The ground may be frozen in parts of Illinois, but it’s not too early to start thinking about this year's garden.
National Seed Swap Day is held the last Saturday of January.
These gatherings are a way for new and veteran green thumbs to expand their collections by sharing a variety of open-pollinated seeds. Pam Stock, with the Boone County Conservation District, is also an avid seed saver.
“This is a way to save a little money," she said. "You get to connect with your community and other gardeners. The really important thing is that you can find seeds that work well in your gardening microclimate in your area.”
Stock says the gatherings can be pretty informal.
“I go to seed swaps and I have people bring them in glass jars, or people have them in individual brown envelopes and they are all marked and they have fancy labels," Stock said. "It just depends on the person who is saving them. Sometimes, I’ll actually get a tomato and the person will say to me, ‘Here’s a seed packet for you!’”
Seeds can be for flowers, vegetables, and trees. Gardeners are encouraged to bring open-pollinated, non-GMO varieties.
A Seed Starting and Seed Swap program will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Ida Public Library at 320 N. State St. in Belvidere. The event is free, but registration is required. To register, please call 815-544-3838.
You can also find more information about seed swaps throughout the year at the University of Illinois Extension website.