What is a garden if you don’t have seeds to plant? Seeds (or seedlings) are essential to growing delicious food and beautiful flowers. But with seed packets typically ranging from $2.50-$7 each, it can be costly to grow an abundant and diverse garden. Here are a few ways that you can get seeds for free, so you can grow more for less!
1. Save seeds from your groceries
If you are already buying fruits and veggies to eat, it may be possible to save the seeds from food you already have paid for.
Fruits and veggies
You can save seeds from tomatoes, peppers, and more. Heirloom tomatoes (the ugly lumpy kind that is usually pricier) are typically the best to save and plant because you can be confident that the fruit that you grow will be the same as what you initially bought. You can also try using the seeds from hybrid tomatoes (perfectly smooth ones that are usually cheaper), but the fruit you grow from the seeds may not be exactly the same as what you initially bought.
Seeds and beans
There are a variety of seeds and beans that you can use to plant and grow your own food! You can pay $3 for a packet of 20 black bean seeds, or you can break into your $1 pack of dried black beans that you bought and plant a few instead of eating them! The same can be said for other beans, like pinto beans or white beans, mung beans, and seeds like chia and flax.
Grocery store veggies, fruits, and beans won’t always produce amazing, thriving plants, because they may be genetically engineered in a certain way, or the climate they were originally grown in may be completely different than your home garden. Certain GMO plants may also be patented, so you may not be legally allowed to grow them yourself (although it’s unlikely that Monsanto will ever find out that you planted 4 corn kernels in your backyard).
2. Save seeds from existing plants in your garden
If you already have plants growing in your garden, you can save the seeds so that you never have to worry about repurchasing them. Again, saving seeds from heirloom plants is the best option because you know what the end result will be of the new plant.
3. Go to a local seed swap (or organize one)
Some communities hold “seed swaps” where people share the seeds that they have with their neighbors. A seed packet you buy may have many more seeds than you reasonably need (like a packet of 100 tomato seeds), so you may be willing to give away a small portion of the seeds from each packet in exchange for other seeds that you don’t have. Some people also save the seeds from their garden and use those to swap and share.
Ask your gardening friends if they know of any local seed swaps, keep your eye on local gardening groups on Facebook, or organize your own seed swap amongst your friends.
4. See if your library has a seed bank
Libraries are rich in resources beyond just books. Some libraries even have a free seed bank where you can get seeds to grow in your home garden. Contact your local library to see if they have a seed bank that you can utilize.
5. Join the Baker’s Creek Facebook group
There is a great online community around Baker’s Creek seeds that I personally love. Baker’s Creek is an heirloom seed company that has beautiful and high-quality veggie and flower seeds. The community is not affiliated with the company but is instead community-run by people who buy seeds from the brand.
Every Wednesday they have a “Seed Wish Wednesday” where you can list 5 seeds that you really would like, and someone else who has those seeds can grant your wish and send them to you for free. It works on the foundation of mutual exchange and benefit, so it is great if you are ever able to grant someone else’s wish in exchange!
6. Ask around your community (in person or online)
Chances are you know other people who garden at home who would be happy to share some seeds with you. Ask your friends, colleagues, or people you know from the gym, church, or anywhere. Local “buy nothing” Facebook groups are another great resource where people are very willing to share seeds that they have for free. You can also join the free community we are building where we will host free virtual seed swaps.