January Toolshed: Tips for Garden Leaders

John Hunt shares Vermont Cranberry Beans with Jacolby Gordesky at the Burlington Seed Swap

Celebrate National Seed Swap Day!

By Libby Weiland, Statewide Network Coordinator

Join gardeners across the country in the age-old tradition of sharing seeds. National Seed Swap Day takes place every year on the last Saturday of January—this year on January 28th. Seed swaps in Vermont typically take place between January and March, in time for starting seeds indoors. If you’ve never been to such an event, I’ve included some details below to get you started.

What is a seed swap? A seed swap is an opportunity for gardeners to meet and exchange their extra seeds (harvested or in packets) from the last season. Often featured are varieties that grow well in your area, personal favorites, heirlooms, and culturally significant crops. In some communities, seed swaps are annual events, celebrating gardening, food, cultural heritage, and crop diversity.

Why hold a seed swap?

  • Spread the wealth – For certain crop varieties one seed pack holds more seeds than a single gardener can plant. Save money; share the wealth.
  • Reduce waste – Most seeds are viable for more than one year. Here’s a seed viability chart, courtesy of High Mowing Seeds. This is also a great resource to have on hand at your seed swap.
  • Promote diversity – By sharing seeds we keep our gardens diverse in color and flavor, and by preserving unique varieties we encourage seed and crop diversity.
  • Share culture and traditions – Many gardeners, the world round, cherish seeds as family or personal favorites, reminders of a faraway place or time, and look forward to planting them each season. Seed swaps are great ways to learn more about your community of gardeners and what they value.
  • Kick-off the new year – Whether you plan a small gathering or a community-wide event, you will have re-energized local gardeners and gardeners-to-be for the season to come—what better time to reconnect your garden community and gather volunteers for the year ahead!

How do I organize a seed swap?

Get inspired:

  • Read this article, Scarcity and Abundance: A reflection on seeds and culture, by VCGN’s Garden Education Manager, Carolina Lukac. I return to it each year as I sort through the piles of donated seeds in our office—a reminder of the sacredness of seeds that we sometime forget when surrounded by such abundance.

Other seed resources & opportunities:

  • VCGN has free seeds for Vermont garden groups! Fill out a simple application and we will mail them to you this spring.  Applications available starting February 1, 2017. Stay tuned!
  • If you’re in the Burlington area, join us for our very own local seed swap: Saturday, March 11. Check back in for more info at: https://vcgn.org/events/