Many people have been getting their seed orders and showing how they store and organize them. It is fun to see all the weird boxes people use. Kathy of Skippy's Vegetable Garden, organizes them planting date, which is a smart system. I tend to organize by type (Nightshade, Lettuce/Greens, Brassica, Cucurbits, Root Crops, Flowers, Herbs, Beans/Peas/Corn). Half my box is taken over by my biggest seeds - beans, peas and corn. I really have too many peas. I had some left over from last year but wasn't sure I would have enough to plant. I think I over did it.
It may be hard to tell in the photo, but I'd better not get too many more seeds. It is bursting at the seems. I'm not sure I can shove anymore in. Luckily peas get planted first. Then I will have space.
I love the box even though it could be a couple inches longer. It is just the right height for seed packets and it has an airtight seal. I usually store it in my fridge. Yes. I give prime refrigerator space to my seeds. I should put them in the basement since the seal is airtight, but I like the low even temperatures of my fridge. I'm hoping my onion seed can be used again next year.
Most seed lasts a long time, but if you store them right they will last longer. They need dark, even cool temperatures and low humidity. A lot of people will say that cucumbers will last 5 years, but the truth is they can last twice as long if they have been treated right by you and the people you buy them from. I've heard they can last up to 10 years. Everyone will give you a different number for how long seeds will last. I tend to think of them as short, medium or long keepers.
Short keepers are the onion family, parsnips, corn, and spinach. Most people will say to buy new seed every year, but I like to try to keep them for a second year. I never finish a whole packet in a year and the seed must earn its keep.
Medium keepers are beans, carrots, peas, peppers and eggplant. These are said to last about two to three years, but you just know that I'm going to plant them at four and five years if they still are hanging around my seed box.
Long keepers are the tomato, cucurbits, brasiccas, beet family, lettuce, and radish. If kept in a good storage space, they can be kept almost forever. Ok others say four to five years. I say my seeds could last longer, but if I haven't used it up by then, I'm probably sick and tired of that variety and will try something new.
I mean really, five years? If I haven't used it up by then, they are wasting the precious space in the seed box and will be told in no uncertain terms that they are unwelcome. Ok tomatoes get a exemption from the chopping block. You can never have too many varieties of tomatoes in your seed box, but if I haven't used a packet of lettuce or radish up in that time, there is something wrong with them.
Of course your seed won't last long if you don't take care of it. My kids are off at college so my mothering instinct gets all used up on my seeds and seedlings - hmm maybe that is why I'm growing all my plants from seed this year. I do remember years when I kept seed in a clear container in my pantry where it can get up to 90°F in the summer.
Now, however, I'm doing it right. I store their container in a nice, dark, cool place. I don't open it up straight from the fridge during the summer when humidity will condense on it. I plan ahead and let it sit on my counter for a few hours to get to room temperature. In the summer I never open the main box except twice (for getting out all the fall seeds then putting them back in). Ok maybe more often. I do have a bad memory and forgot some seeds last year, so had to open it again...and again. My intention is to just open it twice, or three times, maybe four.... At least for succession crops like lettuce and tatsoi, I leave those out all summer. It isn't worth risking my main stash of seed anymore than I already do. I try to treat them right, but sometimes I'm just a bad mother.