Storing my seed
When I first started out growing from seed, a small dark green plastic box
sold as "Seed Saver Jr" was all I needed to keep all of my seeds neatly organized.
As I started saving seed from the garden, trading seed, and getting ever more
through seed exchanges and mail-order purchases, I quickly ran out of space,
and needed a better solution. The one I use now has been tested for a few years,
and works great for me.
It's not high-tech
My storage solution can be built easily from materials found in any discount
I lined the bottom of the tote with some rough cardboard, to keep the cards
from shifting around too much on the smooth plastic. Another two strips of
cardboard made two dividers, to separate the box into three lengthwise rows.
The two left rows are for index cards with seeds - the right one (which is
narrower) holds some supplies (baggies, blank cards), as well as cards for
plants for which I don't currently have seed.
- A medium-size clear storage tote with lid
- 3"x5" index cards
- scrap cardboard
It's all on the cards
I create an index card for each plant species for which I receive seed. Usually,
I have only one card even if I have multiple cultivars of the same species.
The card is labeled at the top with the botanical name, and that's also where
some other administrative information goes: the common name, if applicable; my first source
of the seed; and whether the plant is annual or perennial, if I'm likely to forget.
The next section of the card has any instructions I've found (from online sources, reference
books, or traders) on germinating the seed. These are often somewhat conflicting,
so I just add whatever information I come across.
If I think I'll want to collect the seed from my plants, and have doubts
about identifying it, often I'll tape a seed or two to the index card, so I'll
always have a reference.
Most importantly, after I'm done germinating the seed, I write on the
index cards what my actual results were. These are the results you'll also find
on my plant portraits, under "Detailed germination information". I have an
entry for every year I tried the seed, regardless of whether I was successful.
These entries are my starting point for deciding on the procedure and timing for
starting the seed next time.
Oh - and the seed itself? It is attached with a paperclip to the back of the
index card. Depending on what's handy, and how it arrives, it's either in
plastic ziplock baggies, manila envelopes, or home-made paper/vellum contraptions.
Keeping those seeds fresh
I don't have fridge space for my large seed box, but I do try to keep the seeds
cool, or at least to not expose them to wildly fluctuating temperatures. For
that purpose, I built an insulated cover out of plywood and styrofoam that fits
over the top of the box, The covered box sits on my basement floor, up against a
wall. Even though my basement gets comfortably warm all year, the floors and
walls are cool, so I think my seeds stay at 50-60F year-round. And that's fine
for most seeds. The few varieties that are notoriously short-viable I store
separately in the fridge.
Organizing all those seeds
In the beginning, I tried to organize by type of plant (annual, perennial, vegetable, etc),
but that got to be a hassle (what about biennials? what if some sources say it's an
annual, others a tender perennial?), so now I just keep everything in alphabetical
order by botanical name. That would never work without having a way of deciding
which seeds to start when - so that's where my Excel seed starting
tool comes in - I just print off the list of the next 40 varieties I need to
start, in order of start date, and pick the varieties one by one out of my
seed box. Yeah, I guess I'm anal. But it's the procedure that's worked best
for me, after trying several other approaches.
Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|jj||Mar 11, 2006||Nice website
I am going to make a simular box our of a large plastic
container the next time I go to Manila. We have plenty
of paperclips. Thats for such a practical approach to a
age old problem.
JJ Santol, Boac, Marinduque, Philippine Islands 4900|
|Gail mcIntosh||Jan 20, 2007||I am most impressed with this method, especially the part about germination hints for a particular plant........and then how the seeds and plants did!!|
|Cassandra||Mar 20, 2011||Nice website too bad you show seeds being stored in plastic baggies ~ a VERY POOR IDEA. |
I've never seen any evidence, or any convincing explanation, that storage in baggies is harmful. It works fine for me, with many species maintaining viability for many years.
|arlene Pauly||Jul 31, 2014||thanks for all the details, may I recommend a label inside the ziplock bag too for when it gets separated from the card. I have tried bead containers too in the past but like Robs method above better- thanks Rob for sharing|
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April 27, 2009