Got seed? Need seed? Swap it!

For gardeners, February is an exciting month: it’s seed-starting time! That’s why we’ve made Sunday, February 24, a day dedicated entirely to seeds.

limas and othersThe morning kicks off with classes led by our friends from Seed Savers Exchange (they’re coming in from Decorah, Iowa). Shannon Carmody takes you step by step through a “Seed-Saving Primer” from 9-10 a.m., then digs a little deeper for “Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving” from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

You can register online here.

After you take a lunch break in the Garden Cafe, settle in at the Alsdorf Auditorium at 2 p.m. for a lovely hour of “Seed Letters,” a free lecture by SSE’s seed historian Sarah Straate. Sarah charmed the audience with a version of this presentation at the Seed Savers Exchange Annual Conference last year (the photographs she shows are terrific!). 

At 3 p.m., it’s time for Seed Swap! Bring seeds you harvested from your own garden, or seed packets that you never got around to finishing. (I’m bringing French marigolds that I harvested from my community garden plot last year, love-in-a-mist seedheads from my front yard garden, and a few packets of never-did-grow-those veggie seeds). Make sure your seed is clearly labeled and include as much info as you can to help out your fellow swappers.

Seed Swapbean seeds_RJC9663No seeds to swap? No problem! Generous donations from several of our favorite seed resources should ensure plenty of seeds for all.

Also on hand: staff and volunteer experts (including master gardeners from our Plant Information Service desk) who can answer all your questions about seed starting, germination, seed saving, and everyone’s favorite topic: growing tomatoes.

This is our second annual Seed Swap—the first swap was so much fun that we can’t wait to see some of the same faces there again—hopefully bringing seeds harvested from last year’s seed-swapped crops!  

Saving seeds can be fun and easy—to get you started, here are five vegetables with easy-to-save seeds to harvest for next year’s swap:

  1. Peas. Just train them up a trellis, fence, or tuteur, let them grow, then let dry on the vine—instant pea seeds for next year’s planting. Every gardener (even kids!) can do this, and it’s fun to pop the dried peas out of their shells mid-summer.
  2. Beans. Incredibly beautiful seeds dry right on the bush, vine, or pole. Harvest when pods are dry but before they crack open and scatter their contents. Do a little reading beforehand, as there are many different types and varieties of beans.
  3. Lettuce. All lettuce likes it cool outside. Once summer’s heat kicks in, lettuce bolts, then sets hundreds and hundreds of seeds per plant. Harvesting is easy, though: slip a bag over the seedhead and tie it in place. Once seed has set and dried, just clip the stalk, invert the bag, and shake seed loose. Instant storage, too!
  4. Tomatoes. As everyone who’s ever bitten into a fresh tomato knows, there’s goo around the seeds in the center. How best to separate out the seeds? Talk to our tomato experts at the Seed Swap, and check out this blog post.
  5. Parsley. Like lettuce, parsley eventually bolts and sets seeds that are easy to collect in a bag. Unlike lettuce, the process takes two years, which can seem…challenging. It’s actually quite simple: Let your parsley plant grow (try not to harvest TOO much from it) straight through ‘til fall. The leaves will yellow and wilt. As winter arrives, mulch the plant lightly with straw or leaves. The following spring, the plant will re-energize, sending up flower shoots that set many tiny, poppy seed-sized seeds. Harvest as above for lettuce. 

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