never know. That video was awesome, Bill. What's it like to work with that lot? Didja get any autographs? I didn't see you in there or are you driving one of those vehicles? Either way, it should pay a fair bit. Let me guess... you'll pump all of the profits back into your business & have an even bigger range of products available so all your loyal customers can keep buying even more of the good stuff? I'll hold off on my next order until you have more time & can get some more sleep.
• Adelaide, Australia
15 Aug 11
I wonder if soaking & sprouting will help in that case? Expired seeds, I mean - & give them better odds? I've been putting Isabel Shippard's book into practice of late. Seed swappers, eh? I wonder if there's an organic seed swappers group going? I'll check it out on Yahoo Groups. I wonder if they'll accept my crappy old seeds for some good organic sproutables? There's the SA Sprouts group that I buy sprouting seeds from at what I think is a reasonable price. I've even tried to sprout organic buckwheat, which has been going alright, but I checked them just now & they've turned pink! I think I'd better throw them out before I get sick or something. Unless that's supposed to happen? It's not in the book, so that can't be good, right? The ungrateful little buggers! I gave them a good dose of full sunshine yesterday & the day before too - & this is what I get now?!
@owlwings (43915)
• Cambridge, England
14 Aug 11
I suppose that what governs the number of seeds in a packet is the price and the size of the seed. Packets of seed that felt virtually empty would hardly sell very well! Basil seeds are tiny, so you need quite a lot to make the packet seem to be a reasonable deal at the price. I don't know what the germination rate of basil seeds is but the seedsman would also take that into account when packaging his seeds. I sow basil with many seeds to a pot. Some plants will come up strong and others weaker (and some seeds may not germinate at all). This is the way that they do it when you go to buy a pot of fresh basil in the supermarket. There are always a dozen or more plants to a pot. If you want individual large plants, then sow in pots or seed trays fairly thinly (you can mix the seed with dry sand to make it easier to space the seeds out), cover with a very thin layer of soil (the rule of thumb is to cover most seeds with a depth of soil about 2½ times the diameter of the seed), water so that the soil is moist but not wet, cover with glass or plastic and put in a warm place (over 65°F for basil). Once the seeds have germinated and have their first pair of true leaves, carefully separate the plants, holding them gently by a leaf and being very careful to damage the roots as little as possible, and pr1ck (oh, come ON, MyLot!) them out into individual pots - preferably smallish, say 2" pots. Basil has a tendency to wilt dramatically when transplanted but will usually recover quite quickly when watered. Once the plants in the small pots are seen to be thriving, knock the rootball and the soil out of the small pots and either transplant to open ground or into a larger pot so that the roots have more space. Basil needs a light, sandy soil and frequent watering (but not too much) or it will quickly run to seed. Pinch out any flower buds as soon as you see them appear. The flavour of basil once it has flowered tends to become bitter and less aromatic. If you have a large quantity of seed it is good to sow it in succession - at weekly intervals, say - and to harvest it young, rather as you would mustard and cress, by cutting the tender plants with scissors.
@vandana7 (99500)
• India
14 Aug 11
Good hint there..sowing in succession - weekly intervals.
• Adelaide, Australia
14 Aug 11
My word, that's a lot of good advice there. Hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew! It sounds like an art as well as a science - & one that is well worth my learning! The packet instructions say that one should only plant just one seed in the same location as the plant will remain in all its life. Is this possibly because this particular variety is very sensitive to having its root system disturbed? I agree with your advice on dry sand... those tiny seeds get so very lost in potting mix! It appears that the My Lot banned dual-meaning words have struck again for you too! I will take all of this on board. Yes, sowing in succession, as lady Vandana nicely summarized, makes a lot more sense & would work well for me. I was just overly concerned about the expiry date, but from other responses, it doesn't sound so critical anymore.
@ebuscat (5935)
• Philippines
15 Aug 11
For me no i don't encounter it for now maybe for the long run of time keep up the good work.
• Adelaide, Australia
16 Aug 11
Thank you for stopping by anyhow. I hope you get the opportunity to start planting your own garden one day soon. It can be a very rewarding experience! Thank you for the encouragement too!
@stk40m (1119)
• Koeln, Germany
14 Aug 11
I think it's the same as with nails. If you buy them you'll usually get a whole bucket although you only need a dozen or so. Also there may be an environmental aspect to it. If they'd sell 5 seeds a packet they'd have to produce much more packeging material than with bigger packets. Some seeds can also be stored for many years, like 15 years or so. I don't know if that's true for basil, too but if so you could use the seeds in the package for a long time. If I had an excess of seeds I'd give it to the birds if they can eat it. Cheers
• Adelaide, Australia
15 Aug 11
Ahh! Now that's another angle! The excess packaging - environmental impact issue. Well done! Thank you for the link too. So maybe that date wasn't as critical as I first feared? Phew! I think this packet has been lying around for several years unopened - maybe sandwiched between bibles! I found it while packing boxes & didn't want to see it go to waste. It has been too long since I last grew my own vegetables, so I was sort of shaking in my own conviction regarding seed packet instructions. I should, as per the other responses, take seed packet instructions with a pinch of salt!
@stk40m (1119)
• Koeln, Germany
14 Aug 11
aww, sry!! I just re-read your post (read it several hours ago). The expiry date - you said it. This website: http://www.sproutpeople.com/grow/storage.html says three years. So maybe they were in closing sale :D
• Guyana
16 Aug 11
Not all the seeds will germinate so you can't just plant a few. I planted a pack of corn and only one germinated I'm so sad that I didn't buy more packs. With basil I give to my friends. And since I use it a lot I don't mind having lots of seeds. So give the extras to charity, that is if the germinated. Or you can sell them and make some money. P.s Don't worry with the expiry date. Seeds don't really expire they just go dormant.
• Adelaide, Australia
17 Aug 11
Welcome to My Lot. Goodness! Only one corn seed germinated out of a whole pack? I admire your spirit & faith in wishing you had bought more packs! Me? I would never have bought another one of that brand of seed packets again! I don't think I would have gone as far as to have bad-mouthed the brand on social networks, but anyone who asked me would certainly hear all about it. Giving seeds to Charity is a good idea - who is she & why does she need seeds? Selling seeds is possible here? I never knew! I'll have a look around & see what I can find out. Good idea. When seeds go dormant, is it possible to rejuvenate them somehow so that they can grow again? By soaking, perhaps? Thank you for your great ideas - I'll look into all of these. :-)
• Adelaide, Australia
17 Aug 11
A place name in Guyana? Who would have guessed, eh? Oh yes, of course, silly me - once they've germinated... than you for clearing that one up. That might just work. I've read a bit about that when I was much younger, but it seems to apply to different plants in different ways & for some it doesn't really work at all. Sometimes soaking in salt water for many days works for some seeds & others you need to boil or nearly boil the water first & soak them in that. Our native floral symbol in this state won't grow at all from seed unless it soaks for a very long time, for example. I'm from South Australia. I don't know of any young people who want to plant & grow things, but I always thought I should hang out with a different bunch of people! I wonder if tomatoes & bitter melons make good companion plants? I hope yours both go well. :-)
• Guyana
17 Aug 11
Actually charity is a place and not a person.LOL. Located in the County of Essequibo in the country of Guyana. But on a serious note. There must be someone or group that you can donate the seeds to. I don't know about where you live but they sure must be some kind of youth group with a ton of kids wanting some seeds to plant. I didn't mean to sell the seeds you can sell the seedlings. They little agri-science I studied I forgot it so I can't really say how to rejuvenate it. But some times they just wake up when they are ready. I planted some tomatoes and while they were sprouting some bitter melon sprouted too. I didn't plant that but the seeds were in the soil and now decided to wake.
@vegegirl (828)
• Australia
14 Aug 11
I don't know how many are in the packet but I am sure you could put a few extra in each pot as some of them may not grow properly or be a little bad. And the more basil you have the more often you can have vegan pesto! You could also plant a whole lot of the seeds closer to each other and replant some of the seedlings when they come up. That way it gives you a bit longer to buy a few more pots, and you are only getting pots for the seeds that seem to be definitely growing. We have a pot of basil on the verandah but unfortunately I don't get to eat if very often cos it seems the grasshoppers really like it and often eat all the leaves and even the stalk right down. Good luck with yours.
• Adelaide, Australia
14 Aug 11
Oh! Sorry to hear about the grasshoppers. We've just had a locust plague sweep through here. Yes, that does make a lot of sense & seems to be the general consensus - sow as you go! See what works & replace what doesn't. Maybe we should be keeping things like this indoors, only placing them outside during a sunny day under our own personal observation? This seems to work well for my sprouts - the alfalfa sprouts go from white to fully green shoots in just six hours of full sunlight. One day I'll install a nice closed-system hydroponic set-up & that should take care of pretty much everything! Until then, electric fences might be worth a shot? Hope you can find a solution to the grasshopper problem soon - maybe hanging baskets? They seem to work well for strawberries, although it doesn't stop the vinegar flies!
@vandana7 (99500)
• India
14 Aug 11
I haven't much to add - owlwings pretty much said it all. :) How are you doing? :)
• Adelaide, Australia
14 Aug 11
Yes. Sometimes it's on a first-come, first-serve basis or the early bird catches the worm. Your other interludes were greatly appreciated however. I'm fine, thank you - how are you? I've been on a full-raw diet for the past few weeks & it has been really great! I've gotten into sprouting in a big way & will soon have a small garden, in addition to the fruit trees, after I fix the back fence up & build a dry-wall retaining wall up the back just like I did down the side of the house. I sort of have the best of both worlds out here as my property is just about bordering rural zoning, but am still close enough to the city for services, etc... so I had better hurry up & take advantage of the situation! Have you grown your own fresh produce before?
@jafburns (48)
• India
15 Aug 11
A seed packet contains many seeds because every seed in it will not germinate. Some seeds will be dormant,some will have an unhealthy endosperm and will not germinate,some will be diseased. So just to ensure that a few among them will germinate they provide us lots together. Something which you can follow is go for a method referred to as a nursery. Take one or two pots,sow these seeds in few numbers in these pots,healthy ones will germinate. Once they germinate select the healthy ones and plant them according to the reccomendation given on the packet. Hope I could help you out.
• Adelaide, Australia
16 Aug 11
Welcome to My Lot! Ahh! So we pay not on a per seed basis, but rather on the assumption that a given number may not develop? That's a novel concept! Quite reasonable too. It would be better if we could buy everything this way! Imagine how much better off we will be. Yes, that's a good way to go, based on the responses above as well. I was concerned about doing it this way because the seed packet instructions specifically said to just plant one seed & don't move it from its original location. I assumed this variety would be adverse to having its root system tampered with, like some native trees here would be also. Thank you for your input.