Starting from seed is the most inexpensive way to grow plants for your garden. Vegetables, herbs, annuals, and perennials can all easily be started from seeds. But if you're just starting out (or you're short on cash) you may not even have the seeds to start with! We've got you covered. Here are five ideas for getting free (or very inexpensive) seeds for your garden.
1.GardenWeb's Garden Forums
When I first started out, I received MANY of the perennial and veggie seeds for my garden from the seed exchange forums over on GardenWeb. These forums are still going strong, and I still see lots of great seeds being offered over there. The nice thing for a new gardener (who probably doesn't have much seed to trade away) is that many gardeners will offer seeds for nothing more than a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). These listings are usually clearly marked "for SASE" so keep an eye out for them, and you'll have plenty of seeds in no time.
2. Take Up Wintersowing -- Get Free Seeds
I've written before about winter sowing -- essentially, it's sowing seeds outside in plastic containers (such as milk jugs - this is a great reuse project as well!) and letting nature take its course. Then you just plant the seedlings in your garden when the time is right. It's a great way to start seeds for your garden, without having to set up lighting and other seed starting paraphernalia inside your house. If you're interested in getting started with this method, you can visit WinterSown.org to learn more about it, and, if it sounds like something you'd be interested in, you can send a SASE, and they'll send you a few packets of appropriate seeds to get you started.
3. Local Seed Exchanges
If you're lucky enough to live in an area where gardeners hold regular seed exchanges, this is a great chance to get some seeds. If you don't have anything to trade -- consider going anyway. Gardeners tend to be really generous in sharing seeds, and once they hear that you're just starting out, will probably be happy to help you out. And, even if you don't end up with any seeds, you'll meet some gardeners from your community -- always a good thing!
4. Local Gardening Clubs/Organizations
Many communities have local gardening or greening organizations that may either host seed swaps or give away seeds to members of the community. One example of this is One Seed Chicago, which hosts an annual event in which the community votes for one of three seeds, and everyone who votes receives a packet of the winning seed. There are also "one seed" programs in Rhode Island and a few other places across the country. Neighborhood beautification commissions are also sometimes good sources for free seeds for your garden.
5. Facebook Seed Swap Groups
If you're on Facebook, search for seed swaps or seed exchanges on there. The largest one is probably the Great American Seed Swap, but take a look and see if you can find local or regional ones as well. These can be a great source of free seeds for your garden, as well as a way to talk gardening with people from across the country.
So, there you have it: five ways to get free seeds for your garden. In time, you'll have plenty of seeds of your own (because saving seed is fun and easy to do!) and you can pay it forward when you see a new gardener asking for seeds!