Growing a great garden is one of the finest things in the world. Right next to eating food out of that great garden, in fact. Even better is sharing that great garden with others. Part of that sharing experience is finding other gardeners to trade information and swap plants and ideas with.
For years, seed exchanges have been how many gardeners have done that.
What Are Seed and Plant Exchanges
Seed and plant exchanges are sort of like gardener’s clubs where people get together to swap stories, trade seed and plant stocks, compare findings, and more. Some are local or regional, others are national and beyond. Today, of course, most seed exchanges are taking place both online and off and the Internet is connecting people worldwide.
Gardeners grow and save seeds from their gardens everywhere. Trading those seeds to get varieties that are either hard to find or unusual for your area is what seed (and plant) exchanges are all about. They are usually non-profit and almost never allow people to just sell their seeds. It’s all about give and take: trade.
Many enthusiasts are willing to send seeds to people for nothing more than the cost of postage. It’s a great way for a new gardener to get some unusual heirlooms and other plants to grow in their garden. It’s also an awesome resource for gardening knowledge and to learn about everything around the garden itself (food storage, seed saving, etc).
The best seed exchanges are local. They will have monthly or seasonal meetings, often just after harvest or just before spring planting. They can be quite lively and a great way to meet other gardeners in your area and learn some regional tips to help you along.
Why Attend Seed of Plant Exchanges?
Attending a seed and plant exchange means more than just getting new seed stock and plants to try out. It also means finding other gardeners in your area and even sharing gardening information and chores. Many seed exchanges also encourage produce trades and other activities around the garden.
In fact, it’s not unusual for seed exchanges to take place during or around farmer’s markets or even for those in farmer’s markets to create ad hoc seed and plant exchange deals while selling at a market. Don’t be surprised if your local seed exchange event has someone trading a couple of dozen fresh eggs for a packet of rare, top notch tomato seeds or offering prize rose cuttings for a few seeds from unusually large burpless cucumbers.
And definitely don’t be amazed to see a seasoned master gardener giving away rare seeds from a strain of Johnny’s Apple peppers to a newcomer who’s never grown peppers before.
Seed and plant exchanges are all about the gardens and the people who plant them. Anyone interested in gardening is welcome.
How To Find a Seed and Plant Exchange
Finding a seed and plant exchange is easy in today’s Internet age. Most national and regional groups are online with a chat forum or website. Local resources such as farmer’s markets, the library, or bulletin board at city hall or other gathering places will have them. Garden shops and greenhouses will usually have seed exchange information for locals as well.
Don’t have any seeds to exchange? No problem. Most exchanges love “newbies” and welcome them with open arms and members who’re happy to give them some freebies to get started. Ask beforehand as well, since not all exchanges involve seeds. You may have some prime worm compost or fresh-baked bread or any of a number of other special things you could bring to trade.
Want to learn more about seed and plant exchanges?
Check out these helpful resources:
A Guide to Heirloom Varieties and Community-Based Stewardship from U.S. Department of Agriculture
Seed Savers Exchange