Organizing and storing seeds properly helps us not just simplify the busy sowing season, but also save money by not buying duplicates, and prolonging the shelf life of the seeds we already have.
When organizing seeds you can go from very simple to super fancy. As you know, I am all for simple. Here we share a few methods that have worked well for us.
Expiring dates for seeds
As gardeners, we tend to have lots of seed packages. Old seeds, new seeds, and empty seed packages. Before we organize them, we need to know what is still good to keep and what needs to be ordered again.
Keeping the empty seed package is helpful, so you know what it was and if you want to re-order it. Taking notes in a notebook is another option, but just crossing on an empty seed package is quicker.
Seed packages that are not empty might be still good to use. Many seed packages have a date on them saying when it was packaged. If not, and you care, make a habit to add a date when you purchase new seeds.
Short-living seeds are parsnips, onions, sweet corn, beans, and peas. Ordering them new every year is a good idea.
Good for 3 to 4 years are carrots, turnips, rutabagas, peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes, and lettuce.
And good for even longer than 4 years the seeds from the cabbage family, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, muskmelons, and celery. (Source Veseys)
Personally, I do not throw away seeds before I clearly see that they don’t germinate. If in doubt, sprout some of the seeds in a seed sprouter or wet kitchen towel.
We cover Getting seeds for the new growing season in a separate blog article.
Once you have your seeds, they can be organized and stored till planting time.
Organizing seeds into categories
Usually, in the death of winter, I take my seedbox (often messy from last summer) and sort all the seeds into categories.
The categories can be according to the variety, planting time, or planting place if you have multiple gardens. This way it is easy to take a package as needed without always sorting new.
- Root vegetables
- Cabbage family
- Summer vegetables
Depending on how many seed packages are there in one category, I may subdivide them into plant varieties. For example cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.
Then I hold the main- and subcategories together with a rubber band. I know, it is not fancy and not even really pretty, but it sure works. I like that I can take one package bundle and work on it without bringing all the seeds up.
If using seed organizers such as Photo Storage Craft keeper, the separate cases have the same function as the rubber band in my system.
Storring the seed bundels
I have stored the seed bundles in small cardboard boxes for years. Separating seeds that are planted directly into the ground (like root vegetables and legumes) in one box from seeds that have to be started indoors (like tomatoes and peppers) in another box.
Rubber bands and labeling the boxes are the two important things in this simple storing of seeds in a box system.
Another option is a plastic organizer. This one is from Ikea and is more durable than cardboard. About any organizer that comes in the size of a seed package can be used here. Get creative.
Another great way to store seeds is in a photo album. If you only have about 30 seed packages, this is the way for you! We have about that many packages of different greens and herbs, so I have them in the photo album. Starting with salads, spinach, kale, and other greens and herbs. It is nice to have them all in one place and easily accessible. Greens are seeds that are used multiple times in our indoor and outdoor gardens.
For storing seeds in a photo album you want to choose a photo album about 5 x 7 inches in size with around 30 pocket pages. This way there is room to easily access the seed packages and the album does not get too bulky. Again, I hold the photo album together with a rubber band. You can get both (the albums and the rubber bands) at dollar stores.
Self-saved seeds are a bit more tricky to organize since they do not come in pretty packages. We use either jars or plastic bags that are sorted and stored in boxes. Tip, make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them away.
Seed storage place
The seed’s storage place greatly depends on your climate. There is no one fits all advice. Seeds are best stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. If you live in a hot and humid climate you would want to store your seeds in an airtight container. In a dry climate like ours, that’s not important.
The fridge is not the best place, because of the humidity, but if it is the only cool place you have, it would work in an air-tight container. Bring the seeds out before planting and let them come to room temperature before letting air in so condensation does not happen.
A cellar would be similar to a fridge, but probably not as moist.
We store ours in our basement where it’s dry, coolish, and dim.