Saturday, March 19, 2016

Handmade gift idea: Pretty Seed Packets from your Garden

Seed packets I made for my friend's birthday recently
If you garden, and you have gardening friends, you probably trade seeds from time to time. Wait, you don’t? You really should try it. I’m not just talking about leftover seeds from packets you bought, but also seeds you gathered from your own garden.

I’m only just getting into seed gathering and seed saving. I haven’t yet braved a big seed swap event like the Washington Gardener Seed Exchange, but I have started sharing seeds with my friends. In fact, seeds from your very own garden can make a pretty awesome present. My friends Jon and Hannah recently moved to a house with a great big sunny back yard, and have grand plans for gardening. So when Hannah asked for gardening supplies for her birthday, I knew exactly what I wanted to give her.

She’s really into rainbows, so I actually already had some pretty rainbow scrapbooking paper purchased for her. When I bought it I didn’t know how I’d use it, just that I wanted to make something for her birthday.


I had five kinds of seeds I wanted to share with her. All were easy to grow and I know they grow well in our area. This was important since she’s a relative beginner in terms of gardening. I always have tons of dill seed every year, plus I gathered marigold, basil, oregano, and echinacea seeds. These have all reseeded before so I know they'll grow true from seed. (Not all plants you may buy will.) 

I turned to a few of my favorite regional gardening books to research planting information. For each kind of seed I wanted to explain how and when to plant, what to expect in terms of size and spacing, and also benefits I know of from my experience. For example, letting basil go to flower attracts tons of butterflies and bees, as do the purple flowers of oregano. Dill of course feeds Black Swallowtail caterpillars, so I wanted to suggest she plant extra to share with the caterpillars.

This Black Swallowtail caterpillar is eating carrot greens, which are related to dill.

Originally I’d hoped to hand-write all the planting notes, but I had too much information for each seed. I typed them up instead, leaving plenty of room for hand-drawn illustrations. I experimented with different label sizes until deciding that about 4x4” was right.

Once I knew how big my labels would be I could make the packets. I wanted some of the paper to show around the label so I created a template for 5x5” packets. In order to make a tidy seal I also allowed for ¼” extra on either side of the first 5”, plus a ½” flap on top. So this meant I cut out rectangles that were 5½” x 10½”, then trimmed off some of the side, like this:

I folded and glued the packets shut, leaving open the top flap. While those dried I drew illustrations of each plant on the respective labels. I’m not a terribly good artist but that wasn’t the point, I just wanted to get something close enough to be recognizable and also colorful. Seed catalogs with pretty pictures are always more fun and inspiring to read, so I wanted to make sure my seed packets would convey the same sense of “Ooh, I want to plant that!” I made sure to illustrate a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on the dill packet too, so she knows what to look for.

Not the best drawing of a BST caterpillar, but probably recognizable!

Next I put generous amounts of seed in each packet and glued the labels on. I added little dessicant packets when I remembered to do so; again this wasn’t crucial since I expect the seed will be planted very soon.

I glued the top flaps shut and let them air dry. When we were ready to go I decorated the bundle with some gold starry tinsel and tucked it into a gift bag with a pair of colorful gardening gloves.

Hannah was very happy to receive the seeds. Jon is also excited to use the herbs in his cooking. I hope they grow well for her! I’ve offered to help break ground for the new bed or give other advice this summer. Since I work in the horticultural resource library at Brookside Gardens, if she has any questions I can’t answer from experience, I can certainly find plenty of answers at work!

I love to spread garden inspiration to my friends and neighbors. I especially have fond memories of helping my parents garden when I was small, so I hope my friends’ children enjoy helping in the garden too. I look forward to spending time in the gardens this summer on my own as well as with my friends.


  1. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog Jodi... This is a much nicer way to gift seeds than what I do. If someone asks about my Monarch Waystation or other bed, I give them some seeds that I keep for that purpose... Michelle

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I also give much less decorative bags of seed to friends and neighbors who ask. It feels good to spread the gardening bug, doesn't it? :-)


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