Organizing a seed swap can be a fun way to connect with other gardeners, try new varieties, and save money. Seed swaps can either be held locally or online, but either way will help broaden your seed stash and allow you to share your favorite seeds with like-minded people.
Whichever method of seed swapping you choose, there are a few important guidelines to remember and share with your fellow swappers:
1. Seeds should only be saved from heirloom varieties. While there are many wonderful hybrid plants out there, they simply will not grow true from seed.
2. Consider the viability of the seeds. The older a seed is, the worse its germination rate will be. Limit the swap to seeds no more than 2 years old for the best quality.
3. Make sure you include enough seeds in each packet to ensure a decent harvest. A dozen tomato or pepper seeds is more than enough, but for a crop like corn or beans it makes more sense to include at least 20.
4. Packaging is important. Mini plastic zip-top bags or manila coin envelopes make great seed packets, and both can easily be purchased online or in hobby shops. Label the seed packets with the variety, basic growing information, and your name so the recipient can contact you if they have any questions.
5. Timing is everything. Of course seed swaps can be held at any time, but it makes the most sense to hold them in late winter – just before planting season starts, or late fall after the harvest, when folks have saved fresh seeds.
6. Get the word out! The most important component of a seed swap is the people. Use social media, email contacts, and word of mouth to let fellow gardeners know about the upcoming event.
Local Seed Swaps
The beauty of local seed swaps is that you will be trading seed that is suited to growing in your environment. Gardeners from the same area can share tricks and tips for what works best in that particular climate. As an added bonus, local swappers can also trade plant cuttings or rootings that might not do as well via mail.
Finding a location is the first thing to do once you’ve decided to host a seed swap. If it is a small group of friends and neighbors, someone’s living room or patio might be the perfect spot. To open it up to a larger group, check with local libraries or churches to find a meeting space. Get the word out early on the time and place, so gardeners can plan and put it on their calendars.
Setup for a local seed swap can be as simple or elaborate as you want. A couple of tables to lay seeds out is all that is really needed. Swappers can put their seeds on the table, then mingle with other gardeners and choose the seeds they want.
Decide in advance what to do with any leftover seeds. You could open up the last hour of the swap to new gardeners who have nothing to trade, but would like to start connecting with their local gardening community. Also consider donating leftover seed to a local school or other gardening group.
Mail swaps take a little more work than local swaps, but it is fun to connect with gardeners across the country, and be challenged with new varieties that may not be as common in your area. When hosting a mail swap for the first time, it’s a good idea to limit the participants to about a dozen to keep the work manageable. You will also need sturdy, padded envelopes so seeds won’t be crushed in the mail.
The host will set a deadline as to when seeds need to be shipped. For a swap with a dozen people, everyone would send the host 12 seed packets in a cushioned envelope, along with cash to cover postage (typically no more than $3-$5). The swap host then divides up the seed packets amongst the participants, packages them, and mails them back out.
Seed swapping is a great way to build relationships with fellow gardeners and build your personal seed library. No matter how small or how large, seed swaps are a fun perk of being a gardener.
About the Author:
Mia Cover is an avid home gardener and beekeeper, and runs a garden club at an inner-city high school. She lives with her husband and kids on a tiny urban farm in Nashville, TN.