Monday, February 26, 2018

Getting Organised: Seed Packaging, Storage and Labelling

It's the last week of official summer here in New Zealand (calendar, not astronomic) and I have seeds on the brain, both gathering from the garden and sorting through my stash for autumn planting since we're lucky enough to be able to grow the whole year round.  We have a seed collection post in our archives packed with tips for gathering and storing seeds from the garden, so pop on over if you're looking for ideas as well as a few pitfalls and problems to avoid.  Whether you are buying, gathering, or swapping seeds, the basics of seed storage are fairly straightforward, but actually keeping things organised can be a whole different story. Anyone else feel my pain, fellow gardeners?  Read on for seed storage ideas/inspiration and stay tuned for new freebies in the works!

Seed Storage 

Before packaging and storing seeds, make sure that they are completely dry (especially if gathered) and free from any signs of disease or pests.  Stored seeds will have the best chance of success if they are kept in cool, dark, dry conditions. This means that typical garden gear storage locations like sheds and garages that toast in summer and are cold and potentially damp in winter are poor choices for long term seed storage. Most home gardeners also don't have fridge/freezer space to devote to a seed stash, so sealed storage in a moderated temperature zone of your house is a decent alternative, but can still be tricky, especially if you have a large collection or are tight on space. Keeping them consolidated and organised makes it much easier to neatly store them in the house. I currently keep seeds in the linen closet, using paper packets bundled tightly into a metal storage tin with silica packs - not ideal, but it works for now.

Seed Packaging and Organisation

If you are buying seed, with will usually come pre-packaged. If you're sharing, swapping, or gathering then you will need to make, buy, or repurpose suitable packaging.  
  • Spice bottles (particularly handy for dispensing, especially sprinkling free-planted flower seeds), pill bottles, or other small containers with a salvaged silica gel pack popped inside are great for keeping seeds in a closed controlled environment, but these do require extra space for consolidation and storage. 
  • Seed packets can be bought or made.  There are some awesome free printables if you'd like to create your own special packets for storage or beautifying a few special packets for swapping, sharing, or gifting. Check out these pretty packets from Pass the Pistil and Simple as That
  • Envelopes make a great alternative to seed packets and come in a wide variety of sizes.  There are products sold especially for seeds, but you can also use other types of envelope.
  • Paper bags are also handy (take care to close them though!) and available in different sizes.

So what do you do with all those packages?  Here are some ideas:
  • Photo album pages or sports collector card sleeves make handy ways to store your seed packets. These can be used empty as records in your garden journal, but also as sealed storage for open/full packets too, as long as you seal the open tops. This is a handy space-saving option for smaller gardens and you can slip the binder onto a shelf for easy in-home storage.
  • Photo storage boxes, recipes card boxes, and similar small filing containers can be used (with or without index cards) to create a file of packets. Again, make sure that any open packets are sealed to avoid messy spills and you can pop a desiccant packet or two into the box for extra moisture protection.
  • For larger collections, you can create a segmented file box out of a bigger storage tub, box, or other suitable container by using cardboard or foam core to create dividers.
  • Purpose made seed storage boxes and tins can be bought from garden suppliers or online.

Seed Labelling

Whatever you choose for packaging and storage, labelling is key to keeping things as user-friendly as possible. As I mentioned in my tips for maintaining a garden journal, hate double recording things and paperwork for paperwork's sake, so I will never be the type of person who uses a seed index.  Our free garden journal printables have dozens of different mix-and-match options for garden records, but no seed indexes. If I'm going to record seed information, I want it ready at hand on the packet where I will see it while sorting through seeds and actively planning or planting. 

If you are gathering seed you will need to create your own labels, and you may also want/need to label or relabel swapped or shared seed. Some purchased seeds will have all the planting information you need on the packet, but some of my favourite suppliers use rather generic packets where only the name, sowing season, and best before details are on the packet.  I like to have more specific information at hand, like preferred aspect, lifespan, mature size/spacing, and any specific sowing details such as chilling, soaking, scoring, temperature, germination, etc.  I've been scribbling this onto whatever free space I can find on packets post-purchase, but that's been less than ideal as blank space is limited and I often accidentally cut/tear some of my notes away during use. Bummer.  So I've created a simple peel-and-stick label template that I can pop onto seed packets, bought or otherwise.  I'll be reformatting this to better suit our international readers and sharing the label templates as a freebie in next week's post, so stay tuned!

Check out our Pinterest board on Seed Gathering + Storage  for an ever growing collection of handy links, tips, freebies, and more!


  1. Recipes boxes are a great idea! They would be really nice to use as part of a homemade gardener's gift basket too. Many have really pretty patterns.

    Also, less pretty but for free you can save and reuse holiday gift tins from candies and cookies.

    1. Thanks! They would be lovely gifting ideas, wouldn't they? And saving tins is always a great idea! Good for so many different storage uses, or for filling up with homemade goodies and passing along to friends without needing to worry about returning containers. :)


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