It's Time to Inventory Your Seed Packets

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January is a good time to take stock of any seeds you've saved. Here are tips for sorting through old seed packets and organizing them ahead of seed-starting season, so you know what you need (and don't need!) to purchase:

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  • Look at the dates on all seed packets. Viability declines with each year, with the rate depending on the type of plant and the storage conditions. Discard packets more than a couple years old. (More on seed expiration rates.) If in doubt, perform a quick test of viability.
  • Viable seeds that you're not interested in using can be donated to school gardens or shared or swapped with friends.
  • Seeds can be organized in several ways: by plant type (vegetable vs. flower), sowing time, or alphabetically. Think about what method makes most sense to you and your seed-starting processes. Once you've arranged the packets into the right categories, you might want to put them in order by expiration date, sowing time or alphabetically.
  • Once sorted and organized, seed packets may be inserted into a photo album with pocketed sleeves. Binder dividers can be used to separate categories of seed. Some photo albums include space for notes next to the photo pockets on each page, which you can use to pencil details such as date to sow, germination rate, etc.
  • An alternative to a photo album is a small accordion file or a recipe box, both of which allow you to separate categories and further organize your collection. Using a larger photo-storage box with removable dividers allows you to include seeds that are saved in small jars or canisters along with enveloped seeds.

Recommended reading:

Learn all the ins and outs of growing plants from seed with Julie Thompson-Adolf's Starting & Saving Seeds.

Organize your gardening year with the advice and lists included in The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook.

Never forget a task or miss the best time for a chore with Ann Larkin Hansen's The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner.