How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

Seed swaps refer to the many different ways people can exchange seeds they’ve grown themselves. A seed swap can be done through a community event, online, or simply between friends. However you choose to do it, there are many benefits to preserving and sharing seeds. Let’s look at some of the reasons why to swap seeds and how to get started.

WHY IS SEED SWAPPING IMPORTANT?

1. You Save Money

If you buy fresh seeds every year from a garden center, catalogue, or other supplier, you know the costs can quickly add up. Whereas, saving your own seeds and trading them with others is completely free, other than taking a little time in the process. You will also find many unique varieties that simply don’t exist in the catalogues.

2. You Get Quality, Local Seeds

The majority of store-bought seeds come from somewhere else. And the parent plants could have grown in conditions completely different from your local environment. This makes it hard to predict how those plant varieties will fare in your garden.

Seeds you get from seed swaps are typically grown by other gardeners who live near you, which means you already know they can grow well in your local area. Also, the longer you save your seeds, you may find they’ll get stronger and better each year as they continue to adapt to your local conditions over many generations.

3. You Help Maintain Genetic Diversity

Our world is rapidly losing genetic diversity as both plant and animal species throughout the world are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that farmers used to grow about 80,000 species of plants prior to industrialization. Currently, they rely on around 150 species.

The primary reason for this is to create predictable, uniform crops that can be easily harvested and processed on large-scale farms. Needless to say, this does not support plant diversity. It also creates a very dangerous situation where disease can kill off a certain variety of plant, and there are no other varieties to take its place. We need as many different varieties as possible to ensure a healthy, secure food supply for the future.

Related: Why It Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

4. You Support Non-GMO Seeds

A particularly insidious development in the industrialization of seeds is genetic modification. Various food crops have been genetically altered to fit into the industrial agriculture model even better. Genetically modified organisms have been linked to certain health risks, as well as adding disturbing mutations to our already dwindling gene pool of plants. Growing and sharing your own seeds is a way to keep genetic modification out of our gardens and our food.

Vegetable seeds on paper

HOW TO START SWAPPING SEEDS

1. Collect your favorite seeds

Seed collection typically involves gathering either dry or wet seeds. The easiest seeds to start with are dry seeds, which are produced by most ornamental flowers and herbs. Simply wait until the flowers have matured and gone to seed, then break open any pods or seed heads and shake out the dry seeds into a paper bag for storage.

Most vegetables make wet seeds that need to be cleaned and dried before storage. This is a straight-forward process, and you can find more details on processing wet seeds here. Once you have your seeds dried, they should be stored in a paper bag or envelope in a cool, dark location.

2. Share your seeds

Seed swapping can be as simple as trading some seeds with a few friends, or you can go bigger and attend a community seed swap near you. Ask a local garden center, gardening club, or botanical garden if they know of any seed swaps happening in town.

If you can’t find a swap locally, try starting your own. Mother Earth News has a great overview of how to organize a community seed swap. You can also donate your extra seeds to organizations like Seed Savers Exchange, who work to preserve and distribute rare and heirloom seed varieties.

3. Go online

Many sites offer online seed swapping opportunities, such as the National Gardening Association, Houzz, or Reddit. You’ll usually need to be a member of a site in order to participate, but once you’ve signed up, you can often advertise what you have or ask for varieties you’re looking for. Once you’ve made a match, you can either arrange to meet up locally or mail your exchanged seeds.

4. Start a seed lending library

A seed library works by allowing gardeners to “borrow” seeds at planting time, and then save some fresh seeds at the end of the season to return to the library for the following year. If you’re intrigued by the idea, shareable has a great description of how to create your own seed lending library.

5. Grow your seeds

Another important step in seed saving is to keep the cycle going. Plant your saved seeds, as well as any new varieties you’ve gotten at a swap, every spring for a fresh crop. Then collect seeds in the fall again to share and grow next year.

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70 comments

Elizabeth M
Past Member 26 days ago

cool many thanks.

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Marie W
Marie W29 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Jen S
Jen S4 months ago

It is important to maintain the old non-hybrid varieties, many of which havesuperior flavor compared to hybrids. Seed swappers are lovely people, gardeners who care about the environment. a couple of years ago, I went to a seed swap at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. I received a great collection of seeds, shared some of the sacred ancestral veggie and flower seeds, and enjoyed the day. I grew these seeds from Monticello, and have traded them and will do so again this fall.

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Anna R
Past Member 5 months ago

tyfs

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Louise R
Louise R5 months ago

thank you

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Margie F
Margie F5 months ago

Thank you

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Maria P
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Olga Nycz-Shirley
Olga Nycz-Shirley6 months ago

TY

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Jessica K
Jessica K6 months ago

We have a seed library here, very good to maintain local produce and get people understanding what is endemic and dealing with how food is produced. Thanks.

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Carl R
Carl R6 months ago

Thanks!!

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