Coordinator for Northern England Catherine Howell guides us through how to create a captivating and portable display for your seeds…

One of the challenges with promoting seed sovereignty at public events is displays – seeds are very small and tables often very big and flat!  Creating an impact, and enticing people’s curiosity, can be challenging. 

The Seedarium is one possible solution to making your project more obvious.  It’s intended to initiate conversations with people, allowing them to explore different types of seeds and maybe even contribute their own. 

Your design will almost certainly vary from the Seedarium that’s used by the northern region of the Seed Sovereignty Programme, but here are some things to think about before you start its construction: 

  • What materials do I have available already that I can use? 
  • Do I have the skills to make one myself, or will I need to bring in support?  (This is a great project for a group of people!) 
  • Do I have the tools I need, or will I need to borrow them? 
  • How will I store the seeds inside the Seedarium? 
  • Do I need to transport it, and if so, how?  This will impact on size, shape and the materials you use 
  • How can I make my Seedarium safe? (There is a risk assessment at the end of this document, but you might want to think about your intended audience, likely venues, indoor and outdoor use, stability etc) 
  • How can I prevent people taking seeds (if that’s not the intention)? 


Here’s our instructions, which may be helpful as guidance.


  • A rectangular piece of 18mm plywood, approx 60cm x 48cm 
  • Dressed timber: 15mm x 68mm x 2.4m (frame and shelves); 11mm x 11mm x 2.4m (shelf supports); 21mm x 21mm x 2.4m (door frames) 
  • Wood glue 
  • PVA glue 
  • 8 woodscrews, around 3mm diameter x 40mm length 
  • Four small surface mounted hinges
  • Hessian fabric 
  • Small latch 
  • Two small door knobs 
  • Small jars 
  • Spray paint 
  • Vinyl stick-on numbers 
  • Index cards 
  • Other items: a notebook and pencil, leaflets, seed pods and heads, signage etc 
  • A selection of seeds! 


  • Tape measure and pencil 
  • A fine-toothed mitre saw (for cutting 90° angles) or a fine-toothed saw and a mitre block 
  • An electric drill with a 3mm wood drill and a screwdriver bit (or a hand screwdriver) 
  • Small paintbrush 
  • Staple gun 
  • Scissors 

1. Make a box

Ensure that you have plenty of space to work and that any surfaces are protected.  This project may take a couple of days to complete. 

The plywood piece is the back of your Seedarium. Measure its width and length. 

Base and top of Seedarium: Cut two pieces of your dressed timber to the width of the board, using the mitre saw to make sure your cuts are straight.

Sides of Seedarium: Cut two pieces of your dressed timber to the length of your plywood minus 2 * the depth of your plank. (In our case, 60cm – (2 * 15mm) = 57cm). 

Do not glue your box together just yet!

2. Make your shelves

The number and the distance between your shelves will depend on the jars you are using, so take this into account when measuring. (Don’t forget their lids and make sure they fit securely on the shelves but are still easily removable). 

Shelving: using your dressed timber and the mitre saw, measure and cut the desired number of shelves.  The length of these will be the width of your back minus 2 x depth of your plank. (In our case, 48cm – (2 x 15mm) = 45cm).  (Tip – cut these slightly short rather than slightly long as you’ll need to slide them into the box later). Put these to one side. 

Shelving supports: using the smaller of the two square profile pieces of timber, cut pieces to the width of your dressed timber. (In our case, 68mm). These will form the supports for your shelves. 

Take the sides of your Seedarium. Mark carefully using a pencil where you want the bottom of each of your shelves to be. 

Gluing shelf supports: using the wood glue, glue your shelf supports onto the sides, lining up the top of your support with the marks you made in the previous step.  Leave them somewhere where they will not be disturbed and allow the glue to dry – usually a couple of hours at least. 

3. Assemble

You are ready to put the main part of your Seedarium together. It’s best to do this in stages (unless your cutting is very accurate!) 

Using the wood glue, glue the base and one of the sides onto the plywood back to form a corner, being careful to make sure your shelf supports are the right way up! Allow to dry. 

Again, using the wood glue, glue the other side and the top onto the plywood base.  You will need to slide in your shelves after these have dried, so you might want to make slight adjustments to make sure they’re going to fit! Allow to dry. 

You are now ready to add your shelves. You don’t need to glue these in, but doing so will add strength to your Seedarium. Allow to dry. 

4. Make the doors

As the main part of your Seedarium dries, you can begin the doors. 

Door frames: Using the measurements you took of the plywood back, and the bigger of the two square section pieces of timber, make two equal door frames in the same way as you made the Seedarium box. 

Screwing each corner will add to the strength and rigidity of the doors and prevent them skewing. Use a drill bit the same or narrower than your wood screws and make a hole in each end of the top and bottom pieces of the door frames to intercept with the end of each side. 

Apply a little wood glue to the joining faces and screw your door frames together making sure that your screws are straight and the frames are flat. (This may be easier with a hand screwdriver where there is a little more control). Allow to dry. 

Cut your hessian fabric roughly larger than each door frame. Using the staple gun, stretch it taut and staple it in place on the back of each door. Cut off any excess and seal the edges from fraying with PVA glue. Allow to dry. 

5. Attach the doors

Put your doors in place as if they are closed. Attach the hinges to connect the doors with the sides of the main part of your Seedarium. 

Add two little handles to your doors. We used wooden beads and garden twine to make handles. 

Add a little catch to hold the doors closed. Allow everything to dry for 24 hours. 

6. Add the contents

Prepare your jars. We removed the labels and washed and dried them thoroughly (any moisture will cause the seeds to go mouldy). We spray painted the lids to hide the print. 

Fill your jars with seeds and label the contents (we used stick on vinyl numbers and then listed the contents on separate index cards that could be changed or replaced more easily). 

7. Customise your Seedarium!

You may wish to add a sign. We added hooks and clips for pods and heads and Seed Sovereignty leaflets, stickers, seed envelopes and pencils. We also added a small notebook where people could add stories about the seeds they had added. 

Storing your Seedarium 

For your seeds to remain viable, you will need to store your Seedarium carefully.  Make sure it is well away from any possibility of vermin and that the seeds are kept cool and dry.  (You may find it helpful to add silica sachets or baked rice to jars or containers to absorb any moisture).  It should be kept out of direct sunlight. 

It might also be helpful to record the date that seeds are added so you know how fresh they are. 

Keep checking your seeds for signs of pests or disease regularly, removing and discarding them if needs be.  Wash and dry containers thoroughly before refilling them. 

Using your Seedarium at a public event 

Most public events require organisations to have Public Liability Insurance (PLI) and a risk assessment in place.  Listed below are some of the hazards associated with the Seedarium (you may need to add to this list depending on your design, the materials you use and the circumstances you’re using it in). 

Hazard and Risk Existing Controls Action required 
Seedarium – weight, bruising and sprains caused by moving and toppling Doors and internal contents secured when moving, advise a warning of weight before handling Make sure the Seedarium is located towards the back of any display and not too far from the edge of the table.  Any table should be level and not rocking. It is relatively stable when the doors are opened but support from behind if required.  When moving be aware of its weight – two people may be required.  It is best moved flat with the doors on the upper surface, secured by the small catch. 
Glass jars, laceration WarningGlass jars are used for sustainability, but smashing might be an issue.  Check over all jars for defects and cracks before use.  Be aware of participants’ mobility and dexterity issues (observe). Make sure there is equipment available for swift removal and disposal of broken glass. 
Seeds, allergic reaction and choking Warning, signage Food allergens including cereals (wheat, oats, barley), celery, mustard, lupin and a risk of favism reaction with broad/field beans.  Warning signage advised.  Observe participants for any signs of reaction (especially breathing difficulties) and seek first aid/999 if required. 
People may remove seeds, and more likely with children, eat them.  Some may present a choking hazard so observe participants for signs of breathing difficulties (including silence, loss of colour). Seek first aid if required. For choking call 999 immediately.