Swapping seeds: County’s master gardener program to host first seed swap for region


By Lana Bandy

As any good Hoosier gardener knows, it’s never too early to start planning your next crop. With this in mind, the Purdue Extension’s Master Gardeners program in Hamilton County is sponsoring the first Central Indiana Seed Swap later this month.

The event will be at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2003 Pleasant St., Noblesville, Jan. 27. Gardening enthusiasts are invited to buy, sell and trade seeds from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to everyone, whether you have seeds to trade or not.

“Every gardener has extra seeds that never get used,” SEEDS Committee co-chair Shelli Broadbent said. “Bring them to our seed swap and take home some new seeds. Even if you don’t have any seeds to share, you’re invited to this event. There will be plenty of seeds for everyone. Join us for an afternoon of meeting other gardeners and chatting about all things green and growing. In addition to going home with seeds, you’re sure to go away with new information.”

Fellow co-chair Jennifer Lambert said the event also will serve as an opportunity to learn from other local gardeners.

“A seed swap is a great opportunity to meet with local gardeners and experts to exchange tips, knowledge and, of course, seeds,” Lambert said. “Typically, open-pollinated seeds that are adapted to the local region are swapped between gardeners who are wanting to expand their planting varieties. Best of all, it’s free.”

Attendees will be able to choose from fruit, vegetable, herb, flower and native seeds. One of the main attractions will be the rare variety that cannot be found in stores.  

Besides the seed swap, there will be a number of presentations, vendors and raffles for prizes. Attendees will be able to share tips and meet with experts from across the nation. Many vendors will buy, sell and trade seeds and are particularly interested in unusual seeds with a story or family heirloom seeds.

Although seed swaps are quite popular, this is the first official event of its kind in Hamilton County. According to Broadbent, the last Saturday in January is National Seed Swap Day. It began Jan. 26, 2006, in Washington, D.C. Broadbent and Lambert came up with the idea for the local event after attending a swap in Indianapolis.

“Vegetable gardening is my passion, so in the winter months, I’m usually reading up on seed catalogs and planning my next season,” Lambert said. “In February 2016, I attended the Benton House Seed Swap in historic Irvington, hosted by Peter Kuhns. I immediately fell in love with the whole idea of sharing seeds and talking to interesting people. I took a couple of seed varieties to trade and met one of the vendors, Jim Wyant, a.k.a. Tomato Jim. I asked if he would be willing to trade some of my loufa seeds for some of his tomato seeds and, sure enough, he agreed.”

From there, Lambert said she took the seeds home and got them started indoors. The experience got Lambert thinking about beginning a seed swap on the north side.

“Shelli, my close friend and fellow master gardener, thought it was a great idea, and she joined me at the February 2017 Benton House swap,” Lambert said. “Sure enough, Tomato Jim was there, and I couldn’t wait to share my success with his seeds. When we left, Shelli and I both enthusiastically agreed to dedicate the next 11 months to not only host our first central Indiana seed swap, but to open a seed library in Hamilton County.”

The group has made progress on its Hamilton County Seed Library, which will open in March at the Carmel Clay Public Library. The Seed Library will be free to Hamilton County residents.

Patrons can check out up to five packets per visit (a total of 15 packets per season) and plant them in their home gardens. At the end of the growing season, they are asked to save seeds to return to the library or to use in their own gardens next season.

Presentations and demonstrations include:

10 to 10:45 a.m.

“Why We are Saving Seeds” and “Introduction to SEED Brown County’s Seed Project”

Torrie Rae (founder and executive director of SEED Brown County)

11 to 11:45 a.m.

“Saving Native Seeds”

Greg Monzel (community herbalist and owner of Wild Persimmon School of Wellness in Indianapolis)

Noon to 12:45 p.m.

“Winter Sowing”

Remy Orlowski (owner of The Sample Seed Shop in Buffalo, N.Y.)

1 to 1:45 p.m.

“Indoor Seed Starting”

Karen Golden (owner of Michigan Heirlooms in Highland, Mich.)