Friday, March 04, 2016

Garden Seed Organization System

If you've been gardening for a while, you might be able to relate to this problem. Every year in late winter, when it comes time to plan your summer garden, you pull out all your old seed packets, and try to make an inventory. And, if you're an enthusiastic sampler of many plant varieties, after a while that seed collection can get a bit out of control. Until recently, our seed collection was housed in a motley collection of cardboard shipping boxes and manila envelopes. Some of the seeds were rubber-banded together in loosely associated groups, but there was very little method to the madness.

Last spring, my husband asked if I could do something to bring some organization to the mayhem, but after looking around on the Internet a bit I didn't come up with any great ideas, and forgot about it before long. Fortunately, my husband has a short memory, and he did too. In the mean time, we added another manila envelope of seeds to the collection, and by the time we were ready to place our 2016 seed orders, things had only gotten messier. 

This spring, I was ready to tackle the problem. And I was ready to tackle it in time for my husband's birthday present. I should've taken a nice "before" picture for you so you could see how disorganized our lack of a system was, but by the time I'm ready to tackle a project I just want to get on with it already. Like I said, if you're a gardener reading this, you probably can imagine. Dozens of seed packets, no rhyme or reason.

Here's our pepper collection. Seeds in all different size envelopes and plastic bags... time to make them a folder!

I looked into what other gardeners have done, and found a few interesting options. Some slip seed packets into binders or photo albums, some use clear photo cases or re-purposed cassette tape boxes. There were even cute Pinterest-y ideas like saving seeds in Tic Tac boxes or test tubes that made for great photos but questionable practical ideas. Looking at all the ideas, this seed file box really stood out to me as the best fit for our needs.

I bought a blue photo box and 4x6" index card dividers from Amazon to get started. I made a list of the general seed categories I'd be sorting the seeds into, and printed the labels off in 24 point font. Next came the most fun part! I searched for images of vintage seed packets and seed catalogs to illustrate the seed varieties for each folder. So many of these images were so beautiful or off-beat hilarious that many times I wanted to show my husband what I was working on, but somehow managed to keep the secret until his birthday.

Each folder was made of two dividers, taped together on the inside with packing tape, with a 1/4" or 1/2" strip of cardstock in between, depending on the number of seed packets I estimated each folder to need to hold. The outside of each folder was covered with clear contact paper, for strength and protection.

The outside of the box was just as fun to decorate. My decoupage skills are sadly lacking, so I just glued the cardstock printed pages to the box, and hoped for the best. The top and bottom of the box are covers of a seed catalog from 1894 that I found on the Smithsonian library's website. Front cover on the top...

 And back cover underneath!

The sides were mostly illustrated with vintage Victory Garden posters. I loved these!

Putting an image of a vintage seed cabinet on a modern seed box felt kind of meta.

"Can Vegetables, Fruit, and the Kaiser too." I love it!

Those propaganda posters are doing their job. I feel energized and ready to take on the patriotic duty of gardening!

My 6 and 4-year-old girls illustrated the inside with gardening pictures. 

This is Daddy, digging in the garden.

And here is a desert garden on one side, and colorful grasses on the other.

Inside the lid I pasted three growing season charts that I've admired for a long time.

Amazingly, although this was a fully collaborative project with our 6, 4, and 3 year old daughters (the baby didn't contribute much), they kept it a secret until Daddy's birthday! And, I think he liked it. That night we finally filled it with seeds, and clipped each folder closed. Ahhh. Organization. It looks so much better.

So, that's our seed organization system! I'd love to hear about yours. Do you have a good way of keeping track of your garden seeds?

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