BLOG: Organizing Your Seed Packets

Winter is a great time to prepare for Spring planting. One of these "chores" is organizing your seed packets so that you can see what seeds you already have, and what you need to order.

Before we delve too deeply into the Square Foot Gardening method that we learned about in my first entry, I feel this topic needs to take priority so that you can get organized no matter which gardening method you choose. I am going to try to post twice a week—early in the week will be a “general” article, and the one later in the week will be geared toward Square Foot Gardening.

On the morning of our first sticking snow (January 21, 2012) I plunged head first into the fridge and pulled out my seeds to organize them—to see what I can start planting indoors and what I still need to purchase. Yes, you CAN save your seeds from year to year. Most seeds last at least five years when stored properly in a cool, dry environment. This can be as simple as a plastic zipping bag and a desiccant packet to pull out excess moisture placed lovingly into the crisper bin of your refrigerator. Desiccant packet? You know, those little packets you find in a new purse or shoes that annoy the living daylights out of you?  Keep them!  If you don’t happen to have any available, you can either go out and buy a new purse OR put some powdered milk into a tissue and make your own packets.

I keep my seeds in two 1-gallon plastic zipper bags - one for seeds I can start sowing indoors and one for outdoors.

If you're like me you HATE to read directions over & over again.  This is particularly irritating when the directions are not on the seed packet and you must access the Internet.  When I'm out in the garden, the last thing I want to do is check the "thin to" directions to see how many go in a square.  We’ll talk more about spacing in a future post.

So here's my method that you may (or may not) find helpful.

As you can see in the photo, I have plenty of blank surface on which to write on my seed packet. But if you don't you can tape a piece of blank paper on the back of the packet—only tape along the top so you can still access any information you may need from the original packet.

In the upper left corner I put the spacing. It's usually just a number "1", "4", "9" or "16". As you can see in the photo, this needs to be 1 plant per 2 square feet (1 / 2 sf). If you choose to NOT use the SFG method, you can substitute this information with the “thin to” directions (i.e., thin to every 6” you can just write 6” at the top).

In the upper right corner I put "IN" or "OUT" so I immediately know WHERE to start the seed. Can I start them indoors or do I need to direct sow them out in the garden when the soil is warm? Below that is the date (according to our zone's last frost date) so I know WHEN I can begin planting. I guess I should also put the date when I can start direct sowing them outside AND the LAST date on them so I don't plant too late in the season.  

NOTE: Speaking of “zones”, did you know that the USDA changed the Hardiness Zones on January 26, 2012? Glen Burnie is now in Zone 7b (just last week I announced we were in 7a). This won’t affect you since our Last Frost date is still April 15th.

In the middle I put how many days until harvest. Of course we all know this is a tentative date. Here again, I HATE to grab my calendar and figure out when that will be, so I calculate it in WEEKS & DAYS. For instance, in the picture above you see 47 days. That is 6 weeks plus 5 days (6 wks + 5). The next packet I grabbed was 50 days. Well then I knew instantly that was (7 wks + 1). 

Next I put the packages in order by the planting date—it will only remain like this for the first week. As soon as I plant the first time, I then put it farther back when I intend to plant my second crop. For instance say I am going to start 2 heads of broccoli indoors on January 22 (1/22). I know I will want to plant two more heads two weeks after that, so I then put the broccoli seed packet with the ones I'm going to start on February 4 (2/4). This should give me one head of broccoli every week through the season.

I can then look at my calendar and quickly count the number of weeks & days when it "might" be ready to harvest.

Do you have any tips for organizing your garden? I’d love for you to share that info.

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