Sourcing Seeds

A good place to source seeds is in your community. This is because people in your area know best what grows there. Ask friends and neighbors if they have seeds they can share with you. Also ask them to recommend you varieties to try and local garden centers, seed libraries or seed swaps where you can find them.

Bi-annual Seed Swap at the Chandler Sunset Library. Photo by Eileen M. Kane.

Seed swaps are events where people who have saved seeds from their gardens or who have excess purchased seed can trade seeds with each other. Knowledge, ideas and practices from different gardeners and their cultures are passed along too.

Seed swaps are very important for communities. They foster community engagement, create food security, protect food diversity and support wildlife diversity. They can occur in a local community center, a public library, at someone’s home or even by mail. Seed swaps have their own etiquette. It includes which types of seeds people bring to swap as well as the condition, packaging and organization of those seeds.

To observe seed swapping etiquette, bring only noninvasive and open-pollinated (also known as heirloom, heritage, or standard) seeds. The seeds should be no older than three years, unless they have been properly dried and stored. Seeds should also be labelled with the date, the plant’s common and scientific name, its size and tips for growing it. Display your seeds in containers according to plant type. This makes seeds easy for swappers to sort through.

Seed swap etiquette includes seed organization. Photo by Karen Blakeman.

When selecting seeds to take home from a swap, look for fruits, vegetables and flowers that you know you like and your family will eat. When you have found those seeds, examine their packages or ask their owners for information like when they were collected, how they were stored, where they were grown and if they are noninvasive and open-pollinated. Seed packages can be confusing, but fellow seed swappers will be happy to help.

Seeds collected or packaged more recently will have a higher germination rate. The germination rate will also be better for properly stored seeds. Seeds grown locally are more likely to grow well for you. And, checking for invasive seeds is essential. Accidentally bringing home and planting invasive seeds could end up costing you time, money or even legal problems with the state, so be careful. If you plan to save seeds yourself, look for open-pollinated seeds and not hybrid or F1 hybrid seeds.

Have any questions about finding a local seed swap or about seed swapping itself? Let me know in the comments below.


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