Seed storage and organization can be overwhelming! Here’s how to create a system that will actually work to keep your seeds organized, plus a look at how I organize my own seeds!
It starts out simple: just a few seed packs that you can easily tuck away into a box of gardening supplies. But, somehow, before you even know what happened, your seed supply has taken on a life of its own!
You suddenly have piles of seeds floating all around the house! And you’ve invested enough money into that stockpile at this point that you’ve given yourself anxiety about where your seeds are and how many you have and if you even remember what you ordered! And, somehow, more seeds magically appear in your mailbox the very next day.
Let me tell you the truth: you have a problem.
No, not a seed addiction problem. (Could that even be possible?!)
You have an organization problem!
It’s true! The solution isn’t to stop ordering seeds (silly!) – the solution is just to have better organized seeds!
So let’s talk about seed storage and how to organize all those seeds so your significant other doesn’t even realize when you buy more!
*Disclosure: I would never recommend misleading your significant other. Instead, I recommend helping them start their own seed addiction so you can do it together!
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How to Take a Seed Inventory
The first step in organizing your seeds is to know exactly which seeds you actually own. It’s time to take an inventory of all your seeds. This will help you better understand exactly how many of each type you have on hand already. This is incredibly useful to know when you are planning your seed orders or even planning your garden!
Grab a glass of wine, find a large open space and get to work!
Gather up all of your seed packets into a big pile. Then, go through them one pack at a time. Place each seed pack with like packs. For instance, cherry tomatoes go with other cherry tomatoes. Leaf lettuces go with other leaf lettuces. And so on and so forth.
Next, take a tally of each of your seed groups. Record how many seed packs you have of each type. You can break it down even further into seed varieties if you want. You can do this on a digital spreadsheet or you can use the Seed Inventory Sheet located in the garden section of the free Homestead Management Binder.
Seed Organization: Grouping
Now that you know which seeds you actually own, it’s time to decide how to organize them. Grouping your seeds will make life much easier when it’s time to plan and plant your garden!
There are so many different way to do this! It’s important to find the method that is going to be most efficient for you. Start by thinking about how you plan and plant your garden and try to organize your seeds accordingly.
Here are some efficient ways to group your seeds. More than likely, you will probably want to use a combination of these ideas to create your perfect seed organization system!
Group by type
Grouping your seeds by type is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to organize your seeds. You simple place all of your like seeds together.
Depending on how many seeds you have and how detailed you want to be, you can break it down as much or as little as you want. For instance, maybe you just want to group all of your squash together. Or, maybe you want to separate your summer squash, your cucumbers, your winter squash and your pumpkins.
Group by season
Another great way to organize your seeds is by season. For example, you can put all of your cool weather crops together and all of your hot weather crops together. This way, you’ll be able to pull out just the seeds you need during a certain season.
Group by planting date
Another popular way to group seeds is by planting date. If you know what you need to plant each month, you can organize the seeds that way. For instance, in February, you are probably starting your eggplants, tomatoes and pepper plants inside. But you may also be starting some cold crops, like peas, outside. You can group all of these seeds together to make it easier!
Group by planting method
You can also group your plants based on how you need to sow them. You can have one group for seeds that need to be started indoors, one group for seeds you can be direct sown outdoors, one for seeds that need to be planted in the fall and overwintered (cold stratification), and so on.
Group by planting bed
Another method is to organize the seeds based on which ones you plant together. You can do this with common companion plants, like tomatoes and allysum or borage. Or, you can organize them together based on themed planting groups. So, if you are planning to plant a salsa garden, you’ll want all your salsa ingredient plants (tomato, onion, peppers, cilantro, etc.) grouped together.
Group oldest to newest
If you have a lot of seeds piling up, it might be prudent to also organize them by date. Each seed packet will list a date with the year that it’s packed. Obviously, seeds are most viable when they are newest, but they can be used for many many years if stored correctly. But, to get the best germination rates, it’s ideal to use your seeds within the first few years. Organizing your seeds by their packing date will make it easier to use your older seeds before breaking into those newer packets!
Seed Storage Options
Now that you have figured out your seed organization, it’s time to talk about seed storage!
There are so many storage options available, ranging from simple to complex. The main things that you want to consider are: ease of access when retrieving and putting away your seeds, protection from the elements (light and moisture), and overall convenience (no one likes hauling a big bulky tupperware around!)
Some popular storage container options include:
- Bins: The easiest way to store your seeds is in an airtight plastic bin. Any plastic storage bin will do! These art bins are pretty popular choices! Heck, you can even use a shoebox, but be aware that it won’t stop moisture.
- Binders: Large 3-ring binders can be a good way to store seeds. You can put individual packets into photo sleeves or sheet protectors.
- Photo Cases: These plastic photo cases are incredibly popular for seed storage. I haven’t personally used them because I just feel like I would spend a fortune getting enough for all my seeds and I don’t want to have to open all those little containers. But, some people absolutely swear by them and rave about them!
- Bags: Ziplock bags also make a really good storage option. You can place your grouped seeds into quart-sized bags and then place those into larger gallon-sized bags with other similar seeds. Just be aware that bags can trap moisture once they are sealed. If you use storage bags, try to keep your seeds out of direct sunlight to avoid moisture buildup from condensation.
Seed Storage Locations:
Once your seeds are organized into storage containers, place them in a cool, dark location. A basement or closet works great. You can also store them in a fridge if you have the room! If you live in a particularly humid climate, you may want to put some moisture absorbers in/near your containers or place a dehumidifier nearby and run it occasionally.
My Seed Organization + Storage System
Over the years, I’ve utilized a variety of seed storage systems. Some of them haven’t worked out well. But, the system I’ve used for the last several years is definitely my favorite! I made some modifications this year to accommodate my ever growing seed collection and to make the system even more organized!
My favorite part of the system is how economical it is! It has cost me less than $10 and I couldn’t be happier! All that savings just means more money to spend on seeds! Woohoo!
Here’s how I organize and store my seeds!
For many years, I kept a pretty good inventory of my seeds using the printable Seed Inventory Sheets available in the Homestead Management Binder. But, in the last few years, I gotten a little behind! I think I may eventually create a spreadsheet so it’s easier to edit and update it over the years.
I break my seeds down by both type and season. Here are the groupings that I currently have:
- Warm Crops:
- Container 1: Squash (broken into summer and winter squash), Gourds & Pumpkins
- Container 2: Peppers (broken into hot and sweet peppers), Tomatoes (broken into cherry and slicing), Eggplants, Okra, Corn, Grains
- Container 3: Cucumbers, Melons, Beans (broken into pole and bush beans), Miscellaneous warm crops
- Cold Crops
- Beets, Broccoli, Brussels, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Onions, Peas, Parsnips, Radishes, Miscellaneous
- Head lettuce, Leaf lettuce, Asian greens, Kale, Chard, Arugula, Mustard, Spinach, Miscellaneous
- Herbs & Medicinals
- Culinary: Basil, Borage, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Tulsi, Thyme, Miscellaneous
- Medicinal: Medicinal A-C, Medicinal D-H, Medicinal I-Z, Stratify, Scarify
- Cover Crops
- I usually buy these in bulk, so they are stored in labeled ziplock bags
- Flowers by type (my most frequently used)
- Marigold, Calendula, Zinnias & Cosmos, Nasturtium, Sunflowers
- Flowers by group
- Pollinator flowers, Native/Desert Flowers, Wildflowers, Miscellaneous
Over the years I’ve consistently used one type of plastic storage bin… from the Dollar Tree! They work so well and are the perfect size! I’ve added several over the years as my collection has grown. I love how economical they are and I love that they have been consistently available for purchase. I just added 4 more bins this year to accommodate all of my seed saving efforts!
Storage Bin Dividers:
Within each bin, I have dividers to separate out each seed grouping and make it easier to find the exact seeds I need. These dividers are also super fancy just like the bins. Just kidding! It’s just a cardboard box that I cut up and wrote on with a Sharpie!
Bags or No Bags?
The one thing that I keep changing over the years is whether or not to store the seed groups in Ziplock bags for extra moisture protection. While I like the peace of mind it gives me, I have also noticed that it’s a pain to dig through the bags, even when they are sorted by plant type. I also noticed that if I have the bags outside in the sun, condensation builds up in them and I have to dry them out before sealing them again. After a lot of needless overthinking and internal dialogue, I decided to try it without the bags this year and see how it goes!