Where to buy seeds and why I love seed swaps


Legal brown paper envelopes: home saved seeds (left) and some I got from a seed swap last year (right)

If you are growing in a small space you may be wondering where to get your seeds this season.

When I started growing, I had no idea! I headed first to the local garden centre. Confronted by a huge wall of seeds I remember a sense of confusion. Where to start? Which varieties work best in containers?  Which taste best? Which grow in less sun? I tried asking a shop assistant who was friendly but unable to offer much help. I think I left with a rather random and inappropriate selection!

The good news is that you don’t have to rely on Garden Centres. There are many places where you’ll get better advice and selections tailored to local climates and home food growing – and have a lot more fun in the process!

One of the best kept secrets of the growing community is seed swaps (I’ll talk about other seed buying options in my next post) . If you can track one down, these are usually the best value and certainly the most enjoyable way to buy seeds. Although called ‘seed swaps’, you don’t usually have to swap seeds to join in. Many are attended by independent seed companies selling mouth watering selections, ‘allotment sheds’ selling discounted seeds, and local plant nurseries. But if you do have seeds to swap, it’ll add to the fun – just remember that you’ll be very welcome without. And, more than likely, you’ll be inspired to save some seeds for next year!

I love seed swaps for several reasons. Held in the early spring, they carry a sense of excitement, buzz and anticipation of all that is to come. Local growers behind the stalls chat away and are usually more than happy to share their experience and advice on what and how to grow. There are bargains to pick up, new varieties to discover, stories to exchange, old friends to bump into, new friends to make. The challenge is usually to withstrain yourself from buying more seeds than you need! This is guilt free, fun, community shopping at its very finest.

In the UK, seed swaps are held all over the country in January, February and March. The most comprehensive list of UK seed swaps I’ve seen so far this year has been put together by Garden Organic (thank you!) – you can download it in a word document here: Seed Swap Events 2012 or check out the Seedy Sunday website (hopefully more will go up on this site shortly). Or you can you type ‘seed swap’ or ‘Seedy Sunday’ into a search engine to look for one near you. It would be great to see seed swaps get a higher profile in the UK! UK seed swaps include:

London’s Charity Potato Fair and Seed Exchange – this one is huge! – 22 January, 10am to 3pm

Coventry: Garden Organic’s Potato Day and Seed Swap, 28 Janaury.

Brighton: Seedy Sunday – the Uk’s largest! 5 February

Bradford on Avon: Second Seedy Sunday, 12 February

Horsham, Transition Horsham, 18 February

Barracks Lane Garden, Oxford, 3rd March.

A list of seed swaps in Canada can be found here: http://www.seeds.ca/ev/events.php (thanks Greenshift for the link) and there’s a very interesting looking online Bloggers Seed Network, recommended by Esculent et cetera and that I hope to try this year.

If you live outside the UK, I’d love to hear if you have a culture of seed swaps + any links to websites listing national events to add to this post. And if you’re from the UK,  do please share recommended seed swaps or links to sites promoting seed swaps.

2 comments… add one

  • Hello there and happy new year!
    I am starting to get myself prepared for new planting season and was hoping to attend a seed swap in London. Do you know of any happening this year? So far I haven’t found any for 2013


    • Hi Claire, happy new year to you, too. I’ll try and find out about seed swaps and let you know.


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