In late winter, sometime between late January and early March, I like to start planning my garden. As I pour over my newly-arrived seed catalogs and choose new seeds varieties to order (always too many), I remind myself that I need to consider all of the seeds I already have in my ever-growing collection. So I bring out and attempt to sort through all of the other seeds I’ve been collecting for the past couple of years.
Some of these collected seeds are from past years’ seed orders, others I’ve saved from last year’s garden, and then there are those seeds that I’ve swapped for or have been gifted to me. And to put it generously, my seed collection is seriously unorganized. I have seeds stored in small plastic bags, envelopes, shoe boxes, and little jars — all just scattered haphazardly around my office.
So this year, I’ve come up with a new system. All of my saved and gifted seeds are placed into super-easy folded paper packets that I’ve made myself, and then all of my collection of seed packets (both handmade and seed catalog packets) go into a seed binder that I’ve assembled. And I have to say that since I’ve begun to implement this system, it’s been so much more efficient sorting through seeds and planning my garden.
If you want to try my seed-organizing project, you’ll start by making these easy folded seed packets. They can be made with almost any kind of paper - old paper bags, kraft paper, freezer paper, fancy scrapbook paper, or even plain printer paper. Flimsy papers like wrapping papers, however, aren't a good choice because they aren't sturdy enough to safely hold and protect your seeds. So stick to papers with a little weight to them.
And to label the packets, you can be as plain or as creative as you like. If you want to keep it simple, just use a pen or marker to label the packet. If you're feeling extra crafty, you could sketch a picture with colored pencils, use botanically-themed rubber stamps, or use premade stick-on labels. Or if you're tech-savvy, use your computer to design and print the packets before folding them.
To make the packets:
Start with a square piece of paper. I used an 8 x 8-inch square, but you can adjust the size to your needs. Fold the square into a triangle.
With the right side (90-degree angle) of the triangle facing up, fold the ends in towards the center, dividing the triangle into thirds. Tuck one end into the other, and then flatten and make the creases sharp. Unfold the triangle, and then use scissors to cut a notch from each side as shown in the photo.
Fold and tuck the ends again, and then fold the top flap down and tuck it in to close the packet. To add seeds, unfold the top flap and separate the layers, pour in your seeds, and then fold over and tuck in to close.
Next, to store all my seed packets, I put together a binder.
To make one like I’ve made, you’ll need a 3 or 4-inch 3-ring binder. I’ve used one with a clear pocket at the front to allow for adding a front cover. The cover can be a utilitarian handwritten cover, or something more decorative. For my binder, I used a photo of my garden haul that I took last summer, and then also designed and printed out a label for the spine of the binder.
To add my seed packets, I placed plastic sleeves into the binder. The sleeves I used are designed for coupons and are divided into different shapes and sizes — perfect for a variety of seed packet sizes. You could also use sleeves made for baseball cards or business cards. Find plastic sleeves online, or at craft stores or places that sell office supplies.
I then just slipped my seed packets into the pockets. I didn’t use tabbed dividers in my binder, but you could do that if you wanted to separate seeds into categories — tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.
To prolong the life of my seeds, I store my finished binder in a cool, dark place (for me that’s on a shelf in my pantry). You’ll want a spot that’s low in humidity and safe from pests and critters. And keep in mind that seeds don’t last indefinitely. Although I regularly store seeds for 3-4 years, or even more, I always expect that there will be some duds in these older batches. If in doubt, test for germination and toss out any that are no longer viable.
So if you are looking for a way to organize your seed collection, give this project a try. Keeping your seeds organized and stored properly should help to make garden planning easier and help you to grow your best garden.