Have you ever been to a plant exchange? Botanical gardens sometimes hold plant sales, but that’s not what I’m talking about. At a plant exchange or seed swap, community members get together to trade or give away their extra seeds and plants. This spring, we’ll be hosting a plant exchange in our neighborhood, and we’re planning ahead.
If your neighborhood doesn’t already have a plant exchange, start one! It is a terrific way to grow your urban garden, in several powerful ways.
Hosting a plant exchange isn’t just about growing plants, it’s about growing your community. A strong gardening community helps everyone in these five ways.
We city residents tend to rush around with our heads down. My neighborhood has a high percentage of students who attend the nearby university, and I don’t always make the effort to get to know them since many of them leave after a year or two.
But urban neighborhoods where the residents know each other have lower crime rates. They also weather dramatic events more easily – which I’ve seen personally during a few nasty hurricanes. After our neighborhood plant exchange I met several other gardeners in my block, and now we chat regularly.
Not only will you swap seeds, you can also swap knowledge about what plants do well in your area. Maybe someone will know who used to be in your house or apartment, and if they grew anything there. Ask where neighbors shop and order their seeds. At our swap I met several gardeners who had success in our area with unusual local plants including Moonflower and Cardinal plant (also got some clippings and seeds).
The win here is pretty self explanatory. I think I came back from our plant exchange with more goodies than I gave away, which is sort of an occupational hazard for gardeners. But it cost me nothing, which I can’t say about my regular trips to the pricey garden shop.
A tiny urban garden doesn’t usually need a whole seed packet, and those seeds won’t germinate as well next year. Share the seeds you won’t use, and pick up some different seeds to try out. Next year I plan to start more plants from seed, knowing that I can swap the extras in spring. In fact, I may even coordinate with a few other gardeners so that one of us starts tomatoes, for example, while the other starts peppers.
When it is time to divide herbs like thyme and mint, it always feels bad to throw away the part you cut back. Instead, you can transplant the remnants into a small container to share with a neighbor.
Perhaps hosting a plant exchange can become an annual event. Or maybe your neighborhood is interested in building a community garden. You might even decide to hold a garden tour to show others how to build different kinds of urban gardens. I can see all that in our future now that we’ve held our inaugural seed swap!
Convinced? Then it’s time to prep for hosting plant exchange. We scheduled ours for early spring, and it was a great kickstart for our neighborhood gardens. Read all about it, including our tips for planning your own event!