Another way to choose seeds

Hopefully everybody reading this has experienced seed shopping from those winter-arriving seed catalogs. The excitement of discovering new plants, imagination working overtime trying to envision the lush tangle of wonder you'll have in your garden next year, left brain figuring out how to fit everything into your space.

With almost endless options, page after page of amazing-sounding varieties, it can be difficult choosing what to grow. Well, there's another type of seed "shopping" that presents its own challenges but can be every bit as much fun as this: a seed swap!


I attended the winter gardening event and seed swap at Schlafly Gardenworks last night, and although I hadn't planned on bringing any seeds home with me, in the end I just couldn't resist.

What makes a seed swap great for me is that it's like a seed catalog in that there are so many choices, lots of new things to try, but after making your choices you just reach down and pick up the seeds. No order to process, money to pay, or waiting for delivery. Instant gratification!

The challenge of course is that although there is often a crazy variety from which to choose, it is somewhat limited. Think garage sale or flea market, not Target or Walmart. Expect not to find what you really want, but hope that you'll see something that excites you. The fewer choices can be liberating -- can't choose between the 200 tomato seed varieties in your favorite catalog? Not a problem here, as there are only six or so good ones to choose from.

Although the focus was on edibles, I was glad to see that ornamentals were represented too:

I grew up with candy tufts, so I'm excited to add them to my garden! I probably wouldn't ever have bought these from a catalog, but I may have picked a packet up later in the winter if I saw one on display -- sometimes I go into the garden center determined to buy something no matter what.

Most of the seeds lacked fancy packaging, as they were home-grown and saved:

It doesn't get more basic than that!

Well, except when there's a large jar of seeds and you take what you want:

My goal is to have cilantro growing in all corners of my yard, hoping it will find the place where it's most happy, volunteer plants popping up every year. So I grabbed some even though I have seeds leftover from last year.

Although I assume that the home-grown seed was all fresh from this year, it may not have been. The packaged seeds were not brand-new of course:

They should all do fine -- most seed doesn't need to be brand-new fresh, and stays viable for years if stored well.

Something I couldn't pass up:

Do you recognize this seed? (No, it's not clumping cat litter, although it sure looks like it!)

It's white clover, or at least that's what the jar said. The clover in my lawn hasn't been doing too well the last couple of years, and I'd really like to get it going again. Score!

I was also tempted to grab some oats and green cotton, as they seemed to be as unpopular as the clover seed, but I always overdo it with seed starting every year so I'm trying to show some restraint.

Have you been to any seed swaps this winter?


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 17, 2014 at 10:09 AM)  

I haven't been to seed swaps but I actually bought two packages of seeds yesterday: Papaya Cream nasturtiums and Candy Stripe zinnias. I'm not a big fan of zinnias in general, but that one spoke to me. No clue where I'll put it :-).

Alan  – (January 17, 2014 at 3:44 PM)  

Gerhard: in a couple of years those unused seed packets will make a nice addition to a seed swap table. ;)

(I'm assuming you're like me and buy more seeds than you'll ever need -- and your water concerns make planting less likely, right?)

Lisa  – (January 17, 2014 at 6:51 PM)  

I was sorting through the seed box the other day and my husband says "why are you ordering ANYTHING?" Uh... !!

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