Seedy Pen Pals

Did you have a penpal when you were younger? Teenage letters of school and homework, holidays and music. The foreign stamped envelope, the different style writing. Oh the glamour !

I read about Foodie PenPals (a great blogging phenomenon), thanks to Choc Chip of Go Bake Yourself and then Rock Salt who pointed me in the direction of Carl’s site with the mention of ssshhhhh seed swaps !!

Now seed swapping runs close to my heart, maybe instead of blood cells I have seeds coursing my veins? That might be stretching a bit, but you get the gist! I’ve joined in on on-line seed swaps before and attended the big mosh-ups of Brighton’s Seedy Sunday. In fact we even had a mini Hastings seed swap last year. There is something joyous about sharing your interest and spreading the word – literally. It’s been a great way to find out about different varieties of fruit, veg and flowers, to raise awareness of heritage and heirloom varieties, to share knowledge and experience – what works and what clearly doesn’t. And to assuage the inner seed fiend

A what the heck moment and I signed up to be a Seedy PenPal – a seed swap that embraces technology but ultimately relies on snail mail. The organiser behind it all is Carl Legge (Twitter @CarlLegge) who can be found on his permaculture holding or in the kitchen, located on The Llŷn Peninsula, a imply stunning part of Wales.

The seed swap works along the lines of Person A sends a parcel to Person B and Person B sends a parcel to Person C. In my case that was Andrew sending seeds to Claire who in turn sends them to Georgi and on it goes.

The only restrictions were that we were all UK or Europe based; restrictions on sending seeds abroad to fussy places (JOKE! I do understand the why’s) like the States and Australia prohibit a truly international swap. But there’s no reason to not start your own !!

All very simple, drop your pen pal a line to say hi, a bit of a chat about your garden or terrace or windowsill and we’re off.

Carl asked us to blog about our Seedy PenPal swap on Friday 31st August and to complete the Seedy Survey. Happy to oblige and do my homework !

So down to business –

My seeds came from Andrew who writes, lives and blogs from Pig Row up on Saddleworth Moor, which is part of the Pennines and is surrounded by the Yorkshire Moors, high and beautiful (1,000+ ft above sea level), quiet and remote, exposed and a challenge for any gardener (and a world away from a southerly sea-level gardener! ); there you will find a cottage, a vegetable garden a cutting garden and warmth and gentle words.

What was swapped?

  • N E Plus Ultra Pea – in Andrew’s words “the pea is gorgeous and was used in the TV programme “The Victorian Kitchen Garden” (1987), we inherited some from a family member who worked on it. So I am passing some on to you”. No pressure then !
  • Phacelia – “is a great green manure but on my old allotment I allow it to flower at the edge of beds, bees love it”
  • Cabbage – Frostie F1 “ I know you said you were trying to wean yourself off F1s but the Cabbage is lovely and is brand new seed for this years sowing. Wanted to give you something to sow now and you will just get under the wire with this”
  • Lycnis (Campion Pink) – “you can see photos of the Campion on our blog”
  • French Dwarf Bean Montana – which I need to find out about, if it’s for shelling or eating young and fresh

The seeds of which plant do you most look forward to growing and why?

Hmmmm, the Pea’s spring to mind as I’m a sucker for heritage type peas, but there is also a bit of an edge to it as I don’t want the slugs, pigeons or mice hampering my growing efforts. But probably the Phacelia as it’s one of those things I’ve always meant to get round to, but somehow always forget to sow, I now have the seeds and the impetus! In fact I might see if I can scatter a few in the next week so that the bees and buzzies can have some early pollen come Spring.

Would you like any advice on germination, siting, companion plants or anything else for your seed(s)?

Just to know what kind of beans they are, but to be honest I can look that up myself!

Would you like any inspiration or ideas about how to cook or arrange your plant or how best to save the seed(s)?

I don’t think so, I’m guessing I can save seeds from the Phacelia, but again need to look that one up – or maybe just ask Andrew

Is there anything else about your Seedy Parcel you’d like people to know?

I’m happy with my haul 🙂  I hope Georgi likes her seeds too. and thanks need to go to Carl for organising

If you live in the UK or Europe you can join in the next / planned Seedy PenPal Swap, or follow the updates from Carl’s blog or Twitter #SeedyPenPals.  If you live in the States, Canada, Australia, S Africa, New Zealand, the Middle East, Japan, S America, wherever, why not start a seed swap yourself? we’ll be here to cheer you on!  It’s easy, a post on your blog, a piece in your local paper, a conversation with friends. All you need  is a few like-minded people, some spare seeds, an envelope and a stamp. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own shed !

Lastly and as a little teaser, I sent –


    • I think it is, and it’s the stuff of life on so many levels. Lots of connections are being made, information shared, and yup more seeds to sow 🙂

  • Glad you participated in this my friend, isn’t it so much fun? I love your twist to the foodie to become seedy 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Love seed swaps! we have one in our community yearly. My favorite story of seeds: I have a patient (in her 80’s) and every time she came in we talked about gardening. One day she brought me some popcorn that she plants every year She started planting this variety (she didn’t remember the name) about 60 years ago when she got married! It is a husk-less variety and I have grown it with good success. Every time I eat popcorn I think of her. She is now is a nursing home, but I will continue to plant this variety and pass it along.

    • Fantastic ! Self saved seeds are definitely the way to go, trouble is you start collecting them, and before you know it you run out of land !! Well, ok maybe that’s just me 🙂

      • It’s definitely not just you… And my trouble is I also gather seeds from other people’s gardens, from meadows and road verges and generally wherever there are seeds and I have a suitable receptacle at hand…

        I think I can pass some on to my Mum, though; she needs flowers that will grow in-between the grass on a slope in her garden, so that’s a good deposit for some of my wild-flower seeds.

  • Now this is a different kind of swap, but it makes perfect sense and sounds like it has the makings of a fun time. Hope you get some new things for your garden.

  • What a great idea. I have been to a couple of swaps, but having a seed pen pal adds a new dimension. Exciting and fun. Do you stick with the same pen pal every year, or does everyone get switched up?

    • I don’t know if we change around or not, I’m hoping we do as that way we get to know other swappers. Either way I feel like I’ve made a couple of new friends !

      • The idea is that you send to one person, and another sends to you. Next time, you get different people to send to and receive from, so you can make more friends and be exposed to different types of plants.

          • In previous years I’ve been a part of a seed saving circle, which certainly was a learning curve – particularly when it came to growing enough seeds to share with 15 others ! and like anything there are always hiccups, but nothing that can’t be fixed or shugged off 🙂

  • Love reading about your seedy swap. Too lazy to get involved myself locally but it’s fun seeing other people doing it. Guess I’m a lurker at heart. 🙂

    • Hi Andrew, Flippin’ Fantastic swap 🙂 And I’m sure I will shout away. Struggling to leave a message on your site at the moment, need to look again and work out exactly what it is I haven’t got loaded….. Hope you guys have a great weekend.

  • Great information. You are better off not exchanging seeds with the US–all the GMO stuff here. Gak. You have inspired me to do this in a more organized fashion–thanks!

    • The GMO stuff is filtering through here I think. It’s one of the reasons why I now only try and buy seeds from small organic growers – besides they need all the support they can get!.
      And fab that I’ve inspired you, I just used to swap stuff with freinds which makes a lot of sense considering how many seeds you get in a packet, I mean who ever get’s round to sowing ALL those cabbage seeds ?!

  • Oh Claire, what fun! With such a joyful post, I wish I had a sunny garden space!

  • This is such a great idea, Claire, and I’m glad that you can take advantage of it. I just don’t have the room to take advantage of this type of thing. As it is, I bought seeds this year and gave most away to a friend that germinated them and gave them away. Maybe one day but, for now, i’ll garden vicariously through you and a few others.

  • Just fantastic, Claire! Since you are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, you will be making a contribution while reciprocally reaping some added benefits to your own garden. I think this sounds like a fun way to interact with others who share this specific passion! Debra

    • Thank you Debra, I think we are a real mix of gardeners too – some with balconies, others with land, lots of experience, a few novices. And the best bit is that we will all learn something new 🙂

  • Fabulous! I’ve always wanted to do more seed saving than the marigold seeds that are just too easy… Self-planted tomatoes don’t actually count, right? 😉
    Someday, right?

    • It’s a shame, but understandable about the export rules, so it’s unlikely we could ever have an international seed swap, but there’s plenty of scope for national ones. Thanks Tandy !

  • What a noble idea. I’m in Kansas, you know the prairie one, but have not heard of this concept in the USA. I guess like all things gardening the Brits create it (and then we perfect it, sorry and I wasn’t even born there.
    Best, Patrick
    Found you via Cosmos

    • Hi Patrick, good to meet you ! and ha, ha, ha, too funny. But if you google seedy sunday you will see it was the Canadian’s who got in on the act first, I suppose this is a way of taking it to the internet 🙂
      I’d love to hear how you get on if you do try to set something up. Nothing like gardening vicariously all around the world 🙂
      Happy gardening. And I’ve not heard of Cosmos before… well I’ve heard of THE cosmos, but not this one 😉

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