Why You Should Plant Your Neighbor’s Seeds

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Burton, who was the executive director of Tilth Alliance, was also part of a small neighborhood seed-swapping group with Thorness and some friends. This swap, she said, was exclusively a swap — but she’s impressed that the event these days also benefits from seed donations — and the joy of more people.

“We have all been housed for two years. So it’s insane to think that we really haven’t had a community that we’ve brought together,” said Burton, who was able to grow the seeds from his friends home in the meantime.

Sharing seeds of wisdom

The seeds at the exchange often come with tips from the people who harvested them.

“If you could talk to someone who grew up [a plant] succeeded next, you can think it will grow in your garden,” said Betty Jean Williamson, who has a garden share in Beacon Hill. “If you just buy seeds off the internet or, you know, at a hardware store, you don’t know if it’s good for growing in our climate, and you don’t know when to plant them to be successful.”

And the tips go beyond the seeds themselves. Events like the exchange attract other sustainability-minded organizations that set up tables to share information, like Sustainable Ballard, Tilth Alliance, and the Seattle Tree Fruit Society. They decorated tables with composting brochures, educated attendees on tree pests and diseases, and provided details of other opportunities to borrow and lend gardening tools with neighbours.

“Gardeners have always shared,” Thorness said. “If you have a gardening friend, I’d be surprised if that friend didn’t try to give you zucchini in the height of summer or give you amazing tomatoes at the end of August. You know, it’s just something we like to do. So I’m happy when I see that happen in our exchanges.