Seeds can plant memorable moments of joy for the home and the garden. A mere seed from a favored plant or an item one has dreams of growing can invoke happiness. Every January, in the middle of the nesting season, seeds are on the minds of many gardeners. After all, National Seed Swap Day celebrated on the last Saturday in January is a moment to fellowship and share.
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?
Since 2006, devotees of the seed world can credit Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine for creating this wonderful day of seed love. Those who enjoy growing from seed, pick through their unsown seeds from the prior season, find a seed swap, and participates in a day of information, education, and seed swapping. Groups large and small line up tables, acquire speakers and create an organized activity day. Others simply find unique ways to share the love of seeds. For some, it is an opportunity to gather seeds of rare plants or just something they consider “new”. For others, it is a way to obtain answers to their seed questions or to bolster their hutzpah to just sow something different. Any way you look at it – seeds are cool, engaging and present endless opportunities to engage with the earth.
This year I volunteered to assist with the Washington Gardener Seed Swap I. Brookside Gardens, one of the most supportive entities for engaging in nature in Montgomery County, was the site for this day of seed swapping. I am so glad I did!!
EARNING AND LEARNING ABOUT SEEDS
Arriving early, we packed swag bags with products from some of the sponsors. Filling each swag bag with seed starting information, product samples, and more! I chose a pink one that I hoped would accommodate my haul. I came to volunteer …but I also came to swap!
As we waited for the attendees, I perused the items featured on the Free tables. Three tables of information for gardeners of all levels. From books to catalogs to egg crates, all for free. I knew it was the calm before the storm. We had to open the doors early to accommodate the attendees.
SPOKEN WORDS ON SEEDS
Our first speaker was Debby Ward, Prior Unity Garden located in Northern Virginia. I have heard Debby speak before and once again she did not disappoint. This year she shared a story about Hardening Off and Transplanting Seedlings. We have all had seedling failures. Not enough light, too much light, too much water, dampening off and more. Debby shared tips on our zone, frost/freeze dates, how to simplify the transplanting process and more. Her approach to addressing these topics was quite empowering. YES, I can cut that seedling back so the stronger one can thrive (you had to be there). Listening to Debby’s words and really identifying with her story, I found myself starting seeds at midnight!
Next, we had a few raffles of everything from pond kits to books. The raffles took place throughout the day. Each of the attendees scanned the table to know what they wanted should they have the winning ticket.
Our next speaker was Linda L. Jones, Elements of Nature, Certified Master Gardener, curator of Botanicals and Farmeceuticals for personal use. Linda shared tips on Companion Planting for Pest Management in the Home Garden. From Cosmos to Sedum we learned what to plant with what and why. We discovered how certain plants encouraged good bugs and some not so good bugs as well.
Once again another empowering moment for anyone who just might have hesitations about playing in the dirt. Companion planting is the art of knowing what to plant near what. This practice of companion planting also focuses on plant health. Trust me, I am definitely growing Cosmos this year. I had already noticed some collected seeds from Linda’s garden on the Annual table.
Each Seed Swap is different. The Washington Gardener Seed Swap is very well organized, with a great selection of seeds. Kathy Jentz makes sure there is a break for snacks.
Pam Stegall Roberts of Calvert Farm donated the snacks for the day. This CSA operates on sustainable and chemical-free practices. Calvert Farm accepts Maryland Market Money and accepts donations to help families in Maryland stretch their food budgets. We are all aware that sometimes the opportunity for access to healthier, fresh food options can prove difficult. There are drop off locations and Pam has begun to offer a payment plan for a share of produce per season. Coming up with a lump sum of money for a share of organic produce can now be affordable. What a terrific idea. Even I am pondering this as an option, so I can grow more flowers.
Finally, it was time for some serious seed swapping. The attendees had hovered over the tables, noting where their Wish List seeds were located. We listened to the announcements and positioned ourselves to be ready for the first pickings. It was a pleasantly tense moment for this room full of “Seed Heads”. Each attendee was on a mission and quite focused on the task at hand.
THE BEGINNING OF MY WINNING
This year there was a houseplant cutting table. I noticed a cutting of something I was going to order from a catalog this week. When Kathy announced, “all those from Prince Georges County you may now pick one packet of seeds,” I knew where to head. While the bulk of the attendees went to gather seeds…I headed over to the cutting table. The Brugmansia cutting was mine. I could have done a Brugmansia dance!
The day wore on until the tables were empty and the room packed up. Elated when I won a book, there was also that moment when I collected three more books from the free table. I was one happy “Seed Head”.
I know you are thinking…wow…I missed this day of Intentional Love of Seeds. There are seed swaps going on almost all Spring long. In fact, Washington Gardener Seed Swap II is Saturday, February 1, 2020, at Greenspring Gardens, Alexandria, Virginia. Two new speakers – Niraj Ray, Cultivate the City ( Seed Starting 101) and Carol Allen, Horticulturist (The Lost Art of Plant Sharing: Taking Cuttings, Saving Seed and Dividing). This will be another can’t miss Seed Swap for those who love seeds. To purchase a ticket click here.
I gathered some additional seeds for flowers and squash. I love stuffed squash blossoms. As I drove home, I was daydreaming about winter sowing, potting up my Brugmansia cutting, Christmas Lima Beans, and reading the book I won, The Pollinator Victory Garden by Kim Eierman. Thank me later, but rumor has it that Christmas Lima Beans are a thing.
Have you attended a seed swap? Do seeds help get you through the winter when you can’t put your hands in the dirt? Try to find a seed swap near you and swaps some seeds. Even if you do not have seeds to swap, someone has donated more than enough. Better yet, create your own Seed Swap Day!
Off to check my winter sowing jugs, grinning from ear to ear with my Nasturtium Alaska seeds, and dreaming of our next season!
Teri, Cottage In The Courtby