Seed Trading 101:
How to Trade Tomato Seeds

Seed trading is an excellent way to acquire tomato seeds at little to no cost.

In proper trading, money does not change hands. Instead, your saved seeds become currency to use to “purchase” next year’s seeds.

Also, by exchanging seeds with other gardeners, you can try new varieties you may not have considered before.

Step #1: Save seeds for seed trading

Follow appropriate procedures for saving tomato seeds. Along with tomato seeds, save other types of seeds (such as flowers or various vegetables) to trade.

Step #2: Post your seeds

Seed Trading with Tomato Dirt

  • Register on seed trading exchange in order to post and trade.
  • List the seeds you have to trade. Be sure to post the tomato seed’s variety name, such as Green Zebra. If you offer other types of seeds, list their Latin name followed by common name.
  • Post your wish list. Name the specific varieties you’d like in return (“I’m looking for Black Krim, Paul Robeson, and Abe Lincoln seeds ”) or types of tomatoes (“I’m looking for heirloom paste tomato seeds”).

Looking for a good place to post your seeds? Try these seed exchange forums.

Step #3: Make the trade

  • Agree to a trade with another gardener, either by responding to a post or receiving a request from your post. Exchange mailing addresses.
  • Pack your seeds in a seed pack, then in a bubble padded envelope for protection. Include a copy of your confirmation email in the packet so there is no confusion about the seeds requested.
  • Mail your seeds. Email the recipient so she knows when to expect them.
  • Let your fellow trader know when you’ve received seeds from her.

Seed Trading FAQs
(Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. How many seeds should I include in a packet when seed trading?
Standard number for trading: at least 25 seeds. If your seeds are rare or if you have only limited amounts, be sure to say so in your post so there is no question from other traders. Or agree with the other trader how many seeds you will exchange.

Q. Where do I get seed packs for seed trading?
Use small envelopes, coin packets (available from banks), small plastic snack-size zipper bags, glassine envelopes (available at arts and hobby stores), and tea bag envelopes. Or make and print your own seed packs. Be sure to label each variety clearly.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of seed packs.

  • Regular envelopes and coin wrappers allow seeds to breathe and are easy to label, but may be too large for small tomato seeds. Plus, coin wrappers cannot be closed securely and may “leak” seeds. You can cut envelopes and coin wrappers to a smaller size and tape edges, but use caution since seeds may get stuck on tape.
  • Plastic and glassine bags allow you to see seeds clearly, but retain moisture and can lead to mildew if seeds are not thoroughly dry. Plastic is also difficult to label unless you use a permanent marker.
  • Tea bag envelopes are a good size for seeds. You must re-label them and tape them. Some seeds may get stuck in the tape.
  • Handmade seed packs must be printed, cut, and glued, requiring just a bit of effort. Yet they are an ideal size and can be personalized.

Q. Should I take any special steps when mailing seed packs?
Pad them. Flat envelopes are sent through post office’s high-speed automatic mail sorting machines, which can crush seeds. Instead, wrap seed packs in bubble wrap or place them in a padded envelope (bubble envelope or bubble mailer). Make sure the envelope is thicker than ¼” so that it will be hand sorted.

Q. I see an offer for free seeds when I send a SASE. What’s that?
It’s a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.

Q. My fellow trader asked me to use a SASBE. What’s that?
It’s a Self Addressed Stamped Bubble Envelope.

Q. Another trader sent me too many seeds. May I re-trade them?
Yes. Sometimes traders are very generous. If you can’t use all the seeds you receive, share the wealth with other gardeners.

Q. What should I do if another trader doesn’t send seeds promised?
Send a reminder email. If you don’t receive a response or seeds in a couple of weeks, send another. If you never receive seeds, try not to let it bother you. Instead, imagine the seeds you sent producing wonderful tomato plants in another garden.

Q. What if I receive the wrong seeds?
If you like them, keep them and grow them. If your heart is set on the seeds you originally requested, send a polite email to the fellow trader.

Q. Can I trade seeds that are more than a year old?
Explain clearly in your post what seeds you’re offering, including the year in which they were saved. This way a fellow trader will know exactly what he’s getting when he responds to your post.

Q. I don’t have any seeds to trade. Can I participate?
Some forums offer free seeds in exchange for a SASE or postage.

Get more tips on our Saving Tomato Seeds Pinterest board.

More on saving tomato seeds 

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Why save tomato seeds? 10 great reasons ...

Saving tomato seeds: which varieties should you save next year?

Easy seed saving method for tomato seeds ... 

Saving Tomato Seeds FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) ...

How to make your own tomato seed tape ...

How to take end of season notes about your tomato garden ...

Where to find seed exchange forums to swap seeds ...

How to grow tomatoes from seeds ...

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