How would y'all feel about a plant/seed share? June 26, 2020 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I had the idea, inspired by the username of none other than one of our new mods, who seems to have their hands full spearheading new anti-racism initiatives on the site, for a seed/plant swap. What say you all?

I don't know if this is workable and it probably has more nuance than I'm aware of at the moment but, hey, what doesn't?

I figured it would be a small gesture in the spirit of community growth and hope for the future of Metafilter as the mods and users [continue to] attempt to make the site more inclusive and less troublesome to many users, be they past, present, or future.

I have no solid framework or rules in mind. I don't know if this should be more like a traveling box that travels around localities (probably good to avoid crossing international borders lest we violate some agricultural legal aspect or introduce an invasive species inadvertently, that wouldn't be in step with the project goal at all) in a linear fashion or a secret quonsar type swap or a more direct 'leave a plant/seed, take a plant/seed' type listing. They all have pluses and minuses and all of which are going to be on the honor system / pay it forward flavor anyway so, well, I'm all ears.

I'd take part with what small things I have to offer from my garden and, well, that's the point I guess.


One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener's own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.
-- Wendell Berry

The young reed dies so easily. Beginnings are times of great peril.
-- Frank Herbert

A tree is our most intimate contact with nature.
-- George Nakashima

== Also, perhaps obviously, I don't think this should be limited to BIPOC members, I'd love for everyone to feel welcome in this with as little barrier to entry as possible.
posted by RolandOfEld to MetaFilter-Related at 2:00 PM (32 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

This is such a great idea.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:08 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. Thanks for bringing it up.

Seeds are super easy to mail, and inexpensive. I went crazy last year and bought a ton of seeds, which we didn't use until this year. Now we've planted many, mailed some to family and friends, and we still have a few on-hand.

Because not all seeds are suitable for all situations (I'd feel like a jerk sending watermelons or pumpkins to someone in a small apartment with limited growing space, for example), I think grouping folks by types of seeds they could receive and where they live would make a secret quonsar viable, if we don't go with a simple "here's what I have, here's what I could take." Just some thoughts from a guy who has been a dead-end from swaps in the past, so I'll see what seeds I have and offer to pay it forward.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:30 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

This sounds like fun. Not sure about cross-border issues, but some plants seem to do better in some regions than others. Tomatoes are tougher to grow in the PNW of the United States, as a for instance, so that kind of "hothouse" thing might be something to think about when people decide what seeds to share/redistribute.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:58 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Might be easier to use the postcard swap model where people are put in a group and send everyone in their group one small pack of seeds. You could do groups for veg/flowers/etc
posted by sciencegeek at 4:09 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

This is a fabulous idea, but probably quite tricky to implement for Australian MeFites. We have super-strict biosecurity measures in place, which mean any seeds imported have to be pre-approved by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (see the BICON database for details). I gather they also cracking down on non-commercially distributed/labelled imports, even if the seeds in question are listed on BICON.
Even in-Aus swaps may present some difficulties, as I think there are some restrictions on sending seeds across certain state borders?
Sorry to rain on your parade! Hopefully something can be sorted out for folks in other countries. And happy planting, to those who receive treasures :-)
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 4:13 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

This is fab. I did a plant swap as a meet-up last year and was planning to do another in 2020 but... pandemic. I have mailed some of my fancy ass* confetti cilantro seeds around and people have seemed to like them- I would for sure be a part of this! It would also give me a kick in the pants to try to save seed more intensely this year.

*They really aren't. Just another type of cilantro/coriander except the leaves are frilly instead of parsley shaped AND I think anyways that they taste better then the standard and don't bolt as quickly.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:59 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

I am so up for some good, old fashioned, low grade brown from south of the border. Memail me; I miss the stuff like I miss the 80's and being a kid in the mid-west. Best swap idea lately, just love to have some classic seeds. TIA.
posted by Afghan Stan at 5:32 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

I bought seeds for this Okra plant called Go Big! It is supposed to grow seven feet tall, make big showy flowers and seven inch okra pods. I might have some up, I thought they were the purple brussel sprouts, but they are something else.
posted by Oyéah at 8:11 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Although for reasons outlined above this is a total no-go for Aus/NZ, I'd love to be part of something similar that we can maybe organise for those of us down here, and maybe include people in other parts of the world for whom mailing seeds doesn't work for whatever reason. Something in a similar spirit that would work for me, for example, would be something like people sharing inspiration for plant growing.

Like (just as an example - maybe someone else can think of a better thing) we get randomly partnered with someone else who said they have a similar set-up (e.g. two people who both have backyards, or two apartment dwellers growing things in pots), and you give the other person your requirements and they make suggestions for you. Like, maybe I say, I have a space that is 3x2m in full sun, and I want to grow edible plants. And my partner makes me a design, like, "I would plant three tomatoes in cages in the centre, and then some basil plants along the front, and a cucumber at one end that you can encourage to scramble along the length of the bed for ground cover. Here are some fun varieties of each that I have enjoyed planting in the past: [list]"

Or maybe I send my partner a photo of my lounge and say I want to grow something tall and architectural in a pot in that left-hand corner, and it gets this many hours of sun per day from that window over there. And my partner is all like, "Hey I think a ficus would look amazing there. Here are some pinterest pics to show you what I'm thinking, and here's a link to the variety I recommend from your local garden store."
posted by lollusc at 8:53 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

I just grew some plants from seed for the first time this year and I'd be so into this. I got a huge set of herb seeds for Christmas and probably won't use them all up - especially the marjoram, which it turns out tastes like soap to me!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:08 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I would love to be a part of a seed swap or secret seed quonsar!! I have many cool flower seeds and some veggie ones.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:28 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

I would probably join, even though I am not the gardener in the house, because I think Mr. eirias would be so excited to participate vicariously through me. He is the kind of person who will go to the garden store and buy a bunch of experimental packets just to see what will grow here... which means we tend to have lots of random fun leftover seeds!
posted by eirias at 4:08 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Very interested in this.
posted by saladin at 8:48 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

because I think Mr. eirias would be so excited to participate vicariously through me.

I don't see why this wouldn't be totally fine.

So. We've got some interest. That's great.

I think I saw two recommendations for methodology above, both good:
A) postcard flavor where folks in a pool get a random smattering from other folks in their pool and seed suitability falls where it may or
B) a sign up sheet for what an individual is looking for such that other folks somehow get assigned/claim/notified of a match and the mailing begins.

Maybe a hybrid model where "want" pools are joined based on interested/ability and "have" givers can claim or surprise send based upon the want Venn diagram that matches their inventory.

Outstanding concerns:
1) Administration: I don't know how quonsar handles this sort of thing and I'm happy to attempt to spearhead but I'd love a partner or backup such that it's not a one person show. Alternatively, I'm happy to stand down and be a follower instead of a leader (#unexpectedofficereference).
2) Privacy: I don't want folks to expose physical addresses willy nilly. Quonsar just lets admin see it all and then tells individuals as needed for matches right? I assume that's vaild and we would duplicate that model.
3) Deadlines: How about a week for discussion and publicity then another week to close signups then a few weeks to admin/ship?
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:02 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Edit: I forgot to say that I think Macro-pools by international boundaries, assuming enough interest to justify them, is a no brainier based on above info.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:05 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

I think I saw two recommendations for methodology above, both good:
A) postcard flavor where folks in a pool get a random smattering from other folks in their pool and seed suitability falls where it may or
B) a sign up sheet for what an individual is looking for such that other folks somehow get assigned/claim/notified of a match and the mailing begins.

For me, as a relative beginner, option A would be more fun. I'd rather be surprised!
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 PM on June 27

Either option sounds good to me. I'm in!
posted by Knicke at 12:14 PM on June 27

When would the swap take place? And are we including both seeds harvested from plants we grew and seeds from packets we bought?

I like the random fun of model A :)
posted by eirias at 1:28 PM on June 27

I could do either seeds harvested from plants or seeds from packets bought.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:40 PM on June 27

And are we including both seeds harvested from plants we grew and seeds from packets we bought?

Let's keep it as unrestricted as possible for this inaugural run.

I do think folks including information about the seed type, as well as additional information like hybrid or heirloom or personal experience for example, is going to be a best practice. If participants want to make it more random and potentially 'fun' then labeling seed pouches with a letter/number/symbol and then providing a separate (to be optionally or later consumed) and sealed key description sheet is also fine because why not.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:03 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]

Some considerations to make this more useful: It is too late in much of the US to plant long season plants this year like tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. It's also too hot right now for cool season crops like spinach and probably lettuce although there might be time for a late seeding. Also, seeds only remain viable for a limited time. High Mowing Seed company has a list showing how many years seeds can be expected to germinate well if stored under ideal conditions. There are lots of such lists, this is only an example. I think this is a lovely idea and maybe testing it out this year would help make really great for next year. And last, seed saving can be very complicated but if you know what you're doing you could provide some really exciting seeds to the project.
posted by Botanizer at 3:10 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]

I do think folks including information about the seed type, as well as additional information like hybrid or heirloom or personal experience for example, is going to be a best practice.

I was planning to include the source of the seeds, when I got them, and a bit on my experience growing them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:14 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

I'm game to try! I've shared both plants and seeds with fellow mefites throughout the years. I save seeds in the fall and could mail them then, or in the late winter/early spring.
posted by larthegreat at 5:31 PM on June 27

Yes. We're past a lot of deadlines for planting here in the US but seed saving, most varieties with non exotic viability times, should be fine for planting the next time someone has a workable window to begin germination. If this serves as a test run for another, bigger and better maybe, run that would be fine by me.

I do worry that we are a bit early for many seed savers to have saved any from current garden but I think we should be fine there. I'm always late getting stuff in the ground or in seed trays anyway so don't trust me...
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:31 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]

I’m really into this but maybe we set up a google sheet to at least see a little bit about what we’re working with here to determine the best way to proceed? There are so many variables!

I’m thinking like one row for each seed type and columns for:
Type of seed
Location city, country
When best to plant (for your location)
Seed format (packet, home grown)
Availability (still waiting to harvest seeds, ready to send)
Approx. Quantity
Sender username on MeFi

We could also maybe do another tab for usernames, garden type (balcony, indoor, garden), experience level, looking for...
posted by iamkimiam at 1:16 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]

I had gobs of globe thistle seed from my garden, and just sent out packets to facebook people. Will have more in a couple months. Might have seeds for a flowering (pink flowers) plant that has self-seeded happily. I always have extra nasturtium seeds because I have color preferences. Sure, count me in.
posted by theora55 at 7:53 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Just collected some Silene dioica seed in preparation for this.

If you're in North America and you enjoy seed swaps, NARGS (North American Rock Garden Society) has an amazing seed exchange. They require membership and charge a small fee but there are such amazing things available.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:05 AM on June 29

My window in zone 4 is rapidly closing for everything except fall greens, but I would love to save seeds from my harvest this fall. Count me in as a source of winter squash seeds at a minimum.
posted by Maarika at 10:25 AM on June 29

This swap came up as a point of contention in another MetaTalk thread by the way. My subsequent comment here.

I defer to the community as to how to best handle this and any problematic aspects of my posting it and/or potential missteps in the timing of the same. I'm stepping pretty far back from this actually so, well, yea.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:27 AM on June 30

I am also super interested! As a gardener/botanist/plant nerd this is right up my alley.
posted by lydhre at 6:29 AM on June 30

Let's talk about this again in the northern hemisphere late winter?

Perhaps with a southern hemisphere late winter option as well.

In the meantime, I'll collect seeds from anything interesting that crosses my path.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:05 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

It's fine to send seeds to the UK from abroad, provided they are commercially-produced and in a sealed packet.
posted by essexjan at 5:21 AM on July 4

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