In December when you have little inclination to venture into the garden and you have the head space to deal with your seeds you can make a practical, repurposed seed box with the small Amazon delivery boxes and some cardboard or old cards.
There are only a few things that I can bring myself to do in the rainy, cold December garden:
- Sowing – there are a couple of varieties of broad beans that can be direct sown outside still (a few herbs, and salad leaves, like lambs lettuce, can be sow inside or undercover ).
- Harvesting – physalis, oca, Chinese artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, yacon, cauliflowers, chard, three corned leek, chard, Chinese chives, kale, purple tree collards and the last few beetroots and radishes are available.
- Removing cat poo and, last week, one dead rat that recalls the phrase ‘smells like something has died.’ To be honest this has put me off going into the garden more than the rain does.
Really preferring the indoors after that and in December I have the time and head space to sort out my seeds. With the plethora of ‘Black Friday /Cyber Monday’ seed sales and my ‘worst case scenario wife’ (and yes – he really does call me that) Brexit/COVID panic I now have a ridiculous number of seeds. Even if I annex the shed roof, parts of the lawn and fill abandoned water tanks and pots, I imagine I’ll still have plenty of seeds come 2025.
The number of seeds is overwhelming and through the year I find myself getting annoyed at trying to find things and forgetting to plant things. I’ve stored seeds in different labelled envelopes and jiffy bags, trying to keep my sanity. In addition, I have a large seed collection for the school edible garden that I look after too.
I would love a beautiful, shiny, metal seed tin. It just seems like a nice thing. I couldn’t find one that was the right shape and size. I soon realised that beautiful was pretty far down my list. I want a practical seed tin. I want a cheap (or free) seed tin and, very importantly, I would like an environmentally friendly tin.
With COVID and school bubble quarantines we have done much shopping online this year, leading to the discovery that the small packaging boxes used by Amazon are the perfect size for a seed box.
I find that this is a good way to organise seeds. Into the main sowing months February – May split into inside and outside with January, June, July, and August with only section each. In January I have nothing that I want to sow direct outside and by June there’s very little point in sowing indoors in pots unless I’m growing extra plants to fill up space outside as it becomes free.
Organising my seed packets
Indoor sowing is the only option – Sweet peppers are sown inside from mid-February to be planted out from mid-May so that goes into the February indoors section.
Outdoor sowing is the only option – Radishes and beetroots are direct sow outdoors from March, so I put them into the March outside section.
Early indoors or later outdoors options but outdoors is better – Carrots can be sown under glass/plant indoors from February onwards or direct sown from April. I make a judgement on whether I have space indoors and deep enough pots – as carrots are not so good with being transplanted or if I can wait for carrots another couple of months. I’ve put them under April outside.
Early indoors or later outdoors options but indoors is better – Summer squash can be sown indoors from March or outdoors from mid-May. Here, I think it’s worth giving large plants, like these, a head start. Recent years there has been some really erratic weather, so I’ve put these into March indoors so that they get as long as possible a season before weather turns cold or damp.
Waiting to sow to suit timing – Climbing beans for school if sown as soon as possible (indoors) then harvesting starts in July – when the kids are about to go on their summer holidays. The children don’t benefit from harvests during their longest holiday. Therefore, starting the seeds outdoors early July saves effort and means that they’re ready for the kids when they return. These have gone into the school box under July outdoors.
Using the box
As each month hits, when I have a couple of free days, I’ll pull out the suitable section and sow everything from one section in one go if possible.
With vegetables that can be sown in succession, once they’ve been sown, rather than go back into the original section, I put it into the next month that I think I’d like to sow them again. E.g. Radishes are in March outdoors – but when March rolls round, after I’ve sown the carrots I’ll pop them into April outside so I can sow some more in April. If in April I’ve run out of space in the garden I’ll pass them on into the next month.
I did try making some dividers with some bits of card and folded over post it notes but the post it notes got a bit squished. I then realised that a flap was not necessary, and we could repurpose cardboard further and easily make divers from with the cardboard flaps of the bigger cardboard that we get deliveries in. This was a quick and easy step.
At the beginning of December, I found some old Christmas cards, as well as some birthday and thank you cards. I’ve kept them because they are beautiful or have lovely messages written inside and I can’t throw them away. I am a bit of a hoarder but would like to find a use for them beyond stuffing them in a box and forgetting about them for the next 5 years. Some of the cards were a perfect size for the box. So I used them as dividers. With some creative trimming others had readable messages still or lovely fronts. It’s a lovely way to repurpose (and they could still be recycled a few years down the line too) and I still have them as mementos.
I wrote on the back of the cards (because most of these were white) with a marker.
With the cards I found some used Christmas paper. So …er…definitely a hoarder. I often try and keep big, not so crumpled paper after unwrapping. I always assume I could reuse it but by the next Christmas I can never find any of the paper I had put away and/or I realise that it doesn’t look very nice and/or the Sellotape glue reside on it has gone a bit funny. I decided that this paper was perfect for covering a box. I had 2 similar looking boxes and whilst it was easy to tell by looking inside which box was mine and which one was school’s. It got a bit tedious having to check every time. At one point I even had a third box that I was building for someone.
The paper wrapped box, of course, is a bit tacky and there’s a few little bits of Sellotape glue residue on it, it’s very obviously Christmas paper and the trees are upside down on one side, but I feel a little good about life every time I pull it out. I know that I’ve given that box, those cards and that paper a second use (and they can all be recycled after when it gets too tatty). It’s a completely guilt free box. There was no energy used in the manufacture of it (the seed box I mean – obviously the original box did, but it has already served the purpose for which it was made), no resources were used to create it, no fuels were used to transport the box, no storage was required, and no money was spent on it (other than paying for the double sided sticky tape). It was also a fun craft project.