Sharing and trading seeds has gone from neighbor-to-neighbor and from family member-to-family member to stranger-to-stranger. No longer just passing seeds over a white picket fence or bringing them with you to the next community soup supper. With the advent of the internet and the rise of social media, the way we share and trade seeds has evolved dramatically these last few years.
Google “Seed Swap” and countless entries appear in seconds. From the ‘National Gardening Association’ Seed Swap website to the ‘Old Farmer’s Almanac’, hundreds of promises of seed trading and sharing beckon. Facebook itself is home to many seed trading sites.
Find it on Facebook!
The ‘Self-Sustaining Seed Swappers’ is one such nonprofit seed sharing site and is currently home to 132 members, chosen and invited to join the exclusive community of fellow gardeners and proven-worthy, reputable traders with solid trade history. The site is perhaps the “best of the best” and promotes the safest, most-welcome location for its’ members to meet online, swap stories, share seeds and so much more… Members who have joined the site looking to score a hard-sought, rare seed variety often end up not only with the longed-for seeds, but having created lasting friendships.
Gail Leonard started the group in mid 2014 for people living in Central Ohio, as Gail had noticed that there were no groups in her local area. Gail met Ashley Hafer on another site while trading Wisteria for Oleander. Ashley joined the group, the name changed, and the site grew larger as the group expanded to include traders that either Gail or Ashley had experienced excellent seed trades with in the past. Ashley noted that “(We) just wanted to share and trade with honest people!…” and that “Facebook is great because people are already using it; it’s free, it’s accessible from smartphones… and the benefits are numerous. Not only are we swapping and sharing seeds to grow food and beautify our yards, but we are making amazing friendships!”
Ashley adds that since the group keeps their numbers small “it really has become a community. (We) celebrate birthdays, holidays, send get-well cards, thinking-of-you presents…” The group allows for individual trades, member-hosted contests and prize giveaways, “Round Robin” seed boxes, etc.
The ‘Great American Seed Swap/Trade Project’ is another Facebook seed trading site that has (at last count) 14,894 members and 8 administrators. All are welcome to join the group and it is a wonderful place to get started in the seed trade community. A beginner can join with no seeds to share and the generosity of fellow seed lovers will soon amount to many varieties of seed all for the price of a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.)
For just a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope)…
If desiring to share excess seeds, it is advisable to request any interested parties to send a SASE (two stamps is the norm as any seed envelopes must be hand processed so as not to crush and damage the seeds inside.) When mailing seeds,carefully wrap the seeds (contained in a small paper envelope or a plastic baggie) in bubblewrap and be sure to write either “hand cancel” or “hand stamp” on the envelope.
In this fashion, this blogger was able to go from having a few varieties of native perennial pollinator flower seeds to enough vegetable seeds to plant next year’s garden and share with countless others and a mind-boggling variety of annual flower seeds to experiment with.
With all that the internet and social media has to offer, sharing and trading seeds has never been so easy or fun and almost everyone can spread the gardening love with just a few clicks of the mouse!
In recognition of this year’s National Seed Swap Day, January 31st, 2015, let’s consider the time-honored tradition of sharing seeds at such events because a Seed Swap has vast benefits for gardeners everywhere. Our nation’s third President, Thomas Jefferson, has long been known for his glorious gardens at Monticello with over three hundred varieties of more than ninety different plants. Jefferson sought plants and treasured seeds from all over the world and always shared his bounty and his seeds with his friends but thousands of those varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers have been lost in recent times to the growth, popularity and commercial availability of hybrid seeds.
Saving Seeds, an Ancient Tradition
Fortunately, long before organized seed exchanges were held, individuals across time and around the globe would harvest, save, and share their seeds. In some cultures, seeds were valued as if they were money, bartered with, traded, and collected. Seeds would be passed down from generation to generation, from one gardener to another. What gardener does not have at least one variety of produce or one favorite flower that he or she grows every year, having been grown by their own grandparent decades ago? Many historic varieties have been preserved in this fashion and are still grown today because someone, at some time, decided to save and share those seeds.
Our Founding Fathers Shared Seeds…
Today, the average home gardener can share their neighbor’s great uncle’s award-winning tomato seed and have the opportunity to purchase (or share!) the very same variety of beautiful black Hollyhock that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello. Today the home gardener can either choose to spend a small fortune amassing seeds or plants commercially purchased each year for that season’s garden, or with a little planning, patience and effort; can save the previous season’s seeds for planting the next year. The first seed swap days allowed local gardeners to trade their abundance of a particular seed for other kinds that other gardeners had in their own possession. Seed swaps have begun to sprout up all over the country and enable gardeners of all ages and experience-levels to meet, share seeds (and sometimes plants), advice and ideas, stories, and fellowship.
Why Save Seeds?
Today most organized seed swaps include seeds native to the area/zone, edibles (fruit and vegetable,) herbs, exotics, annuals, perennials and woody trees and shrubs. Seeds saved and shared are often open-pollinated and heirloom variety, which produce offspring identical to the parent plant (seed.) Seeds saved from a hybrid plant may show traits like its parents, but hybrid varieties do not always promise offspring like the parent as the hybrid is a genetic mingling of two different parent plants and may grow offspring differing in taste, color and growth habit. Bulbs and cuttings may also be shared. Gardeners are encouraged to bring their surplus, highly flavored and/or high-yielding/good-producing seeds to share and exchange with others.
In an age when “Going Green!” is all the rage, seed swaps are gaining popularity for good reason. Seed swapping continues to promote biodiversity, cultural history, and, in essence, recycling. Gardeners rid themselves of excess seeds without wasting and leave the event(s) able to try many new varieties inexpensively and resourcefully. Jefferson wrote that, “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture,” and every year the National Seed Swap Day embodies both Jefferson’s legacy of seed sharing and his promotion of gardening throughout the Country. Thinking of hosting your own seed swap event? Find more information here: www.southernexposure.com/how-to-host-a-seed-swap-ezp-146.html
Submitted by Lois Versaw (Extension Master Gardener Intern at University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
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