Seed Savvy: Keep Track of Your Stash

Reader Contribution by Corinne Gompf and Heritage Harvest Farm

Keep an inventory of your seeds. Photos by Corinne Gompf

If you’re like me, as soon as the holiday decorations come down, it’s time to prop up my feet and settle in for an afternoon of browsing through seed catalogs. Just looking at the vibrant pictures of delicious vegetables and fruits and luscious flowers makes me yearn for spring.

After years of market gardening and ordering pounds and pounds of seeds at a time, I’ve acquired quite a selection of plant and seed catalogs from various companies throughout the country. I can always count on the mailman to deliver one or two a week over the next few months, and I keep adding to the stack on the coffee table until it wobbles. Ok, ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

With so many wonderful seed companies, you can find a handful to supply you with the seeds and plants you want for your garden. Whether it’s heirloom seeds, native plants, cover crops, or hybrid top-producers, you are guaranteed to find what you need.

But before you place an order, making a seed inventory is an easy step worth the time and effort. Not only will having a seed inventory save you money by preventing you from spending too much on similar seeds that you may already have on-hand, but will help you plan your garden if you keep accurate records.

Manage a Garden Seed Inventory

Categorize seeds. An inventory also benefits me because at the end of the season, I just toss every seed packet I have into a bin. I do keep them somewhat organized by putting seed packets of like-kinds in zipper bags. For example, root vegetables such as radishes and carrots will be in a bag, broccoli and cauliflower in another, and lettuce and leafy greens in another. Rather than having to dig through the bin and bags to find a random seed packet, I simply reach for my inventory, and voila!, I have the information I need.

Make lists. Now, there are many online spreadsheet templates you can find for free. But for me, I’m an old-fashioned list-maker, using good ol’ pen and paper. And as with any good inventory, you’ll need to come up with a system of information that works for you. What is important to know? What will keep you organized? How will you indicate that you need to purchase more seeds? How will you keep track of what vegetables or flowers produced well for you in your climate?

What about starts? I start with basic categories as headers: beans, root vegetables, greens, squash/pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, etc. I usually do not keep an inventory of garlic, sweet potatoes, or potatoes, because I’ve already planted the garlic, and I’ll buy my seed potatoes fresh each spring. And I start my own sweet potato slips in late February (you can find out how I do that in my earlier blog post regarding sweet potato slips). 

Star what you need more of. Under each header, I list each variety, placing a star beside an entry if I need to purchase more. My inventory is fairly simple because if a plant doesn’t perform properly, I usually do not plant it again the following year. If something gives me spotty germination, or it’s too finicky in the garden, I don’t waste space and time trying another season, but that’s something I’ve learned after years of experience.

Note harvest dates. I might also write days to maturity in order to ensure I have varieties to extend the season. I want both early- and later-producing vegetables. It’s also a good idea to add the location in which it was planted. If you practice crop rotation, and I highly recommend you do, this will help you remember where not to plant it the following season.

Note seed expiration dates. I would also advise making note of seed expiration dates, which will be printed on the seed packet. While some seeds may retain their viability beyond the expiration date, it could affect germination rates. Kept in a cool, dry location many seeds can be stashed for about three years. There are exceptions, however, so do a little seed research and put that information in your inventory.

Note special information. Finally, I make a separate cheat sheet just of the seeds I want or need to purchase. That way, I don’t need to go through my entire inventory to find the few items that need replenished. I may also add names of new varieties I do not have in my collection. I’m eyeing frilly-petalled poppies that would make quite a statement, and I don’t know of any of my gardening friends who have seeds to share.  

If you have any suggestions for a seed inventory, I hope you’ll reach out with your ideas either here or on social media. The more information we share, the better gardeners we will all be.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page. You can read all of Carrie’s Mother Earth News posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368