Seed Swap Success!

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As you can see from the new seeds I have laid out in the above photo, yesterday’s first Gardeners’ Social and Seed Swap event was a huge success. I took in about the same amount of seed packets as I brought home but scored some fantastic finds: Goji berries, Woad, several varieties of Spinach, Radiccio, Aubergine (Eggplant), Scorzonesa (Black Salsify), a variety of herbs and flowers and quite a few others.

At the end of the event there were quite a few packets of seeds left lying on the stations and so while cleaning up I put them all into a bag and took them home as well. There are tons that would have filled the rest of my seed requirements for this year and I’m kicking myself that I put in a seed order at all. I think what I’ll do with them is leave them in our allotment shed which will be built by the end of next month. That way anyone from the site can have a rummage through and pick ones out that they need.

Since I nor any of the others involved in planning the event had experience running a seed swap before we assumed that gardeners could chat to one another and swap seeds one to one. The trading areas we set up were really to encourage people to come to a particular place in the room to see if there were others who wanted to trade items. What happened in actuality is that people came and plopped all their seeds, spuds, sets and seedlings down on the tables and then rummaged through the seeds which were already there. It was like a free rummage sale and everyone seemed to have a great time looking through the items and picking up what they liked. I couldn’t get close enough to get a good picture of the peak trading time but the image above shows what the trading looked like generally throughout the event.

While I was shooting around the room selling raffle tickets and chatting with visitors I also had a brush with local fame by way of Simon Clarke from Manx Radio. He took the above picture of me and sat me down to record a piece for his ‘Countryside’ show tomorrow morning. I’m pleased that we’ve received so much support and coverage for not only the event but for all the allotments on the island.

The event I spoke to Amanda Griffin, one of the organisers of the Jurby Allotment and our resident Permaculture guru. She’s been waiting to do a seed order until after the event and was elated to find everything she needed yesterday. That will save her about £40 overall and will ensure that seeds that might have been left in cupboards and garden sheds will have a chance to grow. Amanda isn’t alone though since I probably saved £20+ myself and others saved even more. With times getting tougher for people the world over, it’s great to be able to organise an event that saves people this kind of money. The figures expand when you take into account the amounts they’ll eventually save on all the fruit, herbs and vegetables they’ll be able to grow for themselves, rather than purchase from the shop.

With the success we had yesterday there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll make sure a Seed Swap happens as an annual event. And in light of our initial amateur success, I really encourage other gardeners, allotments and growing groups to organise one of your own. It’s a chance to meet up before the growing year, save some money, re-home unwanted seeds and take home ones you’re excited about. The main things I’ve learned from our first run and research into other seed swaps in the UK are:

1. Don’t be too strict with how seeds are swapped – people will find their own ways of doing it if given the basic idea. Our trading areas for ‘Vegetables’, ‘Fruit’ and ‘Flowers and Garden Plants’ were enough to get the ball rolling. Next year a section for ‘Herbs’ might not be a bad idea though.

2. Make the event as affordable as possible – people want to swap seeds mainly as a way to save money. We made our event free to attend but to pay for the cost of hiring the room we held a raffle which many people contributed to by either bringing in raffle prizes or by purchasing tickets. The proceeds easily covered our expenses.

3. A cosy atmosphere and the possibility of buying a drink make swapping all the more fun. We held our event in a community club that had an open fire, comfortable seating and a fully stocked bar. Other alternatives for venue could be at a private home or even at a local pub.

4. Don’t require people to show up with seeds in hand since this discourages beginner gardeners. Instead ask people to offer 50p or some other small amount to the person with seeds that they’d like. If everyone lays their seeds on the table like they did at our event, you can ask that they make a small donation of the same amount to the organisation. This happened spontaneously for us when several people came up to me with money for seeds that they wanted. These small donations could go toward paying for the room hire or for other projects in your organisation.

5. Make sure you have enough people to run the raffle, sign-in sheet or facilitate swapping. Though I managed to get all the seeds I wanted I had to go at the very end since I was so busy. I think one of my friends who was manning the sign-in desk was also swamped with what she was doing and might not have made it over to the stations very often.

6. Advertise Advertise Advertise! A journalist friend wrote us an article for the local paper and several of us printed and posted flyers at local businesses and garden centres. I also emailed the heads of many of the gardening organisations on the island asking them to send provided information and a digital flyer of our event to their members. Through all of this work we were then approached by Manx Radio to do a spot on the event about two weeks ago. This has helped to not only create more awareness about the Seed Swap but also got me in touch with several people who would like to have an allotment themselves.

7. Lastly, have an absolute blast! Gardening can be a solitary hobby but when we all get together it can be be a great time chatting about the last growing season, invaluable tips for the year to come and even make beekeeping buddies such as I found yesterday.

I hope these tips help and if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.


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20 Discussion to this post

  1. .Super idea Tanya. We always have half packets of seeds left here. I am so pleased it was a success. And it got all of you meeting and talking which is just as important.

    My son and his wife and coming to the island for ten days over Easter. I shall give him details of your market stall and they intend to try and visit it and makethemselves know to you.

    • I think every gardener has loads of extra seeds lying around…I think seed distributors make an absolute fortune from us. It's too much of a temptation not to buy new ones every year 😉

      Please do have your son and his wife stop by my stall – It's Thursday's from 11-3 and is in a covered area at the back of the small garden centre. Right off the carpark so it's not hard to find. Here's a link to directions from Douglas to Tynwald Mills, where the market is held: DIRECTIONS

  2. Sounds like you all had a wonderful time. You must really have a group with great community spirit which is lacking in a lot of places these days. I think if I out something like this to our allotment committee it would be all grumbles about the amount of work it involves!!

    • To be honest there were a couple of doubters on my own allotment committee – the men of course! 😉 But the fact that it was arranged by enthusiastic reps from allotments across the island made sure the event happened.

      If you want to organise a Seed Swap then perhaps find others outside your allotment and work together to organise an event. There is also a UK initiative called 'Seedy Sunday' that can help you further with both support and ideas.

  3. Jo says:

    It sounds like it was a huge success, well done, it certainly sounds like you put lots of thought and effort in to it. Great tips too, I'm sure they will help anyone who wants to organise their own seed swap.

  4. It was truly a fab day, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, catching up with people from our old allotment and meeting some from our new one – got quite a catch ourselves – thrilled with the jerusalem artichoke and feverfew, but also got something which we think is Jamaican spinach!

    I see you got 3 of ours in your findings – scorzonera, jalapeno (I think my bro was trying to kill me when he got me that for Christmas!) and the aubergine, which I thought was a good idea at the time, but don't have a greenhouse! I've kept a few of those to have one more go at….

    Vic mentioned that a tip for next year (he's already assumed that it was such a success we'd be mad not to give it another go) would be to hold it a little earlier (before he'd put in his seed orders!)

    Thanks for arranging it, everyone I spoke to had a fab time and really enjoyed it. One of the guys at work came up to me and was gutted he couldn't make it, but hopes for next year….

    • So you were the person who took the second tub of 'Fartichokes'! We were wondering who was brave enough to put them in their garden 😉

      Thanks so much for the seeds as well – I grew Salsify this year and am really interested in the Scorzonera. I just noticed that you put your contact details and blog link on the backs of them as well. Well done and I hope you get some new followers 🙂

      And I think you're right about maybe holding the event earlier next year…maybe end of Jan/beginning of Feb. It's too much of a temptation to put in your seed order if it's held later than that.

  5. Kristy Lynn says:

    well done Tanya! that's such a great idea and what a fabulous way to foster community! we just had a "Seedy Saturday" here on Van Island and while you do have to pay 7$ to get in and it's actually more of a happy food/seed convention, there is a space for a seed swapping area. It's incredible to see everyone rally together to grow tomatoes 🙂

    • Lovely to hear of another Seed Swap half-way across the world! It sounds like the entry price included lunch? Great idea!

      I wish I could grow tomatoes here without a green house…do you get tomato/potato blight in British Columbia?

  6. farmer_liz says:

    wow, that is a huge amount of seeds! Congrats on organising such a successful event. We swap a few at our permaculture meetings every month, but its never THAT many seeds!

    • It's incredible how many people showed up with literal bags of seeds…it goes to show how many are being wasted each year!

      I love the idea of swapping seeds at every meeting as well – how many of your own seeds do you purchase these days? Do you save seed from your crops as well?

  7. Mo and Steve says:

    I'm so pleased that it was a success. Well done you! And you have fame and fortune as a result 😉 It sounds as if everyone was a winner.

    • It's a good thing that I've got friends who keep me in my place with jovial requests for autographs 😉 lol

      It was a great day Mo and I'm so excited over both the event itself and my new seed finds. What a way to start the growing year!

  8. Your, 'brain fart' is what I call a 'senior moment' and, believe me, I have plenty of those! I went to my first seed swap last year and it was a great success, introducing me to things that I hadn't tried before. I bagged up things of which I had plenty and did a straight swap for all sorts of goodies. I haven't ordered any new seeds so far this year because I'm hoping for another swap!

  9. Tanya, I've loved reading this post – although you obviously put shed loads of work into the event, it also sounds as though things were kept simple on the day. Great idea to just put the seeds onto 3 tables and I love the idea of having a well-stocked bar on hand – my idea of civilised! A group from my local Transition Town are organising a seed swap in late March but I was put off by being asked to prepare a stall, with seeds, promoting my blog, posters of photos from my blog, planting advice, what worked for me last year, etc, etc – Does anyone have that much spare time? Not me! (Especially at that time, I'll be gearing up for spring in the garden, hurrah!) But I've still appreciated your list of do's and don'ts for Seed Swaps – maybe I'll organise my own!
    (P.S. Haven't forgotten your achocha seeds, just being really disorganised about posting them! x)

    • Hi Caro 🙂

      It was simple but it had to be…while we had the support of all the allotments on the island we only have four volunteers help out on the day including me. It turned out really well though and it's nice to just let people get on with it themselves.

      Have fun at the seed swap in March and I agree that what they've asked for is a bit much. But if you're interested maybe you could put together some simple brochures to promote your blog?

      Am looking forward to getting the achocha seeds – no worries about sending them immediately unless the sowing time is coming up?

  10. Madge Bloom says:

    Looks like such a good time!

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