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Natural Herbs seeds for planting in a garden

PLANTER BOX GARDENING 101:
ORGANIZING AND CATALOGING
YOUR SEEDS

How to Organize your Seeds for under $15 in a DIY, easy-to-use Catalog

three ring binder seed catalog

Seed Packets Organization – Easy and Cheap!

When you fall in love with gardening for your health, suddenly a huge world opens up to you. That is the world of seed sellers and catalogs. It starts every year in December or January... seed sellers begin to ship those beautiful, inspiring catalogs that get you dreaming of warmer weather and fresh-from-the-yard, healthy crops.

If you're anything like me, I have a pretty hearty collection of seeds at home. Each year, as I scan through the colorful catalogs or I review my Garden Journal, I find new varieties of plants that I must add to my garden this year. That means - buying more seeds.

Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of seeds - flowers, wildflower mixes, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and lots of unorganized seeds from friends and family. One of the beautiful things about growing from seeds is that they have a fairly long shelf-life. Even though seed packets are often labeled for a specific growing year, chances are they may still be viable years later. (Read here how to grow from seeds with success.)

The moment I realized that I had to do something different to track my seed supply was when I went looking for some basil seed packets.  I didn’t just find one packet; I found eight packets of the same basil seeds.  No one – not the world’s largest pesto manufacturer – needs eight packets of basil seeds (with thousands of tiny seeds per packet) sitting in their gardening cabinet.

Turns out…basil is my ultimate impulse purchase.

 That’s when I decided it was time to take inventory and organize my seed packets, once and for all!

Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Seed Packets

Whether you are a flower, vegetable, herb, or any kind of gardener, this method is a great way to organize all of your seed packets in one easy-to-use, easy-to-find place.  I like to grow all kinds of plants in my garden, so this organization system is really helpful for my fellow “this and that” gardeners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found that every type of seed (whether flower, vegetable, or herb seeds) stores very well with this method.  The only exception I've found is with pea and bean seeds, which tend to be large and bulky. It takes several pouches to store those comfortably with this method. Therefore, I store my bulky seeds in a small plastic basket like this.

organized seeds in catalog

Storing Seeds from your Garden

Now that I've been gardening with success for several years, I collect seeds from my very own garden. In the fall, my kids and I like to collect seeds from flowers, especially natives and those that do really well in my low-water region.

 

It’s important that if you’re storing seeds that you’ve collected from your own garden or from outside, that they’re very dry before storing. Moisture on seeds can lead to all sorts of issues while they're storing. And if seeds are well prepared for storage, they can last viably for several years.

 

After I collect my seeds, I lay them flat on craft-style paper in a cool, dry location for a few days after harvesting. In my region, it only takes a few days for the seeds to harden and dry to an easy-to-store state. Since humidity varies at each location, you may have to store your seeds on craft paper for a few weeks to prepare for storage. Laying them out to dry is the best way to ensure they won’t mold or spoil in storage. All it takes is one moldy seed in the batch to ruin the entire packet. 

Create Your Own Seed Catalog

ferry morse seed packets

When you're ready to organize your seeds, it helps to take inventory of what you have. I started by separating them into piles by type (flowers, vegetables, herbs, succulents, etc.). As I took inventory, I asked myself, "Will I actually ever grow this?" For those seeds to which I said, "No," I put them in a separate bag. These are the seeds that I'll definitely bring to a local seed swap, give away free on Facebook, or share with friends. I can't seem to throw away seeds ~ it's the plant-lover in me.  

For those seeds that I would grow, I checked the "use by" date on those that were commercially purchased. Now, these expiration dates are not exact. In fact, that's what makes seeds so special. They can be stored for decades and still contain that life-giving code for producing so many years later. 

 

Read one of my favorite (true) stories about the longevity of seeds here ~ The Comfort Seed story. 

Supplies You'll Need to Make a Seed Catalog:

 

 

My Seed Packets Catalog is made of a heavy duty 3″ 3-ring binder, baseball card sleeves (I prefer 3×3), folder dividers, and 2″x3″ little manila envelopes (or similar size).  How many trading card sheets should you buy? You'll use three seeds per page, so simply calculate how many seed packs you plan to store. For example, 100 seed packs/3 = 34 trading card sleeves. So I would likely buy a pack of 50 sleeves. 

 

I assembled my binder with the sleeves and dividers.  Then I created my sections.  I have one for herbs, one for vegetables, one for fruits, and one for flowers (right now my annuals and perennials are in the same section).  I use my folder dividers for each major section.  These stick out further than the baseball card sleeves which is perfect; it makes it easy to flip to the section I need quickly - especially while wearing gardening gloves.  

Next I filled the three sleeves; you'll dedicate each row to one seed type.  Using a scissors, I cut each seed packet, pouring seeds into the little bags and labeling them with the seed name, year (if available), and any other details I want to recall (ex. who gifted the seed to me, etc.). Then I return to the original seed packet - I cut the front and back of the original packet down to size to fit in my trading card sleeves. 

From the left to right pockets in my trading card sleeve, I put 1) seed information, 2) the bag of seeds, and finally, 3) the picture of the plant.  The goal is to easily see the plants as I flipped through the catalog; that’s why the picture is on the far right.  A Sharpie was perfect for writing the seed names on each seed pouch, in case they get mixed up.  

2x3 Seed Envelopes

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Paper Envelopes vs. Plastic Baggies

Honestly, I’ve had great success using either paper envelopes (like the ones pictured below) or small 2″x3″ plastic baggies.  That’s because I live in the high desert and don’t really have a moisture problem. There is very little humidity in my region, so I think that’s why plastic baggies have worked in my seed packets binder.  

When I lived on the Eastern Seaboard, that was not the case! There was so much moisture and humidity in the air year-round. I couldn’t store my seeds in the plastic baggies without having the whole lot get moldy – even when I did let them dry out.  My family who lives in the Midwest says the same thing. They must use paper envelopes just like many of you.

 

Depending on where you live, you’ll have to decide for yourself. If you live in a dry region like me, then plastic baggies will work (and they’re very cost effective).  If you live somewhere with humidity, then definitely choose the paper envelopes. They allow the seeds to stay dry and prevent molding of your seeds over time.

Checking Seed Viability

This growing season, I started working through my seeds to determine viability.  I did this by putting 5 seeds in a damp paper towel in a plastic baggie, watching for germination.  Several seeds have been tossed because I’ve held onto them for too long, and they’re no longer viable.  They’ll only break my heart if I start them!  That’s one of the benefits of a catalog: I can see how old the seeds are, because I saved the information.  If they aren’t viable, then I know it’s time to buy more from this season’s packets.

How I Use My Seed Catalog Each Year

My Seed Packets Catalog has been a game-changer for me. This Catalog helped me take an honest inventory of what I have, what I've forgotten about, and what I'm running low on. 

Each year I religiously make a resupply purchase from my favorite organic seed company, High Mowing Organic Seeds. That's because I had a tremendous health scare several years ago and came to believe in the healing power of eating healthy. A nutrient-rich family favorite and easy grower is their Rainbow Chard; check it out here.  

My Seed Packets Catalog is a huge hit at work in the Spring!  I pass it around (with baggies and a Sharpie) and let people take whatever they’d like.  Heaven knows I may not use them, and I can always buy more.  🙂 

Have you created a seed catalog? If so, show it off on Instagram! Tag to show off @planterboxgarden

Happy, healthy planting to you!

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PLANTER BOX GARDENING 101

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WHAT TO ACTUALLY BUY TO GET STARTED

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