This post was refreshed on 26th January 2013, and a supplement, ‘7 Ways to Get Cheap Seeds‘, was posted.
If you’re growing your own to save some cash (and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a few more pennies in their pocket?), then keeping the cost of your seed order to a minimum is going to be important.
Experienced plotholders can save seeds from last year, but what if you’re a beginner? Here are 8 methods I’ve used that got me some freebie seeds.
1. Watch out for the trial seeds
Lots of the big seed companies offer varieties they’re trialling to customers for free to find out if they’re worth stocking again the next year. Sometimes you have to ask for them, but more often than not they’ll just be chucked in with your order, like DT Brown’s 2011 butterhead lettuce seeds.
2. Start a Blog
Start a blog at www.vegetableseeds.net, keep it active for three months, and you’ll receive 10 free packs of seeds in the post. Get on it today and you’ll find the seeds winging their way to you just in time for the outdoor sowing season.
If you’ve already got a blog, vegetableseeds.net is offering 10 free packs now to anyone who puts a link to the company on their site.
3. Magazine Giveaways
The magazine will often carry free seeds on the front at this time of year. In fact, Grow Your Own is giving away a packet of Early Nantes carrot this month. You’ve got to buy the mag, so strictly speaking they’re not free, but if you take into account all the knowledge and ideas you also get, then they’re still a bargain!
4. Seed Swapping Days
Keep an eye out in your local paper or do a quick google search for seed swapping in your area. This will bring up plenty of places to take unused seeds and exchange them for ones you do need (I love these, they’re like a grown-up version of football stickers… got… got… need… got).
Alternatively, why not set up your own seed swap day? Local rags love this sort of stuff. A quick call to the editor and a few posters will get you the coverage you need to make sure enough people come along.
5. Seed Swapping Forums
No seed swapping days near you? Check out the internet gardening forums. They’ve all got seed swapping sections which I use to not only grab what’s on offer but post some wanted threads too. In fact, I’ve just posted a list of what I’ve got to swap over on the Grow Your Own forums. Let me know if there’s anything you want!
6. Work out what you need
Seed buying day is a whole heap of fun, but it’s very easy to get carried away at the garden centre. In my first growing season, I went down the nursery and came away with enough seeds to start a farm. My attitude of ‘Oooh, that looks good, I’ll have that’ cost me fifty quid!
More recently, I’ve written a list, with a date for when I need the seeds, and ticked them off as I’ve got some. If I can’t swap any, or find them for free, I can always pop to the garden centre when its time to sow.
Check the internet for your local FreeCycle group, which will be full of unwanted stuff available to take for nothing. As well as seeds, other useful things often turn up like water butts, compost bins, and if you’re my ever so lucky fishing buddy, a whole greenhouse!
8. Speak to Friends and Colleagues
I can talk the hind legs off a donkey when allotmenteering is the subject matter, and last year I was really surprised where this got me. I discovered unexpected covert veg growers, as well as lots of people who were dead excited about gardening and more than happy to share excess seeds and plants with me.
Three squash plants made their way to my plot, as well as a bag of runner bean seeds and several raspberry canes which I swapped for a globe artichoke plant.
Like my beginner allotment tips, these are only my experiences. I’m no pro, but hopefully, they’ll be of some use. And I’m always on the lookout for money-saving ideas, so if you’ve got any, please leave a comment!