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Seed Swap

A seed swap is a meetup of people with seeds that they wish to swap with others to exchange varieties, try something new, and allow others to use their excess seeds or seeds they no longer need.

The first seed swaps in Hertfordshire County Council was set up in 2013 to encourage staff to get gardening and compost at home as a method of reducing waste, recycling food waste and reusing items around the house and garden. Around 50 staff are engaged in a low cost and well-liked event.

Seed saving isn’t just for vegetable growers. Flower seeds, bulbs or whole plants can be swapped.

A brief history of seeds

It is only in recent years that seeds have been purchased as standard from a shop. For generations before this, gardeners and farmers have saved seed themselves to use for the next year’s crop.

This practice enabled local varieties that work well with local soil or conditions to be maintained year after year, and keep those which may be better suited for small scale growing, rather than the varieties that work best for commercial farms.

How to save seeds

  • If you are starting out some seeds are easier than others. The bean family, squash and tomato; a great place to start, or if you want to try flowers opt for marigolds, nasturtiums, and hollyhocks. For more see: Real Seeds and Seedy Sunday
  • Try any seeds from plants that do well in your garden. This could include vegetable, flowers, shrubs or herbs
  • Collect Seeds from healthy plants and when they are ripe – so the seeds are more likely to germinate. Go for the larger seeds, and ones that look most healthy.
  • Go for seeds from a few plants - it is best to save some seeds from each healthy plant of a variety, rather than only saving seeds from the best plant.
  • Collect them on a dry day, and dry them thoroughly to prevent them germinating in storage or going mouldy. Spread them on a plate and leave somewhere cool and airy for several days. You can then put the seeds in a mesh bag (or old sock or tights) to place them in a jam jar of (uncooked) rice and leave for a further week – the rice will draw out any remaining moisture.
  • Transfer seeds to a clean, dry jar for long-term storage – glass jars, plastic bags or paper bags work well. Many seeds will keep for several years in an airtight container in a cool place.
  • Label what you have - include the name (common or Latin), variety (if applicable), year and place of collection. Example: Tomato – Tigerella – 2019 – Hertford.

Food that regrows itself

foods that regrow

(Click to enlarge)

Top Tips from attendees

  • Plant seeds such as lettuce and brocolli in reusable modules until they are large enough to go in the soil
  • Cut large plastic bottles in half and use them to protect small plants.
  • When thinning out don’t throw away, always offer to friends, family, allotment holders or Mudlarks in Hertford.
  • Marigolds – best companion plant – keeps away aphids and other bugs
  • Lettuce – sew few seeds every week for a continuous supply
  • Surplus soft fruit - freeze them. They make perfect jam when defrosted
  • Parsnips – use fresh seed, old seed will not germinate
  • Sweetcorn – for better germination do not bury the seeds. Push them in slightly so you can still see them.

Improve your soil naturally

improve your soil naturally

(Click to enlarge)

Good Companions for planting

Companion plants are those which, when planted together, can help to ward off bugs and predators, encourage pollinators and help eachother to thrive.

BEANS – Beetroot, cabbages, carrots, sweetcorn;

BRASSICAS – Nasturtiums, beans, beetroots, onions, potatoes;

CARROT – Onions, chives, sage;

CHIVES – Carrots, apples;

GARLIC – Tomatoes;

LETTUCE – Chervil, coriander, beetroots, carrots, peas;

LEEKS – Celery, onions, carrots;

MINT – Cabbages;

ONIONS – Tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries;

PARSLEY – Carrots, tomatoes, asparagus;

PEAS – Turnips

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