If you are a beginner gardener or looking to expand your existing garden, you are going to need seeds. While you could, of course, head to a local nursery or go online and purchase seed packets, there are other options for getting free seeds and cuttings for your vegetable garden or flowerbed.
These options also give you the opportunity to learn from local gardeners, build community, and support seed sovereignty.
So, let’s get right to it with these 11 ways to get free seeds and cuttings for your garden.
1. Save seeds from your garden.
If you have a vegetable garden or flowerbeds already in place, you can save seeds from your existing plants to plant for the next growing season.
If you are interested in saving seeds, check out this guide to seed saving from The Seed Ambassadors Project and this guide from HowtoSaveSeeds.com. I recommend checking out both of these guides, since The Seed Ambassadors Project guide gives a great overview of seed saving, including a glossary to help you learn the lingo, while the guide on HowtoSaveSeeds.com is great for easily looking up how to save particular types of seeds.
2. Save seeds from produce.
You can also save seeds from produce you have purchased. It is best to save seeds from organic, non-GMO foods, since seeds from genetically modified produce may not germinate or may grow unpredictably.
Saving seeds from local produce purchased from produce stands or the farmers market is best, since you know these seeds have already proven to thrive where you live. You are also more likely to get organic, non-GMO seeds this way.
3. Grow food plants from purchased herbs and produce.
Many foods purchased at the store can be regrown from cuttings or by saving the base to replant. Celery, romaine lettuce, parsley, and basil are examples of foods that can be grown from cuttings or saving and planting the base.
4. Ask friends for cuttings of ornamental plants.
Succulents are particularly easy to grow from cuttings, but you can also grow many houseplants and other ornamental plants for free by asking friends or family for small cuttings.
5. Divide your current plants.
Perennials can often be divided into multiple plants to plant in your garden. To accomplish this, you can either dig up the entire plant and root system to divide, or you can use a shovel to dig up just part of the plant and root system to relocate.
6. Attend the Annual Ojai Seed & Plant Swap.
Going to a local seed swap, such as the Annual Ojai Seed & Plant Swap hosted by the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, is a great way to get free seeds that grow well in your area. Aside from exchanging your surplus seeds for seeds or cuttings for your garden, local seed swaps also provide the opportunity to learn from local gardeners and farmers to take your gardening game to the next level.
7. Start your own seed swap group.
If you have friends, family members or co-workers who also like to garden, consider starting your own seed swapping group to exchange seeds, cuttings and plants. If you don’t know any gardeners, this is a great opportunity to expand your social circle and connect with local gardeners in your area.
8. Join an online seed swapping group.
If you missed your local seed swapping event or just prefer to do things online, look for an online seed swapping group where you can exchange seeds with other members. Your best bests are the groups available on GardenWeb and Facebook.
9. Borrow seeds from a seed library.
Seed libraries are a good solution for new gardeners who do not yet have seeds to swap with other gardeners. This option allows you to get free seeds for your garden, and then save seeds when you harvest the crop so that you can return an equal or greater amount of seeds to the library to share with others.
I believe the closest seed library is at the Camarillo Library, but please add a comment below if you are aware of one closer to Ojai.
10. Check the free section of websites like Craigslist.
You can find all sorts of treasures in the free section on Craigslist and this sometimes includes seeds, cuttings or plants.
11. Request seeds from The Free Seed Project.
Each year, The Free Seed Project sends thousands of free seed packets to folks who register on their website. To request free seeds from this non-profit organization, the group asks that you fit one of these criteria:
If you know of other ways to get free seeds for backyard gardens in Ojai and the surrounding area, please share them with us in the comments!
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a member of The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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