It’s happened so often that I hate to admit it: I’ve stored my leftover seeds in plastic bags, put them in a refrigerator drawer, and forgotten all about them. By the time I find them again, the labels have come off and I can’t tell what they are. Or worse: my husband has cleaned out the leftovers, and my seeds got tossed away with last week’s lettuce and some old spaghetti.
One of my resolutions this year is to find a better way to organize the seeds I want to keep. Here are a few suggestions I’m looking at:
Using a plastic storage box, like the kind you keep shoes in. You make dividers from sheets of thick cardboard or card stock and label them at the top with a permanent marker. Each seed packet goes into its own plastic baggie, which is then stashed behind the appropriate divider, so you have a slot for tomatoes, beans, nasturtiums or whatever. The dividers can be arranged in alphabetical order or by planting dates or seasons. The box is airtight and see-through, so you can remember what kind of seeds you have on hand.
Another nice option: using a photo album with plastic pockets. You slip a seed packet into each plastic pocket or sleeve. It’s easy to flip the pages and see all your varieties in one place.
I also like the idea of creating a garden journal. You can buy one pre-made or design your own, leaving space to write notes about how the seeds perform in your garden. I’d add the dates I sowed the seeds, so I’d know when to plant more if they didn’t sprout, and the approximate date to harvest, if the plants are fruits or vegetables. It would be fun to snap a picture of the plants as they grow and paste it into the pages, too.
- Empty glass jars are another good storage option, and it feels good to recycle them instead of knowing they’re headed for a landfill. Clear jars also let you see your seed packets from both sides, which is pretty when you store them on your shelves. It’s a good idea to tie up a spoonful or so of kitty litter in a scrap of fabric and drop it into the bigger jars, to help absorb moisture. Another idea: save the little silica gel packets that come in some products and re-use those. A definite downside: I’ve dropped and broken glass jars when I took the seeds outside to plant them. Be careful!
Other nifty ways to store your seeds:
Hang a shoe organizer over a closet or pantry door and store a seed packet in each pocket.
Keep them in their packets, and drop them into alphabetical file folders in a desk drawer.
If your seeds are loose — let’s say your seed packets got wet or torn, and you threw them away — put them in the compartments of a tackle box, fishing box, or jewelry box. If you don’t have a lot of seeds, store them in very small plastic bags and then put them in the compartments. You can find these small bags in craft stores; they’re sold in bundles to use for beads and jewelry-making supplies.
- Store your seeds in paper envelopes. After all, seed companies sell their seeds in paper packages, so it’s not that different. Label them and add any relevant information, like planting dates, how far apart to space the seeds and dates to maturity.
Filing your seeds by name, in alphabetical order, is probably the most common way to keep them, but it’s not the only way. You could also put your seeds in order by the date you need to plant them, so you’d have all the seeds you’d sow in February in one box, folder or divider. You’d have all the seeds to plant in March in another box, and so on. It would be easy to check the box or folder as often as you turn the date on the calendar, so you’d remember when it’s time to plant.
However you organize them, remember to keep your seeds in a cool, dark place so they’ll stay viable as long as possible. A temperature around 40 degrees F., which is about as cold as we keep our refrigerators, is ideal.