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Sorting the Seeds

I thought I might share this little trick with you, because it took me a ridiculously long time to think of it!

I’m a strong believer in succession planting. For most annuals in my garden, I plant a very small quantity of each thing every month through it’s season.  So, for example, this month I have planted the first of the cauliflowers for the year.  But we will eat only two or three caulis a month, given all the peas and snow peas and broad beans and broccoli and spinach and everything else we’ve got to choose dinner from. So I only want to plant about 8 seeds, of which 6 are likely to germinate, and I’ll choose the strongest four to pot on, and the strongest  three of those to plant out. We’re likely to eat a couple and give at least one away.

Then I’ll do the same next month, and the one after, all the way through till early July, by which time my caulis would be running into Spring weather and cabbage moths before they mature.

The problem is that, planting just 8 seeds each time, a packet lasts an awfully long time.  Too long.  If I take the whole packet out to the shadehouse, I’m likely to be dipping into it with damp or dirty fingers, or putting it down in the sun, or an errant spray from the hose wets it. Which means that, too often I am missing a planting because of old seed that fails to germinate.

So these days, I sort my seed indoors, in the cool dry shade.  I put the number of seed I intend planting in a little pots and make up the label for the seed raising box to put with it.  I label carefully, including the variety and the date that I expect it to germinate by.  I also note in my garden diary what I am planting.

Then I take just this tray out to the shadehouse.  The packets of seed stay in the seed box indoors. Anything that fails to germinate by its due date is culled from the seed box.  I might chuck all the rest of the packet in to see if something comes up, but I won’t rely on it again.

It’s such a simple little trick, but it saves so many failures!


{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Elsie May April 13, 2011, 10:32 am

    nice work – very organised. I sometimes take my seeds outside but get side tracked and forget to bring them in. Some time down the track I will just come across them in some unusual spot that I probably swore was a spot I would never forget at the time.

  • Linda April 13, 2011, 10:42 am

    Very easy to get sidetracked in the garden! I might have solved that one for seeds, but I still do it with secateurs.

  • Nikki April 13, 2011, 11:18 am

    Oh, thanks! I know this problem well! I also suspect I have a packet or two of seeds that aren’t germinating, but because of my non-organisation I never remember which ones etc etc.

  • dixiebelle April 13, 2011, 7:27 pm

    Awesome idea! I am not quite to the garden diary stage of organisation, but this trick will save me some frustration as I try to keep my planting in line, rather than just random plantings when I get time or think about it! Thank you…

  • Alice Cadwell April 14, 2011, 7:27 am

    brillant – thanks

  • Green Mama April 14, 2011, 8:10 am

    Such a good idea- and a smidge more fail safe than my ‘stick it in pocket of whatever I’m wearing that day’ method (yes, that’s it’s official title). Tell us more about your garden diary if you have time? I currently keep a running list of what planted when, but I’d like to expand it.
    Thanks so much.

  • Linda April 14, 2011, 10:40 am

    ok, one day soon I’ll take some photos and show you the rambling scrapbook covered in muddy fingerprints that is my garden diary!

  • Jane Tudor April 16, 2011, 8:08 am

    Hi,Great idea with the seeds. I take my seeds still in their packets out to the garden with all my labels and more than once the packets have been ‘watered’ or blown away or forgotten out there. I’ll be on the lookout for some little containers like you have used. Jane

  • Linda April 16, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Hi Jane, these are little baking pots I picked up from a garage sale. I suspect they might be for canele? But I’m not sure – anyone recognise them? But any kind of container will do. I’m a bit of a hoarder of plastic containers – yoghurt and ricotta etc -I can’t bear the thought of all that plastic waste. I often think of the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, and have to stash that container for useful for something!

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial April 17, 2011, 3:33 pm

    Great tip, thanks Linda!

  • Joanne August 23, 2012, 1:46 pm

    This is a great trick! Planning ahead like this will hopefully help keep me under control when it comes to seed catalogue time as well! If I have the season’s seeds planned in advance I will never again order enough tomato seeds for an entire community garden for 3 years! Damn Diggers for having delicious names like “Granny’s Throwing Tomato”!

  • Linda August 23, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Yes, I have cursed Diggers many times!

  • Tanya @ Lovely Greens October 16, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Your organisation is very commendable! I wonder if maybe those little weekly pill boxes might come in handy for this type of work. Maybe paired with little velcro labels to stick on the tops?

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