How do you package you seed for trades??-Most economical method.

Monte(6-NE NJ)January 16, 2010

How do you package you seed for trades??-Most economical method.

Tiny zip locks? Gotta buy those no?

Folded paper envelope? Seems like it could be tedious and if you do a printed template, well printer ink ain't free.

The reason I'm asking is I just had a brainstorm and am wondering if anyone else has come up with this variation.

I gotta puzzle acouple of things out but I think this may be a winner.

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I just sent out some seeds using labels and paper from the printer. I can't complain about the cost, but it was tedious. I think we are all ears waiting for your revelation....

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 11:28PM
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Monte(6-NE NJ)

Wintersowing-Seed Trade Packaging from Straws

The following is a technique relating to Wintersowing.

For those of you who havent heard of it, Wintersowing is a method of starting seeds for your garden.

No need for complicated light setups or heat mats or any of the bother that starting seeds indoors using traditional methods is usually associated with.

No need to buy expensive seed starting flats.

You simply sow your seed in easily prepared, "found", recycled containers and set them out in the yard in the dead of winter.

They freeze, they thaw, get snowed and rained on and, come Spring, grow.

Sounds crazy but it works. Just like it does in nature.

See or the Wintersowing forums at for details on what types of seeds can be sown in this way.

The method is also popular as it is a great method for recycling discarded plastic items into useful things.

You can look at my other Instructables post for info on how to prepare these to be used.

If there is one thing that Wintersowers love as much as collecting seeds itÂs trading them.

Sow something, grow something, come fall harvest the seed heads and trade them with others so you can grow something new.

Very cool way to gather a diverse number of plants you may not otherwise have access to.

So, you have harvested a bumper crop of seed heads from some special plant, put some away for yourself but still have tons left.

What is the most economical method of dividing them up and packaging them to be traded?

To do this efficiently you need to divide and package the seed in some way and label it so you know whatÂs what.

Many folks use tiny ziplock bags but these may be difficult to find. And there is still some cost involved.

Others print out pretty full color folding templates to make seed packages much like the commercial companies use. Nice but printer ink is expensive and you still need to take the time to cut out and fold the envelopes.

Got no time for that.

Others just do little origami folded affairs but again, no time for that.

So what to do?

Plastic drinking straws (you can "find" these at all kinds of places you know) and pre printed cheap labels.

Your Tools


Edible Amaranth

Well you need some kind of label. Most word processing programs have the templates for standard addres labels built into them.

You can open up the program and either input your info one cell at a time or, if you have a lot of one type of seed to trade simply print out an entire page of one label.

Just print out on plain paper and cut the labels apart. A paper cutter is nice but scissors work just fine also.

Plain text, draft mode is fine for this so itÂs economical. If you want to go further with color graphics or other embellishments your free to go nuts.

OK, you have the seed and have printed up the labels. How do we divide and package.

Take one end of the straw and fold over about an inch. Staple it closed.

First Fold

Slip the straw thru the seed to pick some up. You can easily meter out how much each has visually.

Slip and Load

Cut the straw down if need be, fold over the other end and attach a pre-prepared label sealing everything up with another staple.

Folded and Labeled

Now you have all your seed packaged and labeled and ready to go out for trade.

Easy peazy.



    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 3:05AM
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I really like your idea. Looks like a very quick & efficient way to handle seed packaging. My only concern would be the security of the label over time with normal handling.
Do they open easily?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 9:53AM
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I make seed packets from old magazines I have around the house. I tear out only the most colorful pages. Fold in half and then in half again. I cut (about 6 pages at one time) leaving notches on two sides. Keeping glue sticks available I fold two sides into the middle..gluing them to eachother. Glue one bottom flap closed. Stuff the envelopes with seed and then glue down the top flap. With a marker I write the name of the seed. Very cheap and easy. I get my grandkids to help with production so I always have ziplock bags filled with these envelopes ready to stuff.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 12:10PM
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i love the straw idea! i'll have to do that! lol lucky for me, my uncle works at a gas station, so i could probably get all the straws i want for free. :D

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 12:12PM
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OMG! Thank you Monte! What an absolutely BRILLIANT idea!!!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 1:57PM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

I like the straw idea as well!!

Nice work!!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 2:53PM
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mikey-gardener(6a,6b, kcmo)

I love the straw idea as well. Was thinking how to recycle all those straws that folks get from the drive thru with their drinks. Plus it is alot easier to store and identify from the beginning. VERY BRILLIANT IDEA

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 3:38PM
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Monte(6-NE NJ)

Couple of thoughts.

I just happened to have some standared diameter straws in the cupboard when I took those pictures.

Larger diameter ones are available.

Look for places that have Slushies or Bubble Tea.

Labels would be as secure as any other method I would think.

You could simply write directly on the straw with a fine point Sharpie if all you need is a name but the label allows for more info to be presented.

If you wanted too you could cut the straw exactly 2 inches longer than the pre printed label.

Fold over the first end and staple attaching the label on.

Slip/fill the straw with seed.

Fold over the other end and seal it up, stapling the other end of tha label down.

Now both sides of the label are firmly attached and it should be very secure.

And I agree that it is a BRILLIANT idea.

Monte the Humble

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 4:19PM
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I really hate to burst the bubble on this one, but the straw idea looks good in theory, but in actual practice it's not great at all.

I'm a seasoned seed trader, BEAP offer for over 7 years now. I do at least 50-100 trades in a year and send out close to 1,000 BEAP packets of seeds a year, not including donated seed packets on GW.
So I have lots and lots of experience in various ways of packing seeds and this one is not a good idea.

I figured with the amount of seeds I have in all kinds of sizes, I would see how it works out and then post the info of my experiment.

From 10AM -12NOON on Sunday, I packed up 20 different types of seeds in various sizes in 3 different sizes of straws.
Followed your instructions to the letter and actually stapled blank labels on to each of them.
I actually did 60 of these so that each type of seed was in all 3 sizes of straws, if they would fit.

Seeds used where

1. columbine
2. lettuce
3. raddish
4. chinese forget me nots
5. basil
6. parsley
7. hibiscus
8. dahlia
9. scabiosa

  1. malva zebrina
  2. dianthus siberian blues
  3. balloon plant
  4. cosmos
  5. foxglove
  6. morning glory
  7. daylily
  8. tomato
  9. rose campion
  10. nicandra
  11. queen annes lace

Several types or cosmos seeds that have very large seeds, wouldn't get into the straw without breaking.

But I did get some cosmos in the straws.

Once in the straws and closed up, I placed the seeds in various amounts in several different bubble envelopes. Then to simulate some harsh conditions that they bubblies might get in transit though the postal system, I taped the straws to paper as if they where going to be mailed and then placed them under several quite heavy books and left them there for about 5 hours.

Then the true test began.

I removed the bubbles from under the books and opened them one by one.

It was tough to get the straws removed from being held down by the tape, and I used Scotch magic tape to tape them to paper. Many of the labels came off as I removed the from the tape. So the labels had to be taped back onto each straw.

Once all the straws where out of the bubblies, 1 by 1, I attempted to empty the seeds from the straw as if they where going to be sown in containers.

Every one of the straws had seeds stuck to the inside of them or seeds just wouldn't come out at all.
Squeezing the straw to sprinkle the seeds didn't work at all either.

The only way to get the remaining seeds out of the straws was to attempt to cut them open to scrape them out, which was too much of a pain, or flush them out with water with a bowl under each straw.

I've got to say this, if I got seeds this way in a trade or BEAP offer and had to go through this kind of mess to get the seeds, I would be one unhappy recipient of the seeds and would be informing the member that this was not the way to pack up seeds.

Oh, another thing. Being that I have tendon damage in both arms and nerve problems in both arms, hands, fingers, wrist, by the time I was through with this method, I was popping tylenol for pain.
Someone with carpal tunnel would not be able to do this.

As a side note, in the same time it took me to do this packing, 2 hours, I could have packed up about 150 packets of seeds by doing what I do.

I have printed out seed packets that I make myself, fold them and close with tape, fill out the name of the seeds, year collected number of seeds in packet, put the seeds in, tape them closed and circle height, sun needs, annual, perennial or biennial that is all printed on the packet and seal it closed.

I count out large seeds and just put in the packet, small seeds get measured with a 1/8 tsp, wrapped in tissue paper and placed inside.

I don't like the ziploc baggies personally. If seeds aren't dry enough when placed in them, they get moldy and rot, and have had the experience of receiving seeds in them late in the summer that have started to germinate from the moisture.

I don't like the origami folded either. Have yet to be able to open the packets and not get the seeds fly out of them and get lost in the process.

Monte, you need to go back to the drawing board on this one. IMHO and experience in seed trading and WS. this method doesn't work.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 12:47AM
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Monte(6-NE NJ)

Mmmmm.So, tell me what you really think.

Actually I dont have any bubble to break as Im not trying to evangelize any one practice or another.

The things I post are simply random thoughts that pop up as Im trying to decide what may work best for me.

If you like do things differently more power to you.

You say you followed my instructions "to the letter".

What you may be missing is that nothing should be followed to the letter.

In WS or life for that matter IMHO.

All human endeavors are learning processes that will and should evolve as knowledge is gained.

You changed the conditions by using tape. Would that be an absolute? Was it even mentioned? Would some other kind of tape be a better choice? (if it were needed at all)

You said the seeds stuck in the straws. Were they 100% dry going in? Were the straws 100% dry?

Any moisture in the seed would cause problems no matter what method you use to package them.

Constant, steady, heavy pressure on the packets for extended periods of time?

I dont believe that this is, in any way, an accurate recreation of real world conditions trades may encounter as they traveled thru the postal system.

Some seeds are too large? Those particular seeds need to be dealt with in a different manner. Not a deal breaker from my point of view.

Sorry your hands are not healthy (you type very well BTW) but if this method or any method for that matter causes you discomfort you should not use it.

As far as time, cutting, and folding, and taping and writing and sealing seems it would be a little more time consuming than using a stapler.

Efficiency is simply a factor of repetition and familiarity with something.

I really have no desire to debate methodologies. If something I post or suggest is not for you fine.

Flat out stating it is not a good idea or doesnt work and is an outright failure that needs to be rethought is an opinion and your welcome to it.

It makes no difference to me.

But then again what do I know.

Monte the Goose

"Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, but, follow no one absolutely."

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 3:11AM
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What you may be missing is that nothing should be followed to the letter.

In WS or life for that matter IMHO.

The purpose of following the instructions you posted was to see how you method worked. Following them "to the letter", is what anyone else would have done to give it a try the first time.

After trying the method the first time following the instructions you posted, would be the time to make any changes that would improve the method as a whole or for an individual person.

In this particular method of packing up seeds, there is nothing to improve on as it isn't one that is going to work, IMHO and experience.

"You changed the conditions by using tape. Would that be an absolute? Was it even mentioned? Would some other kind of tape be a better choice? (if it were needed at all)"

Yes, I added the tape that was not mentioned. and yes it is an absolute to need the tape. For bubble envelopes to go through the post office at the large envelope rate, there are certain requirements to meet. One of them is for them to be uniform in thickness and slightly bendable.
The straws, once placed in the bubble envelope moved around. If there where more than 3 in the envelope, they moved around when the envelope was moved into different positions, bunched up at one end and the bubble envelope was no longer uniform in thickness. Mailing it this way, without the tape would end up having the bubble envelope cost more, go as parcel rate and if you tried to send it as first class, there wouldn't be enough postage on the envelope.
The tape used, scotch magic tape, was and is the best tape to use to hold down anything and the easiest to remove from anything.

"You said the seeds stuck in the straws. Were they 100% dry going in? Were the straws 100% dry?

Any moisture in the seed would cause problems no matter what method you use to package them."

Oh yes, my seeds are as dry as you can get and have been stored in paper coin envelopes made from scrap paper for months. Tiny seeds couldn't be any dryer either and they are stored in plastic prescription medicine bottles from the local pharmacy. None of the seeds stick to the inside of the bottles.

The seeds are stored inside a house with forced hot air heat, can't get any dryer than that, and heat that has been running since mid October daily.

The straws couldn't have been any dryer either. In newly purchased boxes that where never opened till Sunday and been in the house, in the dry heat for almost 3 months.

The issue of the seeds stuck in the straws is not an issue of how dry the seeds are or not, or how dry the straws are or not. The issue with the straws is the same as with the ziplock baggies, static electricity that holds onto and all but cements the small and tiny seeds to them. The don't come out without shredding the baggie or flushing he seeds out of the straws. OR, you just give up and toss some of the seeds out.

"Constant, steady, heavy pressure on the packets for extended periods of time?

"I dont believe that this is, in any way, an accurate recreation of real world conditions trades may encounter as they traveled thru the postal system."

This was a perfect recreation of the abuse that our mail gets going through the postal system. From what my letter carrier has described to me at various points in time, our flat mail, first class mail, bubble envelopes get tossed around as if they where balls, have heavy packages placed on top of them and get tortured through the postal system before being given to the local letter carrier for delivery.

This is one of the many reasons that bubble envelopes need to be used to ensure the safest way of transporting seeds from one location to another.

If I had young children in my home which I don't, my children are all grown adults in their mid twenties an early thirties, I would have had them playing catch with the bubble envelopes for an hour to simulate the abuse they would receive going through the postal system.

"As far as time, cutting, and folding, and taping and writing and sealing seems it would be a little more time consuming than using a stapler."

Though I don't find it time consuming, it is much easier than using the pressure of staples and worrying about the seeds getting stuck in the straws, caused by static electricity, which is the same thing that happens when using the ziplock baggies, especially when putting small and tiny seeds in them.

I do my best to reduce my plastic consumption as well. The gallon ziploc bags I use to cover my containers for WS, all get dried in the sun, packed up and reused till they can't be reused again. Usually at least 2 WS seasons and sometimes more. The same with the glad press and seal that I use for WS as well.

Printer paper is a non issue in my house as well, the printer is well used and going at least 3 times a week for various things and hubby's work.

I print out at least 800 packets in less than 2 hours during the summer months and know what my gardens will produce in seeds, so the cutting, folding, labeling is done long before the seeds are collected.

And yes, if the printer is not used once a week, you damage the printer heads, clog them up and need new ones. May as well be printing out seed packets to keep the printer heads running.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 10:59AM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

Just my two cents -

I also do quite a few trades per year and I have never received seeds in my "preferred" packaging. If I'm not going to immediately sow the seeds, which I never do, I transfer them to my preferred container - a tiny zip lock baggie - easier for me to store. As I am doing the transfer, sometimes I wonder why my "perfect" envie is not used by all. Maybe only a few swappers use these tiny tiny envies. Sometimes I think - man - these seeds are statically stuck inside the envie!!

However, mostly I am thinking to myself how blessed I am to have received these great seeds, and how great they'll look in my yard.

Perhaps some seeds will be stuck in the straw, but I've had to cut envies and paper home made thingeys to retrieve seeds. I'd cut straws if necessary to obtain those babies!!

The whole process is tedious so to each their own, IMHO.

One thing I NEVER considered was some crazy heavy package laying on top of my beloved seeds!! Do they really do that?? I've never received damaged seeds in a bubble envie, only a normal envie and I figured that was from the sorter machine.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 12:06PM
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quilt_mommy(5/6 Northeast Ohio)

I have been following this thread Monte since you started it and want to thank you for taking the time to share with us your method. I can tell you have a sense of humor and I think maybe in translation through the written word it can be misinterpreted. You have a wonderful idea, and I will definitely use it. You spent a lot of time writing out the details and taking pictures and then sharing it with us. That was so kind of you. :)

I am a newbie to seed trading, but I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I say this with the utmost respect for everyone who has taken the time to post their thoughts...didn't we all come here to have fun? The last time I checked none of us are here to make any profit, and I think most of us truly want to send and receive seeds that are free of damage and viable for planting in the most economical way possible. I don't mind spending a little extra or taking a little extra time folding envelopes, but I recognize that is not for everyone...some of us have carpal tunnel or arthritis, or worse...little patience! :) There is nothing wrong with that. It is valuable when you share your experiences so that we know what flaws each packaging type has, but truly, there is no such thing as packaging that is perfect for everyone. :) So I say use what you feel good about that meets the requirements and let's get back to sharing our love of gardening! :)

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 3:37PM
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I usually use the coin envelopes. I buy boxes of 500 and they aren't that expensive. I would try the straw method with some seeds. I think that's an interesting idea. I'd use clear straws for small seeds but not tiny ones because static electricity(?) might cause them to stick to the plastic. I don't think I'd be bothered if I had to slice it open to get a few stuck seeds out but I can see where it might be annoying if there were lots of seeds clinging to the plastic. I wonder if I could use the heating element on my vacuum sealer (Food Saver) to close one end? There's been many a time, especially when packing a lot of seed envelopes, that my bubble mailers weren't a uniform thickness and I've never had a problem because of it. I (and I'm sure some of my recipients) have received padded envelopes that look like a rottweiler used them as a chew toy. lol God knows what happened to them at the post office?!?!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 1:02AM
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After sowing, I reuse the ziplocks or commercial paper packets the seeds came in and also use the paper/foil envelopes that teabags come in - Doreen.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:10AM
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I prefer to use tiny ziplock bags readily available at craftstores in the jewelry department that are cheap; 100 ziplock bags for $1.50. You can see inside them without opening them so you know exactly what is in there and they reseal readily and easily. I open and close my seed packages a lot for seed sowing and for dividing seeds to send to other GW members, so I don't like the fuss of having to use tape or staples to reseal a seed package. And I live in a southern state with high humidity so the ziplocks keep the moisture away from my dry seeds. While it was interesting to hear of a new idea on seed packaging, I am concerned that prying a staple open with my fingers is a little more troublesome and timeconsuming than I care to bother with and having to drag scissors with me outdoors to cut them open to open does not resolve the problem of how to get the straw sealed back so if the wind catches it and it gets airborne all seeds will be lost. I have to do all my wintersowing outdoors, so while I am standing outside I want something that opens and closes quickly so the wind does not blow away my seeds that I have left over. And all the seed types won't fit readily in them like canna seeds. And I have tried just taping the ends of the straws to keep them closed and the larger straws can pop open when flattend and then taped and if you don't flatten the end of the straw then you end up with seeds sticking to the tape at the end of the straw which is not good if the seeds are tiny. Thanks for sharing a new idea, new ideas are always welcome, but I think I will continue to use my cheap, tiny, clear ziplock bags; all my seeds are just so happy in them. And yes I dry all my seeds for weeks at a time in open bowls and plates so moisture is not a problem for me inside the ziplocks. Always interesting to hear new ideas, but the ziplocks just work best for me.

Best to you and happy gardening,

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 6:15PM
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i make some, and i use the ones from walmart they are 100 for 98 cents. i do like the straw idea on some levels, but they won't work for some of my seeds. just the smaller one's. it will be awesome if your only growing plants with smaller seed!. use a stapler only though. that would be my recomodation. Fran would know. she is usually right on about things.
Thank you for sharing Monte! its always nice to have someone share with us! ~medo

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:28PM
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I have a lovely trader in Germany who for several years sent me seeds packaged in small squares of foil wrapped just like you would a present, and the label was used to seal the packets shut. Foil is very lightweight, cheap, if you only have a couple of seeds they can be sent in a package much smaller than any envelope you could make, or seed packet you could buy, and air can easily be compressed out (think how much the thickness of a bubble envelope can cost extra to send). I have not used this method myself as I have feared others might not be so keen to embrace it.

The only drawback I have found is that if you don't sow all the seeds, or want to trade leftovers, when you remove the label that identifies the seeds you may rip the package and not be able to reseal it and have to use another method of packaging. Otherwise, I think this is a wonderful way to package seeds and wonder what my U.S. traders would think of it.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 2:48AM
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