The hustle and bustle of the holidays are behind me. The tree has been taken down, the ornaments are put away, and all of the cookies have been eaten. Do I feel blue after the flurry of activity from the past few weeks? In all honesty, I can say no. Folks, I am looking forward to one of my favorite pre-planting season projects. Namely, reviewing my seed inventory prior to ordering.
Now for the longest time, I didn’t worry too much about my seed inventory. Basically, I planted enough to fill up my containers on the patio and called that good for the season. Usually there were a few tomatoes, a couple of herbs, and maybe a cucumber here and there. My seed inventory could be held in one hand based off of seven patio pots.
Now settled on our urban homestead with more than a patio to plant, I have scores of seed packets. Just in tomatoes alone, there are 43 unique heirlooms varieties (with approximately 30 of them ending up in my garden beds every year). If it wasn’t for organization, I would probably have 4 or 5 packets of the same type of beefsteak or cherry tomato or perhaps I had forgotten that I still had basil seed left over from the previous season.
My organization system is a two-step approach. Step one is organizing the seeds based on certain categories. Our categories are: herbs, cool season, warm season, and tomatoes. (If you are wondering why we don’t place the tomatoes in with the warm season, please reread the previous paragraph). Each of those categories are placed into a plastic grocery bag. (Our seeds are kept in the house that is patrolled by cats… so we don’t have to worry about mice. But if mice are a concern, place your seeds in containers that can’t be nibbled through such as glass or metal.) The outside of each bag is labeled with a category name such cool season, which makes it easy to gather the correct seed in February when we begin to plant in our cold frames. As the garden season progresses, other bags are brought out with the warm season crops being planted last.
The second step is creating a spreadsheet (such as Excel) on the computer. If you do not have a spreadsheet program, a pen and paper will work just as well. (You could create a garden journal listing your seed inventory within the pages.) One master spreadsheet is created simply titled ‘Seeds’. Within this master spreadsheet, 4 unique pages are created based upon the seed being sorted into categories. That means there is an herb page, a cool season page, a warm season page, and a tomato page. Varieties are entered in their own unique row (don’t worry about trying to enter them alphabetically… you can use a tool within Excel to do that task for you).
Within the spreadsheet you can track whatever information that is of interest to you. I like creating Headers for columns. For my Tomato worksheet, my headers include: Variety, Have, Size & Flavor, and Days to Maturity. Under Variety, I list each variety that I have ever planted. This is an important tracking tool because if it is a variety that I didn’t like, I will enter notes stating not to order otherwise I may end up ordering that same variety years later. Under Have, I list whether or not I have the seed. If there are no notes stating not to order again, and I have run out of that seed, I will place an order. Under Size & Flavor, my notes are specific. For example, is it a huge 14 oz. tomato or petite 1 oz. variety? Does it have a smokey flavor or is it extremely acidic or perhaps sweet? Lastly, under Days to Maturity, I list what the seed packet has indicated. In my area, a late season tomato (85+ days) does not perform well. Our weather begins to cool down before it has a chance to fully ripen. But again, you can create headers that will suit your needs.
After seeds are planted, any empty seed packets are saved and placed into the proper category container. Then during downtime in the winter, seed packets are sorted through and empty packets are noted on the spreadsheet.
While seed organizing may seem overwhelming, there are steps you can take to bring your inventory under control. For my personal garden beds, the combination of category containers and spreadsheet work well in tandem. Then when the catalogs show up, I can browse through them confident that I will be restocking favorite varieties and actually look forward to managing my seed inventory.