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One common complaint that I hear from gardeners is that the failure of their garden is due to “bad seed.” Is there such a problem? Do stores really sell bad seed? Do you need to worry about the quality of the seed? As previously mentioned, we worry about variety. The State Department of Agriculture seed division checks and enforces laws on germination and seed quality. Seeds purchased locally are all subject to stringent tests to make certain they meet standards set by law. Seed must be tested yearly and cannot be sold if it does not meet the legal standards. The Department of Agriculture does not regulate or recommend varieties sold in the state. They do make certain that seeds are true to variety and are available. Should you purchase more than one year supply of seed? What about seed you purchased last year? If you purchase more seed than you need in a given year, simply store it in a cool, dry place. Label it clearly with the date and year purchased. Most garden seeds will last 3-5 years with no loss of viability. Don’t get too carried away storing seed for the future. Onion, parsnip and leek seed may lose vigor after only one year. If you are in doubt about the viability of the seed, run a germination test by sprouting 25 seeds between moist paper towels. Discard the seed if germination is very low. Should you save your own seed? Saving seed offers a sense of self-sufficiency and enables you to maintain a variety that may not be commercially available. Seed savers often enjoy exchanging their seed for other heirloom varieties. Several national organizations promote seed saving and exchanges. If you have saved seed from plants you grew last year, you must remember a few basic rules. Hybrid varieties will not grow the same as their parents; use only open pollinated varieties. Plant the crop in isolation to avoid cross pollination. Many weird results come from having two or more varieties planted in the same location. This is very evident in the vine crops such as squash and melon. Don't save seeds from these unless you know they have not crossed with other varieties. Common self-pollinated annual vegetables from which seed may be saved include lettuce, beans, peas and tomatoes. Many herbs and flowers can also be saved, but you won't enjoy the benefits of the newer varieties. Remember, seed variety choice is a critical factor in a successful garden. A little ``armchair'' selecting will go a long way in making your garden successful this season. Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Extension Thanksgiving Point Office