Gardening Which? tests found nearly all the delphinium seeds checked from one company were dead, the magazine reveals today.
A study of leading seed brands shows huge variation in quality, with only six of the 15 companies tested meeting the industry standard.
Gardening Which? found Edwin Tucker and Sons Ltd to be the worst offender, scoring poorly across the tests – 99% of its delphinium seeds were found to be dead, and a mere 15% of lettuce seeds produced normal seedlings.
Popular brand Unwins also fared badly for flower seed germination, with as few as 2% of its delphinium seeds generating healthy plants.
For vegetable seeds, Suffolk Herbs, D.T Brown, Mr Fothergill’s and Dobies all failed to reach the minimum standard for both parsnip and lettuce germination.
Thompson and Morgan
Thompson and Morgan proved to be the best all-rounder, with 83% of seeds producing healthy plants. Plants of Distinction also received top marks for seed germination, and Dobies flourished in the flower seed tests.
Ceri Thomas, Editor of Gardening Which?, said: ‘Most gardeners naturally blame themselves when seeds don’t develop into plants, but our tests show many seeds are dead in the packets before they’re even sown.
‘How disheartening for any gardener to put time, effort and love into growing plants from seed, for only a handful to make it.
‘We hope our report will shame the seed suppliers who scored badly into reviewing their quality control.’
But Martin Harvey, a director of Unwins, said: ‘Every batch of seeds we produce is rigorously tested and they are only released for packing if they meet and exceed EU standards. What I have seen in this report doesn’t reflect what happens in the UK seed industry.’
A spokesman for Edwin Tucker and Sons said: ‘Firstly we were horrified and disappointed to read this article and very shocked as we believe we have stringent measures in place to ensure customer satisfaction.
‘We will of course continue to check procedures and are currently investigating to see if there is anything further we can do to ensure seed quality and customer satisfaction.’
* To find out how 15 leading seed suppliers compared, Gardening Which? sent 400 each of three types of flower seed (delphinium, sweet pea and mimulus) and 400 each of three types of vegetable seed (lettuce, parsnip and spring onion) from each supplier to a seed testing lab.