K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Seed Packet Storage, Organisation and Planning Wednesday 9 March 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

It comes up for discussion now and again, and folk have different ways of organising their seed packets. I think it depends on how many packets you have … I, for sure, have “too many” …

In the past I’ve put all the seed packets in a shoebox size container, in alphabetical order

Seed Packets Shoebox

Seed Packets Shoebox

and then had a Spreadsheet where I listed them with intended sowing date, germination temperature, and columns for when I actually sowed them, pricked out, planted out and so on.

Seed Sowing Spreadsheet

Seed Sowing Spreadsheet

There has been more good-intent than actual data logging! In the Winter months all the seed packets I have bought do indeed get logged (its not hard to cut & paste into the Spreadsheet from the email confirmation of an online purchase), but then I print out a To Do list, sorted by Sowing Date, and I scribble on that how many I grew, and when I planted them out … and typically I lose the piece of paper, or it gets “piled” in my office ready to join a long list of things reserved for the proverbial rainy day.

The import things, which have worked for me, are:

Find a specific seed packet – alphabetical in a box solves that.
Remember to sow it at the right time – Spreadsheet solves that.

There are some downsides to my current system. First, whereas it seems that seed packets used to be a similar size (at least the few brands that I favoured were) and thus align neatly in my shoebox, now they are all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Seed Packet Sizes

Seed Packet Sizes

There are two reasons for this, one is the blasted marketing people trying to differentiate their product – such as the fancy, double-wide, packet for the James Wong collect from Suttons, and the second is that many of the “economy” brands are shipping their seeds in small ziplock bags or similar. They just get lost, and muddled up, in my shoebox.

The second problem is that for some years I’ve been growing quite a lot of different varieties of some seeds. I’ve got 5 different types of Onion this year, but in practice they are all sown on the same day. Its a bit tedious to list them individually on my spreadsheet, then make sure they all have the same “Start” date, Germination temperature, etc. and chances are when I grab them from my showbox the one in the little fiddly packet might well escape and not get sown anyway.

I’m also in disgrace for commandeering a large amount of space in the kitchen at this time of year; it used to be more straightforward until the number of packets got out of hand. I liked to have piles of packets that were Work-in-Progress, and I knew which was what (tidy and organised people will be horrified to read this; sorry about that!). Its no longer practical, the piles either fall over or “have to be moved” and then I lose my place in the piling system.

So this year I’ve decided to try A5 envelopes instead. For some veg types I will have a couple of envelopes – e.g. one for Early Tomatoes (the ones that have a very long growing season and which I want to kick off on 1st January) and the second for Main Tomatoes which I will sow mid to end of February. I’ve got three seed packets in the Early group, and four or five in the Main group. I will pop those into the relevant envelop, all together, and then sow all the envelop contents on the same day. Next year whatever is left of the seed will still be there to be used up.

For organisation I’ve printed on the outside of the A5 envelop all the details about intended sowing date, how many plants I plan to grow, an then have space to handwrite all the varieties, the actual sowing / pricking out / planting dates – which in previous years I had such good intentions to enter into my spreadsheet!

Seedpacket Record Card

Seedpacket Record Card

I have always written the date of sowing on the packet, as well as on my spreadsheet printout, so writing it on the new envelope cover shouldn’t be onerous. There are about 30 lines on an envelope, so if I grow five or six varieties the envelope history will last for five or six years – probably about the lifetime of the envelope itself.

I may make a cut-down spreadsheet, omitting details of individual varieties, just to create a Calendar to remind me of the key dates when I should sow Early / Main Tomatoes etc. That will safeguard me from putting the Tomato envelope in the wrong place (more important to remind me about successional sowing crops), and the actual envelopes can be stored, back in the original shoebox, in either alphabetical order or sowing-date order.

This is what my printed A5 envelopes look like:

Seed Envelopes

Seed Envelopes

Initially I only printed envelopes for seeds that came in regular and small packets, but then I decided that Runner Beans etc. also needed an envelop (so that they were “in the system”), even though the actual bags-of-beans won’t fit in the envelop. I then added Envelopes for Cutting Bed Annuals and so on. I don’t need one-per-variety – for example: I only have one variety of Larkspur, but I have several other cutting bed Annuals that I sow at the same time, so three envelopes labelled Early, Mid and Late Sown Annuals is sufficient for things that need sowing from mid February to mid March, and I can then decide that a particular seed packet needs adding to one of my February packets … or a March one. Similarly for Herbs I’ve wound up with three envelopes, with a selection of different Herb seed packets in each one

I had one final, unexpected, “win”. I round-up and keep used labels from one year to the next. The permanent marker I use lasts well beyond the time when the plastic label disintegrates in the sun! but finding the right label, in a huge bundle of them, is a wretched nuisance. Now I can just chuck the used labels into the appropriate Seed Envelop and then, next spring, the label will be there together with the corresponding seed packet.

Old Labels - now stored "ready" in Seed Envelopes

Old Labels – now stored “ready” in Seed Envelopes

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