Knowing how to get free seeds can be a great way to save money, especially if you’re a new gardener who’s just learning about growing from seed. Planning a productive vegetable garden or flower garden doesn’t just take time, it can take a lot of money too. So, here are a few easy ways to find seeds for free.
How to Get Seeds for Free
Find Free Seeds on Craigslist
If you’ve never used Craigslist to find free seeds and recycled gardening supplies, I highly recommend it. People are constantly listing garden tools, plants, extra seeds and other gardening supplies that they no longer want and that they are willing to give away for free. Just check out their “free” listings (in the “for sale” section). People list new items daily, and (depending on the season) seeds, plants, and gardening supplies are extremely common.
Trade for Seeds Through Seed Exchanges
Another smart way that savvy gardeners find free seeds is through seed exchanges. Also called seed swaps, seed exchanges are basically barter clubs for seeds. If you grow from seed, you’ll inevitably find yourself with a bunch extra that you don’t want—not because they’re not good seeds but because you’ve planted plenty of that particular type. That’s where seed exchanges come in. Everyone exchanges their extra seeds (instead of everyone buying their own personal seed supplies) and then everyone saves money in the end. While some seed exchanges charge maintenance and/or membership fees, others (like this seed exchange and this seed swap forum supported by the National Gardening Association) are totally free.
Borrow from Seed Banks with Lending Libraries
Another novel way to get seeds is through seed banks with lending libraries. What’s a seed bank? Well, a seed bank is basically a genetic vault for collecting and safeguarding agricultural biodiversity. The general idea is to save as many different types of seeds as possible so that they don’t get lost (or, in other words, aren’t driven to extinction) due to mega-agriculture, disuse, natural disaster, etc. To promote biodiversity (and bank on their success) some seed banks have developed lending libraries that allow members to borrow seeds that they can then use to grow their own plants. Then, at the end of their growing season, growers collect seeds from the their plants and return those to the seed bank. It’s a great way to both get seeds and support biodiversity.
Get Seeds for Free from Garden Stores
A surprisingly simple way to get free seeds is to just sign up for the garden clubs and the free presentations given by local garden stores. Garden store clubs often offer reward programs that give away gift cards and merchandise, and they also often offer free instructor-led presentations about particular topics. In any given season, you can get free or discounted seeds, herbs, plants and even bird food (depending on the gardening presentations you sign up for), plus you’re bound to learn a ton.
Recycle Your Seeds by Collecting Them
Another smart way to get seeds for free is to save seeds from the plants you’re growing. If you’re an heirloom vegetable gardener with open pollinated cultivars, you’ve got great stock to work with, and (in most cases) collecting and storing seeds isn’t hard at all. Some seeds may require a little extra work (to deal with outer protective layers and such) but for your dedication and elbow grease you’ll be rewarded with seeds that can last anywhere from one to five years (depending on plant type and genetics). Need a reason to exercise your inner survivalist? Well, here ya go. Plus, I personally think this is a great, hands-on way to homeschool children about nature, DIY farming and sustainable living.
Various Nonprofit Organizations
Victory gardens and neighborhood gardens are all the rage right now, so if you look around, you’re sure to find at least one non-profit gardening group in your area that has a seed program. One such organization is WinterSown.org. Pledged to providing GMO-free seeds and seed information, WinterSown is a non-profit organization that will give you free seeds in exchange for an SASE.