Seed Swaps …. and the triumph of the find!

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:

seedy sunday

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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.


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 Happy hunting!


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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17 Responses to Seed Swaps …. and the triumph of the find!

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    I don’t know as we have seed swaps around here, but I think it is a great idea. Seeing your Calypso beans reminded me that I wanted to grow some this year. I just ordered some online, along with cut flowers for next summer’s vases. Exciting!

    • I love seed time. What are your top three cut flowers for this year then? I’ve just ordered some lovely lime green zinnias, limonium suworowii (after Christina’s post) and I am going to try photolacca americana since seeing it growing at Abbotsbury subtropical gardens.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Ooh, very nice selection! I chose a small organic producer in the next state, so their offerings are fairly general: cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, larkspur and sweet peas. I also picked 4 dahlias from a western grower. I had given up on sowing seeds because the slugs kill everything when small, but in January optimism runs high and I vow to try again. In June I may think I’m insane! 😉

      • I share your trials with slug and snails. I am going to try nematodes this year I think.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I’ll have to look into that, I need all the help I can get!

  2. Sounds like fun! I haven’t been to a seed swap in several years, there is a club of native plant gardeners nearby that does one every winter.

  3. nexi says:

    Just checked – I thought these were Orca beans (aka Calypso…); what a good idea. One of our local NT properties Hughenden Manor provide sample packets of seeds from their victorian garden.

    • Ah yes, for beans with such a distinctive design they sure have lots of names. I will add the alternatives to the packets in case people know those names. What have you tried from Hughenden, anything good?

  4. Seed swaps are a brilliant idea, what a good way of finding something special to try. Those beans are beautiful, I remember seeing them on one of your posts last year and added them to my list.

    • Yes, they are also a good place to swap information with other gardeners, finding out how to grow heirloom and unusual things. I picked up some tomatillo seeds today, but I will need to look up how to grow them!

  5. That’s a good collection you have there. I am getting better at saving seeds and this spring I’ll be sowing dill, cerinthe (so easy to spot and save) nasturtium ditto, marigolds and runner beans. Depending on the success of this collection I’ll suggest a seed swap on the allotment next year.

    • Good on you. I love cerinthe too. I hope that fortune smiles on your harvest and that you manage to set up an allotment seed swap later. It’s a great way of getting to talk to other growers.

  6. I love seed swaps, especially when you’re not sure what you want to plant. There are a few in my area, too. 🙂

  7. Chloris says:

    What a brilliant idea, we always have a surplus of good seeds, how wonderful to be able to swap and you never know what you will come home with.

  8. Pingback: Tomatillos: A successful seed-swap experiment | Frogend dweller's Blog

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