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Too many seeds? National Seed Swap solves a common problem

Organize your own local swap for Jan. 28

Get those excess seeds working in someone else’s garden — swap them!

Get those excess seeds working in someone else’s garden — swap them!

Kathy Morrison

It’s a January gardener preoccupation: Seed shopping. Whether browsing catalogs or online websites, we are constantly tempted by “new and improved” or “best ever” varieties as well as vegetables or flowers we’ve never seen before.

The result? Quite often, we accumulate too many seeds! It's time to do some seed swapping.

Saturday, Jan. 28, is National Seed Swap Day, a coast-to-coast gardener initiative to get more seeds and gardens growing.

To be held on the last Saturday of each January, National Seed Swap Day was launched by Washington Gardener magazine, a mostly online publication dedicated to gardening in the nation’s capital and surrounding areas. It has an official website,, which lists upcoming seed swaps and encourages others to share their unwanted (or unplanted) packets.

National Seed Swap Day is local and totally grassroots. Gardeners in any kind of group – community garden, club, church, neighborhood, work, etc. – set a time and place, then bring their excess seeds. They can break down a packet (do you really need 30 of the same tomato variety?) or trade last season’s seeds that are still viable. Seeds are packed fresh for each season for maximum germination rate, but most vegetable, herb and flower seeds remain viable for at least two or three years.

It’s likely other gardeners will appreciate those seed swap offerings.

U.S. nurseries and seed distributors are still catching up with record demand for garden seeds. During the pandemic, major seed houses such as Peaceful Valley Organic sold out of almost all their stock, frustrating many gardeners.

According to the National Garden Bureau, seed customers should find better inventory this season – but get your orders in early – then be patient.

“Seed companies are likely to experience delays in times of high demand so be aware of that company’s current timeline for shipping,” advises the bureau. “They will be transparent. Sign up for or subscribe to that company’s communications to stay informed and up-to-date.”

Seed demand is expected to remain high all year, says the bureau, so go ahead and order your fall seeds now along with seeds for spring and summer planting.

“Don’t buy just for spring because succession sowing is important for season-long harvest and there are wonderful vegetables like cabbage and kale that are great for fall plantings,” the bureau says.

For more about seeds and seed shopping, check out these tips from the National Garden Bureau:

For more on National Seed Swap Day:


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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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