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Seed swapping for beautiful gardens on a budget

This weekend I experienced my first ever seed swap. Seed swaps at their simplest are events where gardeners meet and exchange seeds. Growing from seed is the cheapest and most rewarding route to a beautiful and bountiful garden, and seed swapping events are a wonderful way to share the excesses of your yield and find new treasures. So did it live up to my expectations? Erm, yes and no.

Held in the local town hall, our community seed swap was a fairly large event. It involved: a bank of seeds for swapping; several talks by esteemed gardeners and horticulturalists; lots of stalls manned by independent local seed companies offering up an assortment of unusual and enticing selections; a few stalls run by local nurseries selling established shrubs, trees and herbs; a willow weaving workshop; a few really great kids activities; and a couple of cafe areas offering scrummy looking cakes and teas. All this took place to a toe-tapping live soundtrack provided by of a local three-piece folk band.

It was a really lovely day out with something for everyone in the family. We bumped into friends, scoffed cake, chatted with local stall owners and learnt a thing or two along the way. The kids were surprisingly engaged too. They did a quiz where they had to match the seed to the plant from which it came (and enjoyed doing it!). They veered away from the stall where you could make a bird feeder using a pine cone, string, some seeds and peanut butter, and instead headed to a stall run by Patina volunteers where they made some absolutely beautiful lanterns (for which I’ll share instructions in a follow-up blog).

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the event was the actual seed swap itself. I had visions of expanses of seeds lovingly collected and labelled by the weathered hands of seasoned gardeners. In reality, what I saw was a rather meagre fair of mainly out-of-date commercial seed packets containing standard varieties of veggies. There were hardly any flower seeds. The few seed packets that were clearly ‘home made’ contained fairly uninspiring species. Disapointing. Anyhow, after a rummage I added my own carefully-collected seeds to the mix and selected a couple of packs to try out at home.I’m not holding out much hope for their successful cultivation. Only Spring will reveal if they are any good. Until then all I can do is keep my novice green fingers crossed.

Image: David Goehring/ cc on flickr

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