SEED TRADING HAS ALWAYS SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA to me. Why pay for seeds when you can trade your excess for what you need? Both parties profit from the transaction, and you might just make a friend who has a common interest in the specific type of gardening you enjoy.
Seed trading has been practiced for generations, neighbor to neighbor, but today the Internet has made everyone worldwide your neighbor. The result is local community seed trading on steroids. Dave’s Garden, an online community for gardeners, claims over 13,000 members. Seed and plant trading is probably Dave’s most popular activity.
Where to start
I must say, after looking at various venues for seed trading, it’s a bit intimidating. Several really popular forums have sprung up for very serious seed traders. Some are part of the big gardening sites. The ones I looked at were Seed Swaps, Dave’s Garden and iVillage Garden Web. There are others. Many of the people participating are not just traders, but seed collectors of rare varieties.
The rules that these sites have are pages and pages long, which is probably good because there are many, many ways that trades can go wrong. The devil’s in the details. If you’re interested in joining, be sure to spend some time studying the FAQs.
Another option instead of outright seed trading is a seed bank where dues-paying members can order seed packages for an additional $2 to $5. Many of the seeds available are for rare or unusual plants. It’s sort of seed trading in that the members are asked to donate their extras back to the bank.
The problem I faced was that I only saved enough seeds last year for what I wanted to plant this year. I saved seeds for arugula and three varieties of tomatoes, but really only enough for me to plant in the spring. I’ll do better next time. In the meantime, how can I get started without a cache of extras?
Fortunately, some of the old timers understand that when more people participate in a forum, the richer the diversity of seeds available. One way to encourage beginners into the program is to give them open pollinated seeds as a start. Old timers will provide their less valuable excess seeds to others who send a self-addressed stamped bubble envelope (SASBE).
After all, no one benefits from seeds that don’t get planted. Why not give them away so someone will benefit.
Why a bubble envelope?
The seeds need to be sent in a bubble envelope (envelopes with bubble wrap inside) to protect against the Post Office’s automated handling machines, which will frequently crush seeds into dust. The Post Office automatically hand processes bubble envelopes, saving the seed trade recipient from the disappointment of receiving crushed seeds.
After looking at the various forums, it seemed to me that Dave’s Garden has one of the more active seed swapping sites, so I signed up there. I paid my dues and mailed my SASBE off to one of the long timers and she promised to send me back about 10 packages of seeds — depending what was in stock. I gave her guidance on what I might like to have if available. Check back and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
When planting time arrives, I’ll be sure to grow some of my open pollinated and heirloom plants just for the purpose of saving seeds. My plan is, come fall, to offer my excess to anyone on Dave’s Garden who is interested. If I’m lucky, I might just get something new and tasty to grow the following year.
Happy holidays everyone!
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