What do you do with your seeds?
When I started vegetable gardening a few years ago, I obviously, acquired a lot of seeds. To start with I just threw all the packets in a box, after all, most of the seeds had been bought at local stores. Then over time, the box became two boxes and soon a third was added. As I collected my own saved seeds jam jars, used carrier bags and coffee filter papers were all pressed into service. The boxes were joined by the kitchen Welsh Dresser, which proved a great place to keep coffee filters containing all manner of seeds as they dried.
I have found I have a couple of problems with this approach. The first is that, although I tend to remember what I've collected, I never remember what packets I have bought.
I'm not one of those people who meticulously spend their winter evenings poring over seed catalogues wondering what to buy this year. I'm the guy who sees a packet of radish seeds in a supermarket whilst picking up some toilet cleaner, and buys them because the picture is nice! I try to make my garden generally organic but I've never worried about my seeds. As long as they are good seed and not from hybrid stock I'm happy.
Well, all this discussion has come about because, this week, I sowed my first seeds of 2011, some of my Cherry Tomato seeds, saved last autumn. I found the seeds, still in a coffee filter, tucked behind a rather nice designer vase on the Welsh Dresser in the kitchen. This was after I'd looked in the four drawer plastic storage unit, an empty paint container and a couple of used carrier bags.....
You get the picture. Now, one of the consequences of the second problem..... is that I have loads of packets of seeds, some full, some half empty, and, quite often, I forget to sow them until a couple of months after the time.... causing either, a game of catch up, or more often, that plant to be abandoned for this year!
It was whilst reflecting on all this that I decided to make 2011 the year of seeds!
I have organised my seeds and, hopefully, as I go through the year, I can make decisions based on something more relevant than my memory.
I decided the first thing was to break the year down into segments. At first I thought about seasons but quickly discarded that idea in favour of months. Once I had made that decision, it was simply a case of putting some marker cards in for each month and then sorting the seed packets.
Firstly, I dealt with all the seeds in packets. If the packets were open, I simply folded the top over and fixed it with a paper clip. Then I filed each packet behind the month marker corresponding to the earliest sowing date. Of course, I'd only just got going when I came across the first packet that could be sown all year round. So I soon had a few packets filed before the year started in that interesting space created before the start of January, but which is not in the previous year!!!! Before long I had sorted all my seed packets and could see exactly what was due to be sown this month. This was quite a shock. I think of March as being the start of the sowing year. I know I sow a couple of things before then but I was quite surprised to find about 20 things in the February file! I'll need to get sowing underway if I'm to keep up.
This was a great start but I still had seeds in bags, seeds in coffee filters, seeds in jam jars, seeds in little plastic pots,, in fact, seeds in virtually anything that would contain them. In fact, all the seeds that I have either been given by other gardeners or seeds I have saved myself were stored like this and none of these fit neatly into my file!
What I ended up doing was making a card for each loose seed The card just names the seed and gives the month to sow it. It might in the future tell me where the seeds are stored!!!! and of course, I'd only written the first couple of cards before I thought, "Oh, I could make a note about that on the card!!". So now, as I look at my seed file, I can choose a month, look at all the seeds I need to sow and all my saved seeds are included in the same system.
Another side effect of this sudden burst of organisation, is that I have ended up with a coherent list of seed that I have saved and that I can offer through my participation in the Blogger's Seed Network. For details of what seeds I am offering take a look at my Seed Exchange List. Now I just need to update that list of the seeds I'm offering!!
Oh, at the end, here, there was supposed to be a photo of the newly organised seed boxes.... However, I got them out of the storage unit to photograph them but decided that I'd just file a couple of packets I had found since I finished.... As I put them down on the table I must have completely misplaced them and pushing the first seed packet in was sufficient to drop the whole lot on the floor. Of course, the boxes decide to animate them selves and turn upside down, before mixing all the packets in big mess!! The photo will be along soon!