If you ordered your seeds from a catalog, chances are those seed packets are beginning to arrive at your house—an entire garden, in one padded envelope! After you’ve opened the package and checked to make sure they included everything you ordered, (or if you’ve bought your seeds at your local garden center), what should you do with those seeds?
I used to just toss the packets into my seed-holding shoebox and hope I would remember to start them at the right time. Now I take a little time to get organized before spring planting really gets underway.
Most seed packets come with the date stamped on them, but I check to make sure, writing on the year if it isn’t already there. I pull out any packets left over from previous years, and check the dates on them too. Anything over a couple of years old gets set aside for a viability test. (See my post on pre-germination for directions on how to do this.)
Then I sort them by type of crop—the beans over here, the tomatoes over there—and stuff each pile into its own zippered plastic bag. I use sealable bags to keep the humidity low (it doesn’t get much lower than Colorado in the winter!), which is important for most seeds. Storing them cool and dry prolongs their lifespan. Yes, seeds are alive—tiny plant embryos are hiding inside, waiting for a chance to resume growth.
Have you ever gotten to the end of June and discovered that you forgot to start your heirloom tomato seeds back in March? It’s frustrating to pay money for seeds and then overlook them amid the spring planting frenzy.
This is why I arrange my seed box by starting date. I look at the calendar, consult with the seed catalog (or my collection of garden notes from previous years), and write down when each type of seed needs to get started, whether indoors or outside where it is to grow. Then I organize my seed box match the calendar.
For example, the front of my box has the varieties that need the most lead time—leeks and onions, geraniums and other slow-to-grow flowers. Using a cardboard divider, I label it with the date I need to start these seeds inside under lights. The next section includes those seeds that need six to eight weeks of growing time before being set out around the last frost. Those include the hardier annual flowers, cabbage family members (broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, etc.), lettuce, and Swiss chard. Then comes tomatoes, peppers, and more annuals. You get the idea.
Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve rarely (I’m not perfect) forgotten to plant seeds that I’ve purchased. And having seedlings the proper age at transplant time results in healthier plants and more veggies or flowers over the whole season.
My husband sometimes suggests that I might be a tad too organized, but in this case, it really pays off!