Real Men Sow

The Annual Seed Audit – 5 Things to Do With Your Seeds

Posted on by in spring with 2 Comments


One of the most exciting pre-season tasks is the good old annual seed audit. For me, this will normally coincide with the seed ranges hitting the shops, and allows me to work out what I need to buy and replace in time for spring.

Rifling through your seed packets is best done on one of those lovely February days that feels like Spring is just around the corner. We’re starting to get a few of those down here in Somerset, which is making me fret about getting my new patch up and running!

Anyhow, if you’re thinking about undertaking your own audit, here are 5 things to do with your seeds.

Bin Them
If you’re anything like me, your seed boxes are stuffed full with packs of seeds that you’ve always meant to sow. Unfortunately, many of these packets (even the unopened ones) will be well out of date. A good start in any seed audit is to throw away any of the packets that are passed their best so you can get a clearer idea of what you do have that is still okay.

Sometimes, I’ll keep seeds with last year as their sow by date, and if you don’t want to throw any out that are on the edge, you could try a quick germination test to determine whether seed is still any good to use. Put about a dozen seeds together on a sheet of damp kitchen roll, and then gently roll up the sheet and place the seeds inside a clear plastic bag. Leave them in warm place for a few days, and if 9 of the seeds germinate you know that there’s every chance you’ll get a 75% germination rate from that packet of seeds.

Pay particular attention to the dates on parsnip packets, as fresh parsnip seed is needed every year.

Give Them Away
Anyone for free seeds? Giving your excess seeds away is a nice thing to do, especially if you’re helping out a grow your own beginner. It’s a nice way to strike up conversation too, as well as passing on tips as you hand the packets over.

I’ve done this virtually via Twitter and my blog, but I’ve found work is a good place to discover happy recipients. I love bumping into people I’ve shared seed with during the summer and finding out how their seeds have grown.

Swap Them
Of course, you might want a return on the hard earned cash you have invested in seeds. Swapping seeds is a great idea and again, you can do this virtually via Twitter or web forums but also at local seed swaps. Seed swaps are fully of friendly growers, and super places to find rare varieties and save money on those dependable, every day seeds.

Look out for adverts online, in the local paper and around the town.

Order Them
Come sowing time, you really can’t beat a neatly ordered seed box. Pull out all your seed packets and arrange them in order of sowing, or match the packets up with your seed sowing plan. Stick a label on to the packet with the date you need to sow, or separate the packets with dividers.
Of course, all we really want to do with our seeds is sow them! It might only be February, but there are some seeds you can sow now, especially if you have a greenhouse. Broad beans, peas, radish, carrots, beetroot all have low germinating temperatures, but be patient, germination can take a number of weeks this time of year.

You can also try broad beans and peas in modules on sunny windowsills, and taken outside later on. This is excellent for getting a head start on the season.


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  1. allotmentmumMarch 4, 2017 at 10:54 pmReply

    I love going through my seed box too. Unfortunately, a mouse got there first this year – though luckily most were in plastic boxes.

  2. Steve HorsfieldMarch 10, 2017 at 5:15 pmReply

    Good advice. I keep a spreadsheet of planting times for my veg. So I just need to update this each year and I can post it up as a reminder.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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