Answer: It is always a puzzle when you achieve unexpectedly poor results, especially when you have had excellent results in the past!
If you started seeds indoors with poor results, think back very carefully to see if you did any thing different? Sometimes a change in soil mix is all it takes to give different results since different mixes hold moisture and warmth differently and some may be more sterile than others. Even a change in pot size can be enough to change your results.
If you planted your seeds outside, you may have been experiencing the effects of our unusual weather patterns this year. Seeds are very sensitive to soil moisture and some are particularly sensitive to soil temperature. For instance, a very dry or a very cool extra damp soil can cause the seeds to rot before they can germinate. Seeds which have begun to germinate but are them allowed to dry out will die...there are so many variables!
Finally, it is always possible that the seeds were handled badly after they left the seed house. Occasionally during transport or retail display (and even after purchase) the seeds are subjected to extremes of temperature or humidity which can reduce germination. Seeds packaged for prior years can also show reduced germination rates.
Reputable seed houses such as Burpee, are very careful to test their seeds for viability and quality and stake their reputation on selling good seeds. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact Burpee Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-333-5508.
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