One of the joys of this time of year is planning your seed haul and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a thing, because this is the season (Jan-Mar) of Seed Swaps. For instance, this coming Sunday is my local allotment society’s annual seed swapping event. They’ve even designed a neat poster for it this year:
The basic idea is that you go along to the event with either some self-saved seeds to exchange or some bought, unwanted branded seed. However, since not everyone is lucky enough to have saved or excess seed or even to have grown anything before, there is the option of just going along to pick up some seeds in exchange for a small donation. There is always plenty of seed to go round. Everyone is welcome and it can be a great place to network and find out other useful information.
The hall bustles with friendly, like-minded people, clutching either their own seed (which they are keen to show you) or their precious finds from the laden trestle tables arranged around the hall. Typically, being largely allotment society arranged events, there are more vegetable seeds on the tables than flowers. Within the vegetable selection it is often peas and beans that predominate (being easiest to save I suppose), but that doesn’t mean that the selection is what you might find in the garden centre. Far from it in fact, because these are seeds from enthusiastic experimenters.
I’ve been a few times and it has been a fun, successful event. I’ve always come away with plenty of useful stuff, including packets of unusual or exotic seed. The first time I was happy to find a selection of heirloom beans, including Early Warwick dwarf beans and Cherokee Trail of Tears beans (for a three sister planting that I’d been reading about). Another time I was given chinese celery seed from a lady who couldn’t speak a word english, but was keen to share her harvest and on yet another occasion I found an envelope stuffed full of Foxglove Tree seed pods.
So this afternoon I’ve been making up a few envelopes of collected seed to take on Sunday. I’ve been using small brown money envelopes because they are a good size, but the seeds on the village hall tables are displayed in packets of all shapes, materials and sizes.
If you fancy joining in and looking for a swapping event near you, then your best starting point is your local allotment organisation. Also the Heritage Seed Library publishes a catalogue which ends with a section on seed swapping events and potato days (look at page 45 onwards) and there is slightly different set of information available on their facebook page (probably more up-to-date). The Seedy Sunday website concentrates on their big Brighton event on 7th Feb, but other places also advertise there.