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host a local plant exchange as a source for perennials

 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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The majority of my perennials have come from years of local plant exchanges that a few of us in this area take turns hosting. It is a easy way to accumulate a variety of locally grown and acclimatized plants at no cost. We usually try to have one as early in the spring as possible and always wanted to do one in the fall also but have not had the time. Everyone brings plants and everyone always goes home with at least the same amount or more and we always welcome anyone just starting out with nothing and they go home with lots too. Just some of the plants I have traded for or offered are: blood peaches, pie cherry , gooseberry, currents, bush cherry, hardy kiwi, comfrey, echinacia, rose campion, lilacs, sweet potatoes slips, rosemary, oregano, thyme, goldenseal, gallica roses , heritage raspberries, royal purple raspberries, albriton strawberries, blueberries,rosa ragosa and on and on. Plus open pollinated seeds and annual starts and everyone brings a potluck dish so it is really an all day affair. (and vitex, flowering quince, jerusalum artichoke, russian olive, pussy willow yellow raspberry, hollyhocks,iris, daylilies, jonquils, multiplying onions, mints, tansey, weld, woad and madder.........)
I would be happy to help with suggestions on how to make one happen and to hear from others who participate in plant exchanges.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I love this idea Judith.

I would love to learn from you all the ins and outs ♥ thanks for posting this.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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My first suggestion would be to start small and depend on word of mouth (no classified in the paper or online or facebook). Just a network of friends and friends of friends. It's a good way to meet your neighbors. We have alot of organic growers in the area but don't limit it to that in case we can convert someone. Try to give people an early invitation (several months if they are bringing plants from seed) so that they can dig, divide and pot early and the plants are established in a pot for the trade. Start as early as you can the day of the trade so the plants do not get stressed if it is hot. I set out tables for plants on the north side of the house and a couple food tables for the potluck, make some herb teas and a big pot of coffee and and hope it doesnt rain hard.
I suggest folks bring boxes or something to take plants home in. We always ask everyone to label genus and species too if possible, and every one spends time explaining growing conditions for the plants they brought during the day. I take the easy route and just set a date, call a few people (and they phone chain the rest) put out tables ,mow the lawn, clean the outhouse and then enjoy the day. My friend makes these wonderful pastries, etc sends out written invitations and makes it a really beautiful event . We always have it outside but I am sure some have an indoor space that would work. There are usually anywhere frm 12 to a couple dozen people and I would avoid anything larger but just three or four would work.
Usually its a trade plant for plant but everyone seems to bring alot, take home alot and there are still some for the beginner who came with none and the host always ends up with some stragglers that they didnt know they wanted. This is kind of rambling but I think I covered it.
I love the loaves and fishs aspect to this. Sometimes we joke that in a few years our gardens will all look alike. That isnt happening although anyone who gets my plants usually has arugula , lambs quarters, sunflowers and odd basils popping up as a bonus.
I think the idea is more in the spirit of permaculture than just buying plants.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Judith Browning wrote:I love the loaves and fishs aspect to this. Sometimes we joke that in a few years our gardens will all look alike. That isnt happening although anyone who gets my plants usually has arugula , lambs quarters, sunflowers and odd basils popping up as a bonus.
I think the idea is more in the spirit of permaculture than just buying plants.


Oh how funny, bonus plants I love this idea. My daughter's 4-H club always worked at the Master Gardeners plant sale in the spring, wow just seeing all those plants really get's your enthusiasm going! But a plant exchange, what a blessing that would be. I'm in the process of moving, but I'm going to plan on this for next year.... Thank You.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Thanks, Jamie...I think this idea (and it's not mine) is too slow a process for some folks. For us planting a few more things every year gave time to let the plants settle and find out what worked where and because we knew who grew them we always knew where replacements were in the area.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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this is a great idea..
 
darius Van d'Rhys
Posts: 56
Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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I've been a member of DavesGarden.com for many years, and we have small, organized plant swaps with a pot-luck lunch all over this country. Most are somewhat local, and a very few are more regional. I cannot count the friends I've made, nor the plants I've gained.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Good to hear from you. Do you have any advice or variations on what I've written to help someone organize a plant swap? List of plants you have traded for? any downsides? So many sound as though they are going to go "buy" their food forest...I thought this would at least show other possibilities.
 
darius Van d'Rhys
Posts: 56
Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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Plant swaps are complex in many ways. Many folks are reluctant to attend an event where they don't know any of the people, and I don't think it is just shyness. (When did suspicion become so paramount?) Perhaps one of the reason's I like the DavesGarden swaps is that we have a chance to get to know each other a bit online before ever attending a plant swap.

As to plants, I have traded a zillion flowering plants at swaps over the years but now that I'm into more of a 'food forest' no one around here seems to want things like elderberries, thornless blackberries, haskaps, blueberries and the like. I had 25 elderberries about 2' tall that I could not even give away at our last swap. They still want pretty flowers (that often aren't edible, not that they care).

There's a local organization that holds an edible plant sale spring and fall, and the prices are outrageous; they advertise basically to the farmer's market growers and shoppers so there's more interest than in a general plant swap. Nonetheless, I intend to learn more and hone my skills for starting cuttings and grafting. Sooner or later people will catch up to us, but for now we are a small minority.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Plenty of food plants in our area to trade....I think we are an abnormal concentration of organic growers.
 
Kathy Burns-Millyard
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
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We discovered the Tucson libraries started a seed swap type of program this year. I haven't had a chance to try it out much yet but I think you can get several packs of seeds each month from them, and drop off your extras for other people to take.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Sounds like a great way to get locally grown seeds...We go to Native Seed Search (I think that is the name) and that big beautiful library whenever we visit relatives in Tucson.
 
John Polk
master steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Yes. https://nativeseeds.org/ is a great site for finding seeds that have done well in the SW for centuries.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I intended to and am wishing I had planned a fall plant exchange...it would have got me to dig and divide the plants that need it. A late winter/early spring one is easier to get enthused about, I guess..new seedlings...new growth...potluck party.....
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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If anyone is considering a spring plant exchange it's time to start planning so that those you invite have time to grow things from seed and/or pot up some plants. To those who PM'ed me about mine, I am aiming for as early as march 17 and as late as April 7. I'll PM when the date is set.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Maybe late for a spring swap but try having one in the fall...meet your neighbors!...take a step away from the cash economy!...promote permaculture!
 
Adam Moore
Posts: 121
Location: Mansfield, Ohio Zone 5b percip 44"
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I noticed this post because just last night our area's Master Gardening/Community Gardening club had a plant swap. I was excited because it was the first time I had attended one of the events. It was great being around other gardeners who shared my interest but after talking with them they were mostly very convential gardeners; pesticides, synthetic fertilizers etc. I was hoping to find some unique plants but it was mainly generic annuals like tomatoes, zuchini etc. No heirlooms. I broke the mold though and brought a bunch of true comfrey starts. They started with a quick lesson by building a small square foot gardening bed. As I was watching them measure everyting and making sure the measurements were exact and everying was linear. I was thinking, I bet their eyes would bleed if they saw my permaculture garden. Nothing is straight, no rows and hardly no 2 plants are alike, lol. It was a good time, I'm glad I went.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Adam Moore wrote:I noticed this post because just last night our area's Master Gardening/Community Gardening club had a plant swap. I was excited because it was the first time I had attended one of the events. It was great being around other gardeners who shared my interest but after talking with them they were mostly very convential gardeners; pesticides, synthetic fertilizers etc. I was hoping to find some unique plants but it was mainly generic annuals like tomatoes, zuchini etc. No heirlooms. I broke the mold though and brought a bunch of true comfrey starts. They started with a quick lesson by building a small square foot gardening bed. As I was watching them measure everyting and making sure the measurements were exact and everying was linear. I was thinking, I bet their eyes would bleed if they saw my permaculture garden. Nothing is straight, no rows and hardly no 2 plants are alike, lol. It was a good time, I'm glad I went.


What a wonderful opportunity to 'plant' new ideas...We have always grown things organically but it took two or three mentions of 'permaculture' to peak my interest and then I couldn't get enough. One advantage to hosting your own plant swap is that you can open the door to permaculture for a lot of folks and also set some bounderies...we try to have only open pollinated varieties of annuals and most of the group is obsessively organic anyway with permaculture leanings.
I know what you mean about how polyculture plantings look to others though...a friend worried that I needed help 'weeding' my garden just the other day
 
Kim Hill
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I am ver fortunate to have many plant exchanges in cities such as mine and those around me. They tend to have mostly flowers and such but once in a while I get lucky and get some edibles. I also belong to GardenWeb which has lots of seed and plant exchanges both individually and in large groups. I usually get all my garden seeds this way and have gotten a large portion of my perinneal edibles this way also. I will be checking into DavesGarden as well, thanks for the tip.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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It's time to plan a spring plant exchange


...and a link to a 2014 plant exchange in the Ozarks
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I'm planning one! It'll be our third annual plant and seed swap potluck. We Call it the Festival of Potential. I like to have it around the equinox, this year the weekend before. Anyone in the New England area?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Matu Collins wrote:I'm planning one! It'll be our third annual plant and seed swap potluck. We Call it the Festival of Potential. I like to have it around the equinox, this year the weekend before. Anyone in the New England area?


I like the name of your exchange, Matu! Could you add anything you have learned from hosting an exchange that would help others? It is such a fun thing and just takes so little organizing to do a 'bare bones' one.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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We try to have materials to make seed packets on hand. Once a farmer friend brought a box full of empty seed packets and we are still using them. Everyone has always been kind and generous.

It's really simple and fun. We had a bonfire last year and made some biochar.

We used facebook events to invite people. I'm going to try using meetup.com this time. I have had mixed success with meetup, sometimes good, sometimes not. Word of mouth is my favorite way to invite people! I don't get out much these days though. Definitely a "more the merrier" type of thing.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5551
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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We had a wonderful day yesterday at our plant and seed exchange....plenty of folks came with lots of plants in spite of the cool weather and possibility of rain (it didn't start until the last person left). We had a potluck at noon and kind of ate while browsing plants. I always think that I don't need anything and somehow end up with lots anyway
people brought...a nice variety of seed, dogwoods, lilacs, iris, comfrey, goji, fig, money plant, borage, wonderberry, pecan seed to plant, all varieties of tomato plants, sweet potato slips, keifer grains, lots of reusable pots, excess row cover, catalogs, planters and more I can't remember.
The new thing we did this year was to have a 'door prize'...and the top pick was a deck of Permaculture playing card (one of two my son got for me from the kickstarter).
 
I am Arthur, King of the Britons. And this is a tiny ad:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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