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Are your garden and yard looking a bit bare? Or perhaps you would like to try growing something new. If you’ve always admired your neighbor’s lush landscaping but find the prices at the garden store more than your budget can handle, seed and plant exchanges can be a great way to increase your garden’s beauty. You might find a few friendships growing, too.

Purchasing plants from the local nursery or from garden catalogs can get quite expensive. Exchanging plants and seeds with other gardeners has one big advantage over nurseries and catalogs – it’s free but for the cost of postage. Local exchanges provide a guarantee unavailable from professional suppliers; if it thrives in your neighbor’s garden, you know it has a good chance to grow well in yours. Exchanges promote diversity as well, and can be the only way of preserving certain plant varieties.

Getting started in a plant or seed exchange can be as simple as noticing that your neighbor’s bed of hostas or lily of the valley is looking a bit crowded. Most people are quite happy to share when it comes time to thin out unwanted plants. While it may be tempting to help yourself to a few seed pods or “volunteer” to help prune your neighbor’s forsythia bush while passing by on an evening stroll, asking is not only more ethical but can help you get to know your neighbor. Another way to begin an exchange is to join a local gardening group. Look in the community newspaper. There are gardening groups on the Internet as well. These are great opportunities to build friendships, get gardening advice, and share plants and seeds with people all over the world.

Don’t be intimidated from participating in an exchange if you are a beginner. Most gardeners are more than happy to share information, advice, and plants, and often don’t mind if the recipients have nothing to trade. Just promise to give the plants you receive loving care, listen to the advice offered, and offer anything you can share in the future. It’s sometimes surprising what fellow traders will value. Even an envelope full of marigold seeds can make another gardener happy. Just ask for advice if you need information on how to save seeds or transport plants.

Exchanging seeds and plants with friends and neighbors can be a great way to expand your garden and landscaping, learn about gardening, and promote plant diversity. Gardeners are often quite happy to share knowledge and plants – they enjoy the growth in other gardens almost as much as their own. Sharing plants can help develop a friendship and ignite a gardening passion. It’s fun to watch plants grow, and even more fun when they cost nothing more than the effort to ask for them.