Seed storage and organization

IMG_4330Like most gardeners I buy new little starter plants and lots of seeds. Seeds are so much more economical and there is a certain enjoyment in watching my efforts peak through the dirt and sprout. Also when the seed packets I purchase range in price from $1.25 to $7, that’s a lot of plants (more bang for the buck).

Most of my seed purchasing sprees are in the early spring well before I can actually start planting. Because I don’t have a great place to start seeds indoors (and at this point I don’t want the hassle of soil and water indoors), I typically only buy seeds I can sow directly into the garden. This one caveat is not significant enough to hold me back from purchasing lots and lots of seeds.

It’s not uncommon for me to discover after the weather has actually turned warm enough to sow that I have more seeds than bare spots in my garden and/or that I have a half used packets of the same seeds from last year.

This past winter I read some articles about seed storage and organization, only to discover my current system of folding the top of the paper seed packet and putting it somewhere … in the basket on my workbench, in my garden tool bucket, in the junk drawer in the kitchen, in my bedside table, etc. is not advisable.

Quick Facts

  • Seeds may be kept safely for one year if stored properly.
  • Storage for some seeds can be extended to 10 year with extra special storage.
  • Seed moisture and storage temperature are the most important factors in determining how long seed can be stored.

Basic storage is cool (55-65°), dry (turn on that de-humidifier) and dark. Seed life can be maximized by freezing, which will increase shelf life 4-5 times or more. Refrigerating will at minimum double it. Be careful with either refrigeration or freezing as condensation will substantially shorten a seed’s life.

Lots of companies sell nifty storage containers complete with organization systems. I don’t have that many seeds and it seems like overkill on a problem that isn’t that huge. Here’s my Plan A:

  • To keep the seeds dry I’m going to buy the smallest size Ziploc baggies to drop the seed packet into. This way they are airtight and I don’t have to label the packaging and all the planting instructions are with the seeds.
  • Then I’ll put all the bagged seeds into a Tupperware container with a couple packets of silica gel. This will require me to buy more shoes so I can get the silica packets but it’s a burden I’ll have to bear.
  • I don’t have extra space in the fridge or freezer, so the coolness of the garage will have to suffice.
  • All that is left is to decide how to organize them in the container — by name, planting date, location to be planted?

Plan B is to do the usual, which is buy too many seed packets. Plant willy-nilly in any open ground and pray for results. If  nothing sprouts do it again with a different seed packet until I use up all the seeds I over-purchased during the winter months. This plan eliminates storage as I will have used up all my packets. The pro’s are less storage effort. The con is that I need a new excuse for new shoes.


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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