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Advice on looking after your seeds with Gayton-based gardener Jamie Marsh

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, Jamie Marsh talks about seeds...

I finished last week by mentioning my seed box and how messy it is. A couple of years ago I just had an old biscuit tin, which is fine when your seed collection is quite small, but as your allotment grows so does your stockpile of seed.

So quickly my rusty old family circle tin began to fill and overflow so much I couldn’t hardly get the lid on.

Organising packets of seeds
Organising packets of seeds

I was on the hunt for a new storage solution and found there aren’t really many specific seed storage boxes and the ones I did find were just a different version of my biscuit tin.

So what can I use to store the seed packets in some kind of order, which will keep them nice and dry and durable enough to withstand me bashing them around in the allotment?

I found it, it’s a photo storage box with 16 individual photo-size boxes all snugly seated in a larger clear plastic box with a carry handle.

Jamie puts old seeds on kitchen roll
Jamie puts old seeds on kitchen roll

Now how to organise. Tomatoes in box one:I have so many varieties of tomatoes so they deserve a box all to themselves. I have quite a few flowers so they can have boxes 15 and 16. I’m not going to bore you with every single packet and its new home location.

What I will say is brassicas went together, beans went together and pumpkin and squash went together, I think you get my drift.

As I was sorting through each packet I was checking the contents and counting roughly how many seeds were In there. Now obviously I wasn’t counting every seed, that would just be insane. I look at the quantity printed on the packet and guessing, if there was half gone or nearly empty, just so I had a very rough guide of how many of each I had.

I’m not organised usually, but for this seed box I was going to make a spreadsheet.. Nothing too complicated, just what seeds are in what box and how many of each are in the packet. So they all have their new home, I’ve added the information to the spreadsheet, and now at a glance, I can see what I’ve got and what I need to buy.

That was two years ago. Throughout the growing season, you can imagine how many times I’m in and out of that seed box, and I rarely put them back in the correct place, or they get put on the top or in a big envelope. Don’t ask me why, but it just happens, so that means a big tidy this time of year, checking each packet you haven’t put away, counting them, and adjusting the spreadsheet.

Now you have an accurate tally of your seed collection, you can start to plan what you’re going to grow this year.

Many of us will grow the same good old reliable favourites, but if you are anything like me, I always want to try lots of different and new things to grow

if you are really organised you can get some really good bargains at the end of the season, but to be honest that’s when I usually go mad and buy everything, so this year it’s different, I’m going to plan and check what I have and haven’t got, then just buy what I need,

One more thing I want to talk about quickly this week is the dates on seed packets. This is the date that the seed producer says the germination rate of the seed might start to decline

I really wouldn’t take this as gospel as I know someone who found her granny’s seed tin, with some 30 years out of date Cosmos seed. She planted them and got 100% germination.

What I do if I’ve got any seed which is past the sow by date is wet a few sheets of kitchen towel and ring it out well, then put 10 seeds in between them and place them in a plastic bag and put it in the airing cupboard. Checking it after a few days then each day after, once you see the shoots start to sprout you can make a decision if they are worth sowing or if it’s time to buy a new packet.

If you have any questions about my allotment feel free to email me at jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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