I will openly admit it: I am an addict. A garden seed addict, that is! As much as I try to use up old seeds before getting more than we need, I love browsing for new varieties too much to resist buying more each year. I mean, isn’t that one of the beautiful things about gardening anyhow? All of those wonderful, endless, interesting options to choose from?! If any of this is resonating with you, I have a feeling you probably have a decent little collection of seeds saved up yourself! And if you’re anything like I used to be, your seed storage stash is likely a bit of a hot mess. Am I right?
If your are in need of an organized, efficient, effective way to store garden seeds, look no further! I have the perfect solution for you. Say goodbye to your overflowing, jumbled cardboard boxes or stockpiled padded mailers of spilling and long-forgotten seeds. Once you get your seed packs all neatly tucked away with this system, you will say: Where have you been all my life? Really. And while we’re at it, let’s also talk about ideal seed storage conditions, along with seed “expiration dates”.
Are you ready to get in on the secret?
The Best Way to Store & Organize Seeds is… In Photo Storage Cases!
Check these out! I saw these storage containers a few years ago on Instagram, and a lightbulb went on. My little type-A heart may have even skipped a beat.
They were designed to fit 4×6” photographs, but are the perfect size for storing seed packs! You can create categories and cases for each type of vegetable, flower, and herb seed. For example, one case for radishes, lettuce, annual flowers, tomatoes, peppers, squash seeds, and more! We have so many seeds that I broke them down even further, like “hot peppers” and “sweet peppers”, or “short radishes” along with a box for “long radish” daikon types.
In addition to looking neat and organized, this seed storage system makes everything so easy to find. When I need to take inventory of what seeds we have or what to order more of, I can quickly go through each box and make a list. If I want to head out to the garden to plant a quick bed of radishes, I can just grab that case of seeds and bring it with me! The cases keep the seed packages secure and dry while we’re outside too.
Our Seed Storage Boxes
We use these photo storage boxes to store garden seeds, along with these labels. They are available either a two-pack or a single container. There is also a multi-colored option, which would be super cute for color-coding veggie and flower seeds into a corresponding/matching case.
Note that there are some slightly cheaper options out there, but we love that our seed storage cases are made in the USA and very high quality! Some folks have found similar boxes at Michael’s or other craft stores, but reported back that they’re made in China and the clasps or handles are not nearly as durable. In contrast, we’ve had ours for many years and they’re still in pristine condition.
Each large box contains 16 individual cases inside. The 4×6” cases can hold anywhere from 6 to over a dozen seed packages, depending on the size of the seeds. Meaning, fewer packets of large seeds like beans will fit in each case compared to something like kale seeds. In that case, I simply created two “bean” boxes to fit them all. Furthermore, you can separate out sections by season! I keep most of our warm season seeds in one case or row, and store seeds for the cooler fall/winter garden in another. Speaking of warm and cold…
Ideal Conditions for Storing Seeds
But… Don’t seeds have to be stored in the refrigerator?
There is a common suggestion floating around in the gardening world that seeds must be stored in the refrigerator. Sure, the temperature range of 32-41°F can be ideal for long term storage. However, it isn’t necessary! Furthermore, storing seeds in the fridge isn’t practical for most people. Particularly for those of us with large seed collections, and a fridge already stuffed to the brim with homegrown produce!
Any cool, dry, dark location is suitable for storing seeds. Inside a closet, cabinet, north-facing room in your home that isn’t subject to temperature swings, or in a cool basement are all excellent choices. Heck, these cases would even slip nicely under a bed!
According to the Seed Savers Exchange:
“Consistency is key when it comes to temperature and humidity levels. This is why you should avoid storing seeds in a spot that isn’t climate-controlled, like a garage or shed, where temperatures and moisture levels can fluctuate wildly.”Seed Savers Exchange
Moisture is the absolute worst for seeds; less than 40% humidity is ideal. That’s another added benefit of our photo storage seed boxes: they’re double-encased to keep moisture out. If you do choose to store your seeds in a refrigerator, store them in an air-tight container. If needed, use silica desiccant packs inside your seed storage containers to absorb excess moisture. Also, if you are a seed-saver yourself, make sure the seeds are 100% dry before storing them!
Seed Expiration Dates
Can I use old seeds past their “sell by” or expiration date?
Yes, within reason. As opposed to an expiration date, you’ll most often see “packed for” (or sell by) date on garden seed packages – such as packed for 2018. The date represents when they will be the freshest, and most closely follow their listed germination rate, which is the percentage of seeds that successfully sprouted during trials at the seed company. Yet most seeds will successfully sprout and grow for many years beyond that date, depending on the type of seed (and how they were stored).
Most seeds are viable for about three to four years past their “sell by” date (on average). Over time, the germination rate and viability will decline. To overcome that, we simply sow a few extra “old” seeds when we’re using them. Yet keep in mind that some types of seeds hold up longer in storage better than others. For example, crops like onions, leeks, parsnips, and spinach are notoriously short-lived. Try to use those up more quickly!
See the seed viability chart below, and pop over to this article to learn more about using old seeds. When in doubt, you can also perform a simple seed germination test to see if they’ll still sprout – before you bother planting them!
And there you have it: the best seed storage
With that, you can seed shop to your little hearts desire – and actually be able to find them all!
Want to learn more? In this article, you can find a list of the top 12 places to buy organic, heirloom, and non-GMO garden seeds. To browse our other seed-starting supplies, click here! If you are new to growing from seed, or are simply curious to learn more of our tips and tricks for seed starting, you may enjoy this article: “Seed Starting 101: How to Sow Seeds Indoors”
I hope you find this new seed storage system as handy, easy, and fun as we do. Please feel free to spread the seed-love and share this post. Seed addicts, list-makers, and organizers ~ unite!