Host a Seed Swap

Seed exchanges are a great way to introduce new plants into your garden and spend time with fellow gardeners.

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Seed Exchange

Host a Seed Swap

A party in disguise, seed swaps are a fun way to introduce new plants into your garden and spend time with fellow gardeners.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Lynn Coulter

Image courtesy of Lynn Coulter

If you’ve ever been to a cookie swap, you know how much fun it is to get together with friends and neighbors to exchange recipes and sample treats that you’ve never tried before. A seed swap is much the same thing. It’s a party in disguise, except you can invite anyone who’d like to trade or share different kinds of seeds. The seeds can be extras you never got around to planting, or those you saved from non-hybrid plants in your garden.

Hosting a seed swap is easy. Set a date when you expect fair weather, and just in case, have an alternative site available, such as a garage or carport. Make sure you have some seed traders lined up ahead of time, to avoid disappointment.

Next, advertise your swap, just as you’d spread the word about a yard or garage sale. State the hours and location. Make sure to say it’s free, and all are welcome, to encourage lots of visitors.

Put out small tables, TV trays, or whatever you have on hand, so your pre-arranged traders will have a place to display their seeds. Provide chairs, or ask them to bring their own. Encourage the traders to display their seeds in attractive trays, bowls or other containers.

It’s nice to let people bring plants to sell, too, or fresh eggs, homemade jams, breads and other foods. The more variety you have, the more likely you are to attract a crowd. But before you do this, check with your local zoning authority to be sure you won’t violate any codes regarding food sales or sales in general.

Tips for a Seed Swap

If you’re going to a seed swap, rather than hosting one, get there early. The best items go fast at yard sales, and the best varieties disappear quickly at swaps.

Bring some small plastic bags, paper envelopes or empty pill bottles or breath mint tins. Not all traders will have them on hand, and you’ll need a way to carry your tiny treasures home.

Bring a pen or marker, so you can label your containers.

Whether you’re participating in a swap or simply visiting, try to bring some seeds to share, even if you have to purchase pre-packaged seeds. But if you come empty-handed, don’t worry. Gardeners are generous folks and most will give you some seeds even if you have nothing to exchange.

Don’t be upset if someone gives you only a few seeds. Some varieties are rare and hard to find, so say “thanks” even if you get only 2 or 3 of a kind.

If you can’t plant your seeds right away, store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Some seeds will stay viable for several years, so ask the person who gave them to you how long they’ve already been in storage. That will help you know how much longer they’ll keep.  

Whether you do it now or later, don’t neglect to plant your seeds. Someone put the effort into saving and sharing them, so honor their generosity.

Pass them along. It may not be worth the effort to save seeds that are either very tiny, or that are encased in tough, prickly or bristly pods. But when you can, save seeds from your non-hybrid plants to sow again, or give away your extras. That helps preserve a wide range of varieties we can all enjoy growing.

Note: Seeds from hybrid plants usually won’t produce baby plants that look like the parent plant. Some hybrid seeds are sterile. For your swap, use seeds from non-hybridized plants, or buy hybrid seeds that come pre-packaged.

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