How to Get Free Seeds for Your Garden

Three Ways to Get Free Seeds

A man planting pumpkin seeds.
Roger Spooner/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If you're a gardener, you're going to want to read below to find out how you can get free seeds. By saving your own seeds, swapping seeds, and becoming a member of a seed library, you may just never have to pay for seeds again.

Occasionally there are some free seeds that companies mail out to those who request them. You can look for these on my free sample list. You may also receive some free seeds when you request a free seed catalog.

There are more than 70 catalogs available that will be mailed to you for free, which will give you some great ideas for planning your own garden.

Save Your Own Seeds

Possibly the easiest way to get free seeds is to just save your own! But simply leaving them in a bag and tossing it in your basement is no way to handle it. Some seeds actually aren't even suitable for storing.

Take a look at these free resources to learn more about seed saving:

Beginner's Guide to Seed Saving - This is an easy-to-read guide for new seed savers. A small paragraph or two is dedicated to some common plants to teach you how to extract the seeds so you can store them for future use.

Seed Sovereignty's Guide to Seed Saving (PDF) - This is a detailed guide that gives suggestions for extracting and storing seeds in just over 20 pages.

Basic Seed Saving - Download this free book called Basic Seed Saving for instructions on saving seeds from 29 wildflowers and 18 common vegetables, such as lettuce, peas, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Visit SeedSave.org for an online version of this book, which makes is much easier to navigate through the text.

Saving Your Own Vegetable Seeds (PDF) - This is another free PDF that you can download as a reference for learning about saving your vegetable seeds. You'll find information on radishes, soybeans, spinach, carrots, beets, and more.

Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook - This is an online resource that has seed saving instructions for over 50 vegetables. Each section has the time frame the seed can be stored. Be sure to read their Storing Your Seeds section for more information.

Use a Seed Exchange to Get Free Seeds

Exchanging seeds with others is another great way to get free seeds. You can give up the seeds you don't want while at the same time getting the seeds you do want. This is a win-win situation because you both get the seeds you're after but without paying for them.

Seed exchanges can be done in two ways. You can either meet with someone physically to swap seeds or communicate with someone over phone, email, or a website to setup a long-distance exchange.

HeirloomSeedSwap.com - Search through user submissions (or create your own) in categories like vegetables, herbs, flowers, trees and shrub, vine berries, and mushrooms to find the seeds you want. Each submission will include requests for seeds that the submitter wants in exchange.

Garden.com - Seed Swap is a free forum at Garden.com for 2-way trades of seeds. This means there is no money involved, just a clean exchange between two people. You can search for seeds you want to have or for seeds you want to give away.

GardenWeb.com - Much like other seed exchange websites, GardenWeb.com is a forum where members can post requests for exchanges. Communication can be done publicly or through private messages. Some of the posts are even information on local meetups so you don't have to send and receive the seeds over the mail. You can filter these forum posts by city or plant.

GoneToSeedSwap.org - This exchange website thrives on seed donations, much like these other websites. If there are enough donations for a seed you'd like, you can contact them over email to explain what seeds you're willing to donate in exchange for the ones you want. See their Seed List page for all the seeds they currently have.

There may be local seed exchanges that you won't find in these websites. Do a general online search ([city] seed exchange) to find one near you that someone may have already set up.

You may also try searching Facebook for seed exchange groups, or a "seed swap" event, such as this one in Ohio, US.

Get Free Seeds Through Seed Libraries

A seed library is similar to a book library in that you "borrow" seeds and then return an equal or greater number of seeds after the plant has grown. It's basically the same thing as a seed exchange except that you don't need to provide the seeds upfront. This method is particularly helpful if you're just starting out with gardening.

Seed libraries provide a way for you to grow what you want for free, and at the same time allow for others to do the same.

Just like with seed exchanges, try searching for a local seed library to find one near you. The Seed Library Locator Map may be a good starting point. You can find locations on a map to see all the different libraries that support borrowing seeds.

Also be sure to check out a list of libraries at King County Seed Lending Library, Pima County Public Library is one example of a seed library.