Keep a Seed Inventory

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner and Homeplace Earth

The new seed catalogs have arrived and you finally have time to look at them! There are so many things you would like to try, but you have seeds left from last year and the year before. What is a person to do? Take inventory, of course. Before you spend your hard-earned money on more seeds, learn what you already have and determine if they are still good.

The photo shows the heading of the seed inventory form that I use. At the minimum you could use a sheet of notebook paper to record the seed varieties, where the seeds are from, and when you received them. I have been gardening for a long time and realized that having a place to record more information than that is helpful. So, my form has space to add the germination rate, if necessary, or the days to maturity for each variety. That is what the column with no heading is for.

It is your inventory and can you do what you like with it. Sometimes I actually count the number of seeds to record there and other times I weigh the seeds. Sometimes I record that it is a packet or indicate less than a packet for the amount or I might write in “enough” or “plenty.”  Whatever it takes so you will know if you have enough to get through the gardening year.

The right-hand side of the form is for your shopping list. You could identify seeds you need to buy as you do your inventory and check the Do Buy column. When you are browsing the catalogs you can put in where you plan to buy the new seed, the amount to buy, and the cost.

It might be time to purge old seed from your inventory. If your seed is in the original packaging there will be a date on it that shows the sell-by date. The seed company has checked the germination for that lot of seeds and, unless indicated otherwise, it met the minimum germination rate required by law for the year it was sold. However, seeds don’t stay viable forever, especially if you store them in a not-so optimum location. On the other hand, the seeds in that packet you bought for this past season, or even a few years ago, may still have good, or at least acceptable, germination. To be sure, do a germination test on questionable seeds. If the germination rate is low, you could still plant heavily to compensate. Your inventory is the first step to deciding what to do with all your seeds. Get some more tips about seed inventories at Homeplace Earth.

Once you have done your seed inventory you can sit back and really enjoy those seed catalogs. You’ve identified what you need and what you don’t. However, buying seeds costs money and shipping costs are always increasing. By spending time assessing your seed stash you might consider saving your own seeds this year. You could start with a variety or two. It is one way of assuring fresh seed coming into your inventory and it will open up a whole new gardening adventure for you if you are not already a seed saver.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth. Read all of Cindy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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