Now’s the time to share, swap your seeds

sue.kidd@thenewstribune.comFebruary 6, 2013 

Hoarders of seeds are wanted. You know who you are – the gardener with a dozen packs of carrot seeds jammed into that junk drawer. Fish out those seeds and head to an exchange where you can dump the seeds you don’t need for seeds you really do. Tacoma and Olympia both have exchange events coming up. There’s also a locally grown web community called Crop Swap, where you can swap seeds or garden produce.

But first, a few tips for dealing with old seeds and how to make the most of a seed exchange.

Micaela Cooley, Share the Harvest coordinator for the Pierce Conservation District, has advice for those attending Thursday’s seed exchange in Tacoma: Please label your seeds. While some adventurous gardeners may take a packet of unlabeled seeds and throw caution – and the seeds – to the wind, most gardeners want to know what they’re taking home. Here are a few more tips:

Tips for labeling: It doesn’t have to be fancy, just write the crop year of the seeds on an envelope and fill it with seeds, Don’t forget to write the name of the plant, as well as the number of seeds or an estimated amount.

Which seeds to bring: Some seeds are more coveted than others. Heirloom seeds are must haves for serious gardeners. Vegetable gardeners like butternut and acorn squash seeds. Watermelon seeds are the least popular.

Old seeds are fine: Seeds that have been sitting around a year or two (or even longer) may not germinate as successfully as other seeds, but they still may be viable. If you know the propagation rate, include the information with the old seeds. To test the propagation rate of old seeds, here’s her advice: “If it’s a seed that you have no idea how old it is, get a damp paper towel, warm and damp. Take 10 seeds, put them in the paper towel, Keep it damp in a Ziplock bag that’s a little open in the sun. Check in a week or two and count how many have sprouted – that’s your propagation rate.” Knowing the propagation rate means you can more closely predict how many seeds to germinate for spring planting.


Tacoma area swap: The third annual seed swap and potluck for the Pierce Conservation District will be 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Mid-County Community Center, 10205 44th Ave. E., Tacoma. The event is free. Bring a dish to share (please label and bring a serving spoon). The seeds should be labeled and in envelopes. They’ll be categorized during the potluck, then participants will be called up table by table to exchange seeds. For more information, contact 253-845-9770 or

Olympia area ongoing swap: The volunteer-run Olympia Seed Exchange opens for the spring season Feb. 16. The bank will be open from 5-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Find them at 323 Milroy St. NW, Olympia. They’ll accept any seed donation, but if you want to take seeds, bring envelopes and jars. All seeds are free. The bank will sponsor a free workshop on seed starting from 1:30-3:30 p.m. March 4 at the Lacey Public Library. For information,

Exchange seeds from anywhere: Tacoma Web developer Kevin Freitas created – with the help of friends and fellow gardeners – Crop Swap, an online community for exchanging seeds, crops and other gardening supplies. You don’t have to live in the South Sound to join, but most members are from the Puget Sound region. Find more detail at

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270

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