Well, my Mama tried, but I’m no lady, so let’s discuss our seed stash! We’ve talked a few times about why seed saving is so incredibly important and how simple it is (here and here) but figuring out how to do it practically is another matter altogether. When I first delved into seed saving about 10-12 years ago, I had no idea it would become a total obsession, so my seed stash was nothing more than a few sandwich baggies tossed into the freezer. A few random odd seeds and half-used packages constituted my whole collection but I’ve expanded slightly since then LOL. I’ve tried several different approaches; snack sized baggies of seed thrown into gallon sized bag according to plant-type; plastic lidded totes with baggies chucked in it, but I couldn’t keep it together until I landed on my current method. For the method I’m using, you can find everything you need in either the craft or office aisles at Wal-mart. Here’s what you need!
- 4″+ zippered binder
- 2″X3″ bead bags
- self-adhesive labels to fit the bags
- business card binder pages or trading card protectors
- Sharpie marker
The method couldn’t be any easier. I mean seriously, a caveman could do it. Place your seeds in the bead bags and label the bag with a self-adhesive label or with a Sharpie marker.
Then choose a card binder page, insert the seed bag into a card slot and label the space so when you remove the seed package, you’ll know where it belongs. Later on down the road, you’ll be able to tell at a glance what needs replenished without having to hunt…or wonder what went in that empty space. Done. Okay, almost done.
I’m a little obsessive about it, so I’ve organized mine by plant type; there are separate pages for tomatoes, peppers, root veggies, herbs, flowers. Again, at a glance you can tell what needs to be replenished and it helps to keep your mind organized when you’re starting seedlings in March. Feel free to copy or organize your seed stash alphabetically, according to plant date or the age of the seeds. Whatever works for you!
I also find the large, cheap zippered supply pouches work great for holding bulk seeds such as peas or beans, extra bags, labels, markers etc. All total, you’ll end up with about $10 invested, but it makes your life so much easier, especially during planting season. Ease aside, the benefit to this route is that you’re giving your seeds layers of protection from moisture and light, which will ruin your seeds fairly quickly. A third bonus to this method: Your binder will only take up 4 inches on your bookshelf or in a cabinet. So much smaller than the bucket of baggies that I started out with!
So let’s talk about the quantity now. How much seed is enough seed? My rule of thumb is to have 2-3 years worth of seed at all times and here’s why: if I have 50 tomato seeds and start 25 of them, plant the 25 seedlings and they’re destroyed by an animal, weather or someone reckless with a scuffle hoe, it’s upsetting, but I still have 25 seeds for next year to preserve the strain. Disaster averted. It stinks that my seedlings were destroyed but life (literally) will go on. Many people have larger seed collections they freeze, for just-in-case situations, and that’s probably not a bad idea, but for me, 2-3 years of seed works pretty well. You’ll want to be diligent in using the oldest seeds first; most seeds have a shelf life of maybe 3-5 years after which time their germination rate drops precipitously. If you find you have too many seeds to use in a season or two, consider donating them to a fellow gardener or a non-profit that produces food for schools, kitchens and shelters. Don’t let those precious seeds go to waste!
It’s not exactly rocket science, but I’m pretty pleased with my seed stash and the organization system I’ve got going on. Tell me how you keep yours together…I’d love to know! Til next time!