Go to Baker Creek Heirloom seed, and you’re going to pay between $2.50 and $5 for a packet of tomato seeds (free shipping).
Go to SeedsNow, MIGardener, or eBay, and you’re going to pay $1 to $2, plus shipping costs.
No matter what, your tomato seed collection is going to cost you a little bit of money quite quickly. But, there’s another (more frugal) way to get an extensive seed collection…
And it’s a lot more fun!
All for the price of a stamp!
Welcome to the World of Tomato Seed Trading!
You’ve probably heard of seed trading. Long before the internet was a “thing”, many gardeners would purchase seeds, then trade what they collected at the end of the year with their neighbors, family members, friends, and coworkers.
If that still wasn’t enough, there were seed swaps that took place several times a year, where collectors could meet, trade, and expand their collections; all for a bit of time, seed saving, and traveling.
Trading is a hobby in itself, and it introduced gardeners to beautiful new friendships and rare or hard-to-find varieties; now, social media and online forums have taken over, largely dismantling local swap meets.
What You Need to Get Started with Tomato Seed Trading
You’re going to need:
Thank You Cards
Plastic Jewelry Bags (or Handmade Seed Envelopes)
Seeds for Trading, at Least 10 of a Variety Per Trade
Marker (for Dating and Labeling your packets)
Where to Find Traders
Start with a simple search with your favorite search engine; simply use terms such as:
Seed Trading Forum
Seed Trading Groups
Seed Swaps in [YOUR STATE]
Seed Swaps in [CITY, STATE]
Common Rules (and Etiquette) for Seed Trading Groups
In most groups, you will find guidelines and rules. Some may include:
Trading or SASE (Self Addressed and Stamped Envelope Only)
No monetary transactions (no selling, only trading)
Seed Minimums (such as 10 or 20 seeds per variety, per trade)
Shipping requirements (such as bubble mailers for sunflower seeds)
Here are my etiquette tips for a successful (and positive) trading experience:
Always pack seeds with a thank you card on one side, and a sheet of bubble wrap on the other; this protects them.
Always use non-machinable stamps for larger swaps, and always have a postal employee hand stamp the envelope in front of you. This helps to keep the seeds safe from crushing.
Always include a handwritten note inside of the card.
Always put seeds inside of separate bags or envelopes.
Never send less than the minimum; if you don’t have enough, communicate with your fellow trader to resolve the situation.
Send the trade in a timely manner; remember, the other trader is just as excited as you are to receive their seeds!
Social Media Trading Groups
There are so, so many groups on social media websites that focus on seed swapping. Simply go to your favorite social media website, and search for the same terms we just listed above.
You can reach people from all across your country this way, helping you to find some of the rarest seeds in existence; even seed companies with the most varied selections don’t offer all of the varieties of tomatoes that exist. For a majority, you will have to acquire them from an experienced gardener, which is how I have sourced a good chunk of my extensive tomato seed collection.
Be sure to only trade with people who are located in your country of residence though; this is to protect both traders, the environment, local flora and fauna, and more. There are laws to follow regarding the transport of plant materials for good reason.
If You Haven’t Traded Yet, You’re Really Missing Out!
I’ve found so many cool, exotic, and rare tomato seeds through trading; to boot, I have received as many as TWELVE varieties of these rare seeds, with less than a dollar’s investment. Can you really beat that for a frugal deal?
For $0.50, it’s more than worth a try. Get out there, find a fellow trader, and have a great time.