The Best Way to Organize & Store Your Garden Seeds
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 this idea 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 haven’t had a single issue.
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 all that 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, temperate, dry location is suitable for storing seeds. Inside a closet, a 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! The location doesn’t need to be pitch black per se, but seeds should be stored out of direct sunlight.
We keep our seed storage boxes on a shelf in a spare room that get some morning light, but the curtains are usually drawn. Plus, most of our seeds are stored in non-transparent individual packages, which help to block out light on their own. Also note that a “cool” location doesn’t necessarily mean cold – just not hot! Our house is usually in the 60’s to 70’s, temperature-wise.
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
That is 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. 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! Absolutely. As opposed to an expiration date, you’ll most often see “packed for” date on garden seed packages – such as packed for 2018. Don’t throw out or avoid planting seeds if you don’t use them by that date! 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.
Over time, the germination rate may decline a bit, but most seeds can still be successfully used for many years thereafter. We continue to grow food from seeds that are three or four years past their “packed for” date all the time! Hence, the need for a good seed storage system. We hang on to old seed packages until they’re gone!
To overcome a potential decline in germination rate and thus less plants, simply sow a few extra “old” seeds when you are using them. However, note that some types of seeds hold up longer in storage better than others. For example, crops like carrots, parsnips, onions, and leeks are notoriously short-lived. Try to use those up more quickly!
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!
Seed storage is the biggest task. If it is fresh then it’s useful or else vice versa. I hope it works…
I love this very informative article! Thanks for sharing.
Awesome. Ordering now!!
Question: i found some seeds from last year that got left in the garage by mistake over the summer.. yikes.. should I try them anyway or toss??
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hello Brandy, we typically use seeds that are even a few years old though the germination rates can decrease with age. It really depends on how hot your garage gets during the summer? If it gets too hot then that will have an effect on the vitality of the seeds, i would still try and germinate the seeds but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope just in case. Good luck!
I just ordered this Iris box, after looking at the other cheaper ones… Definitely bite the bullet, by the iris. The reviews across the board are much more favorable than the reviews for other knock off brands. Shipping may still cost damage, something to watch for when shipping any plastic item. But once you get it, check it over make sure it’s fine, the iris box is amazing. Thank you so much for this tip!
Do you have any other suggestions for other brands to look for? Unfortunately these are sold out on the iris USA website and I’m not too keen on supporting amazon or Walmart. I will keep looking for more American made storage and let you know what I find! Thanks for all the helpful tips
Hi Rachel – This is the only brand we’re familiar with, sorry. I understand many folks don’t love to support Amazon, but here is another side of the coin you may not have considered: we, a small business (along with other bloggers), are able to make commission and a decent portion of our blog income from the Amazon affiliate program. This helps support our work, taking a chunk away from Amazon at no cost to the buyer. Also, a huge number of small businesses sell their products on Amazon – from authors (and personal friends!) to fermentation devices to small eyewear companies. It’s not just the “big guys”. Finally, Amazon supplies jobs to hundreds of thousands of people that rely on that income to support their families. During this pandemic, Amazon may be the only supplier that is able to safely and quickly deliver necessities to folks who live in remote places or otherwise can’t get out. Anywho, I’m not trying to convince anyone to fall in love with Amazon by any means, and I know there are still problems I didn’t address. Yet I too used to have similar sentiments when it came to shopping, but have learned to see the larger picture and have had this discussion with folks on Instagram a lot. Some people don’t realize small businesses and individuals greatly benefit from Amazon too. Thanks for reading!
Hello Rachel! You can purchase these at Staples. If you purchase them online shipping is free. You can purchase two to a set and they are a little cheaper than purchasing them from Amazon or eBay. I just purchased them for my partner who keeps a lot of seeds. He has so many seeds I think he is going to need both organizers. I might just purchase another set for myself for my special collection of seeds. I think this is a brilliant storage system!
Thank you Deanna for your website! It was here that I found out about this great organizer.
I got this box for my daughter for Christmas, even loading a couple boxes with seeds I had saved. She loved it and said it was her favorite present. I had seen it mentioned in a previous blog of yours.
This is a awesome way to store seed packets ! Thankyou for all of the great info on your website !
I have the same boxes and adore them. They are on sale right now at Michael’s craft store for $14.99 and they have curbside pick up here in WA state!
I love your site. Beautiful pics and best yet… the organization you have. Wow. I clicked your link to the boxes you use to store your seeds and I’m not clear on what they are selling. What are the small boxes that your seed packets are in and what is the container called that holds your seed boxes? Thanks.
Hi Charlene. The photos in this post show how to use them. Each individual case within the larger box are perfect seed-package size and can hold about a dozen seed packages each. You can then use each individual case to organize/group the types of seeds – one case for tomatoes, one for peppers, one for eggplant, and so on. (or, a few for each, if you have a lot of each type). Then those individual cases are stored together inside a larger box that clamps shut and has a handle for easy carrying. I hope that helps.
This is a great idea! One question: are these containers air- or moisture-proof? I would like to be able to control the moisture levels during storage.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hello Donal, they are not exactly the same as an “air tight” sealed container. Yet because they are double-contained into two layers of enclosed plastic containers, they are very moisture resistant and perfect for seed storage in our experience! Hope that helps and good luck!