“Have seeds, will swap”

I didn't expect to grow pumpkins or pole beans this year, but a recent seed swap with my friend Cathy changed that. Just as I do, she sees real value in saving and collecting heirloom vegetable and perennial herb varieties. Sharing seeds with one another helps us to promote biodiversity in our area and to bring some unusual varieties -- like the Black Krim tomato and that Cosmic Purple carrot -- back from relative obscurity. It also saves money and a little bit of fossil fuel.

Want to start seed swapping? Even if you don't have fellow gardeners close by, there are always several on-line seed swaps going. (And here is another and yet another to get you going. . .) If you prefer something a little more hands-on, get up and organize a seed swap in your neck of the woods.

Truly, I can think of only a couple of drawbacks associated with swapping seeds. For one, as some gardeners keep better records than others, you might not have a good idea about the age of the seed you receive, but that's easily remedied with a quick germination test. One other disadvantage comes to mind: seeds obtained in a swap seldom come with planting instructions and growth habit notes, so, you might need to scour gardening books or comprehensive plant databases like this one or this one before you plant -- especially since some seeds are a little trickier to start.

Case in point, something I meant to tell Cathy before she left is that the yarrow seed I sent her home with typically requires light to germinate. So do dill, Shasta daisies, tickseed coreopsis, coleus, and Chinese lanterns, among others, and, in contrast, calendula, fennel, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and verbena need darkness to germinate. To make things easier for our next seed swap, I'll probably make up my own seed envelopes ahead of time, complete with special instructions and a photo or two from my own garden, but, if that proves too ambitious, there are some specific seed packet templates available. (Oh, and a wealth of more general styles, too!)