Finally winding down after a month and a half of holiday dinners, parties, and celebrations. You are probably starting to really settle into winter now–knitting, crafting, movie marathons, and buckets of hot cocoa. Now is actually the perfect time to plan for spring planting.
Saturday, January 27 is Seed Swap Day! This has been a national day for the past 12 years, but seed swapping and/or sharing is a common practice among flower and vegetable gardeners. My grandma had a beautiful flower garden with a diverse variety of poppies–each fall she would snip the heads off and save the seeds to share with friends, relatives, and neighbors. She didn’t need a specific day to tell her when to share seeds, she just had them on hand for those who wanted them.
Seed Swap day is about more than sharing the seeds from your flower or vegetable garden. It encourages us to save plant diversity. Seed Savers Exchange points out the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800s: one variety of potato planted + new fungus = the primary food source wiped out, starvation, and death. This catastrophe teaches us a very important lesson we should not forget anytime soon. Plant diversity is critical! How many gardening experiences resulted in bumper crops of one vegetable, and a less than stellar showing for another? Last year, I planted two types of pepper: poblano and banana. The banana peppers didn’t do anything…the plants did’t hardly grow more than 6″, but the poblanos did great and they were happily utilized.
Seed swap day can give you the opportunity to share your heirloom seeds that have been passed down from your grandparents’ garden. Seeds from hybrids are not the best choice as the next generation will not be “true-to-type” aka, it won’t produce the same plant as the parent, and will often be less vigorous. Open-pollinated: pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms–no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals. These are great for seed saving and therefore swapping; also heirloom varieties. Consider this when saving, sharing, and accepting seeds. Maybe you think “heirloom” is a bunch of boo-hockey. That’s fine, but if you want to save seeds…not have to pour over the seed catalog every January, and share with other gardening enthusiasts consider at least getting non-hybrid. I get it, for backyard gardeners who are also working 40 to 60 hour/week jobs, hybrids are tempting. Many have been crossed with all of the best traits, and who doesn’t want the largest, prettiest, shiniest, most perfectly shaped vegetable that is practically guaranteed to produce high yields? If you’ve ever had an heirloom variety tomato (I’m specifically thinking of Brandywine) you’ll know that some hybrids just don’t compare.
Seed Swap day is two weeks away–plenty of time to gather the seeds you may have already saved from last season, package them into adorable little paper packs, and throw a fun, garden-themed party with your friends, neighbors, relatives (unless you’re tired of them from all the holidays…). I may not have mine own planned, but ideas are abundant and ‘Long Island Cheese’ pumpkin seeds are waiting to be shared.