How to host a seed swap

It’s a great time to host a seed swap! It’s easy to do – all you need is a space with a few tables, a few supplies, and an hour of free time.

When you contact potential attendees, explain the ground rules:

  • Please arrive on time – the swap works best if everyone’s there at once
  • Seeds can be commercial or home-grown and -saved. (Note that some species, like squashes, tend to cross-pollinate and don’t reliably “breed true” from seed.)
  • Seeds can be up to 5 years old, but please don’t bring anything you know isn’t sprouting well.
  • Seeds should be labeled with at least the type and variety name (e.g., “Bush bean – Contender” or “Winter storage cabbage, savoy – January King”). Original packets with growing instructions are appreciated but not necessary.
  • If you want to keep some of the seeds for your own garden, separate them out before you put them on the “to share” tables.
  • Bring a pen and paper for taking notes on varieties, growing instructions, etc.
  • Small envelopes will be provided.

Setting up:

  • Have four or six tables arranged so people can walk around them.
  • Place labels for plant families on the tables. Peas and beans, squashes, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage, collards, etc.), lettuce and greens, root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips, etc.), flowers, and “other” are good categories.
  • Have ready a box of coin envelopes and some spare pens so people can help themselves.

Running the event:

  • When people arrive, have them place their seeds on the appropriate table.
  • For the first ten minutes of the event, let people browse the seeds (and let latecomers get set up).
  • Ten minutes in, announce that folks can start helping themselves to seeds. People seem to be pretty good about taking a few of the interesting ones and leaving plenty for others to have some, too.
  • After about half an hour, or when activity starts to slow, tell folks they don’t need to be polite any more, and can take as many of the remaining seeds as they’d like.
  • When folks have taken what they want, gather the remaining seeds and donate them to a local community garden, kids’ garden group, food bank, or other place that could use a bunch of free seeds.




  1. Monica said,

    March 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Let me know if you’re OK with us posting this on aa350’s blog. We’ll list you as the author and link to this original post and even to your donate button. I was going to write pretty much the same thing this week and then saw that you had already done it.

    • Emily said,

      March 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Sure, no problem! It was writing to you that inspired this. 🙂

  2. January 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    This is a great idea! Looking forward to celebrating National Seed Swap Day in my community at the end of the month.

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