Quality Control – how do we ensure the quality of our seeds?
Welcome back to another growing season!
Canadian gardeners have been relying on high quality from OSC seeds for over 125 years! That doesn’t happen by accident. There’s actually quite a bit that goes into our quality control and we’re dishing up the inside scoop 😉
In Canada, there is a federally regulated germination and purity standard for vegetable seed. This is very important to avoid wasting our beloved farmers’ time and land. Pure seed prevents weed infestation. Good germination is essential for all successful crops. OSC is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA] and all our vegetable seed is tested to the Canada No. 1 Grade standard for germination and purity by government approved labs every 9-12 months. “Canada No. 1” is the highest germination standard in the country. All varieties of OSC vegetable seed are certified Canada No. 1 and are expected to be viable until the “sow by” date on the package. The only exception to this is if a seed lot tests at Canada No. 2 when there is no alternative supply available, we may decide to use it. This typically applies to only 2 or 3 lots in a year and “Canada No. 2” grade is stamped on all affected packets to notify the grower.
Our facility also undergoes routine inspections by CFIA and the Canadian Seed Institute [CSI]. These organizations monitor things like our storage conditions, packaging methods, importing and grading procedures, and they’ll also take random seed samples or request copies of our records, that sort of thing.
In Canada, there is no germination standard for most flower seeds, although flower seed must pass CFIA standards for purity. As a general rule of thumb, we do not bring any flower seed into our warehouse that has tested below laboratory certified 80% germination. Then, we conduct our own in-house germination trials of all our flower seed lots every 9-12 months to ensure the seed is still viable. Our in-house germination trials are overseen by a small team of our own dedicated staff. Again, seed lots that do not test well are not offered for sale.
All our grass seed is tested to Canada No. 1 status for germination and purity in state and provincial government approved laboratories before we bring it into our warehouse. Just like the vegetables, grass seed lots that do not achieve this status are not offered for sale. All our mixtures are prepared in our warehouse and then re-tested to ensure Canada #1 Grade status as a mixture. Going forward, we continue re-testing any remaining seed lots/mixtures every 9-12 months to continually ensure Canada No. 1 Grade status.
But wait, there’s more!
- We try not to bring in more seed than we’ll need for one or two years at a time and we’ll always stamp packets with a “sow by” date so you know you’re always planting viable seed.
- Our warehouse is climate and moisture controlled to optimize the longevity of the seed and to protect it from rot, dehydration, and infestation.
- We keep detailed records of all packaging runs and all packets are stamped with an identifying letter/number combination. If there is a problem with a packet (such as over or under-filling, infestation, damage, or some other error), we can easily locate the other packets that may be affected.
- We will often re-test the germination more frequently of varieties that may have problems. After all, seeds are living things and they may behave unexpectedly at times. Never forget that Mother Nature is your boss in the garden.
- We restock all our seed displays with newly-tested seed every winter before sending them out again in the spring. Yep, the very displays you’ve probably noticed at your local hardware stores, grocery stores, garden centres, greenhouses, and nurseries. Our retailers are required to ship back all unsold packets in the fall which we then donate to growers in lower-middle-income countries.
- If you have garden seed left at home at the end of the season, we suggest that you store it in a cool, dry place over the winter.
It’s a lot of work but it is worth it! We’ve been committed to quality for over 125 years and that’s not going to change any time soon. Just for fun, here’s our catalogue from 1913. It was true then and it’s still true today: “Quality has ever been our watchword.”
Are you growing OSC seeds this year? Tag us in your garden photos (@oscseeds) on Facebook and Instagram!