Bristol Seed Swap goes postal in 2021
The Seed Swap team are having to do things differently this year ...
Donations of seeds can be posted or dropped off round the city from now till end of March.
Seeds will be posted out to people who ask for them, requests to be received by February 15th please.
There will be talks on line. Weekend 6th 7th and 8th Feb.
Please donate any spare seeds, either bought or home saved. Pack them in small quantities suitable for one garden for one year and label them with type, variety and how they were saved.
Please get seeds to us ASAP so we can sort them and if necessary divide them up.
See the map below of drop off points below, or send seeds to Bristol Seed Swap, Po Box 3449, Bristol BS3 9JH.
To receive seeds we need a copy of THIS LIST, (printed or hand written), with the seeds you would like. We really need everyone to have their wish list in the same order to make it possible for us to do this efficiently.
Either drop off the list with seed donations or post to Bristol Seed Swap PO Box 3449, Bristol BS3 9JH. Please include a stamped addressed envelope with enough postage to cover the seeds you want. See POSTAGE INFO.
Lists that come with seed donations will get priority.
It will be possible to make cash donations via Paypal, or post a cheque or put in a few extra stamps.
AS EVER THIS IS COMPLETELY AT YOUR DISCRETION AND BASED ON YOUR ABILITY TO AFFORD IT.
Postal and online seed swap.
We welcome donations, but they are entirely at your discretion and only if you can afford it.
If you are skint volunteering with the Seed Swap is another way to 'give back'.
A NOTE ON DONATING SAVED SEEDS
Please be aware that most vegetables need your intervention and some planning to produce seeds that will breed true and produce strong plants.
Left to pollinate naturally they are likely to cross with other varieties or similar crops. For instance sprouts will cross with cabbage varieties and different varieties of pumpkin will cross with each other.
We need people to trust the seeds they get from Bristol Seed Swap: We don't want people to be put off growing food by poor or unpredictable crops, or for them to believe seed saving doesn't work.
There is lots of good information on these sites:
Questions you need to ask;(copied from Real Seeds site)
Will these plants cross with any others?
Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? (Usually bad)
How does this happen? (Wind? Insects?)
What can I do to control this? Do I need to do anything?
Do I need a minimum number to get healthy seed? (e.g. do they breed as group?)
Or do the plants live on their own and self-pollinate? (so I can save seed from just a few?)
Have I chosen the best plants for seed?
SEED EXTRACTION AND DRYING
Do I need to do anything special to the seed ?
Is my seed well dried and well labelled?
The answers are different for each vegetable.
If you'd like to help with the Seed Swap please email Diane at
You can find this map at:
Seeds for Swapping
Looking forward to this Seed Swap, we have absolutely no seeds to start off with as we sent them out at the start of lockdown to help people who couldn't get seeds. Because of the seed shortages this year we know seed companies will not be able to donate seeds as they have in the past.
So we would simply LOVE you wonderful people to donate seeds. HOWEVER please only donate saved seeds if you are confident they will breed true.
Please be aware that most vegetables need human intervention and some planning to produce seeds that will breed true and produce strong plants.
If you have never done it before, the very easiest seeds to save are French beans, tomatoes, peas, wildflowers and lettuce because these almost always self pollinate, this means you can save seeds from plants you have grown as normal, nothing extra necessary.
For everything else:
There is great info on these sites
or see our seedy info page for lots of other links or suggested reading
If you have already got into saving seeds, how about getting more adventurous and try trickier crops, those that need some simple isolation from similar varieties by caging or bagging up flowers - squashes, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, chilies and peppers for instance.
Please shell beans and peas, remove seeds from seed heads and clean and dry them before packing.
We are happy to have excess seeds you bought or that came free on magazines etc.
Seeds that are a year or two out of date are fine if they have been stored in a cool dry place.
Labelling is also important, the seeds that get left behind at the end of the Swap are the ones with no variety names, or missing information on how they were saved. Once you get into finding out about seeds you realise there are things you need to know about seeds saving - how to avoid accidental crosses between varieties, how to keep strains strong and how to look after seeds well. This makes people wary of packets with vague labels.
What not to donate
Please do not be tempted to bring along seeds taken from fruit or veg you have bought.
It is quite likely to be an F1 Hybrid variety, (even if it is organic). These are productive plants, that are bred to be good for commercial production, mass harvesting and transportation - but whatever their good qualities, they do not breed true to type. Plants grown from their seeds will be an odd and varied bunch, some good, some a waste of space. We want predictable seeds, so no-one wastes time and space, we would hate anyone to be put off growing by bad results.
Even if you know the variety, and it is a heritage or open pollinated one, there is a good chance that it will have crossed with other varieties grown in the area.
Please do not donate self saved seeds which may have crossed with other varieties, we want seeds from the Bristol Seed Swap to be as trustworthy an bought seeds and we really hope you will be as fascinated as us to learn about how to take on this aspect of gardening.
Frequently asked questions for the postal Seed Swap
Are the seeds free?
Yes! We want as many people as possible to grow food and to get into gardening generally. Money should be no barrier to doing so.
Give what you can - take what you need.
Donations of seeds or money for seeds are welcome if you can afford it - it is entirely at your discretion, no one is going to ask you about it.
We are looking at ways to include people who have never come to the Seed Swap, and who might find it hard to cover postage.
If you can afford to, we ask you to make donations via Paypal. Bristol Seed Swap is self funding and run entirely by volunteers. Next year's event depends on this year's breaking even. The link is at the top of this page.
How do I get seeds?
Send us a wish list either printed or copied from HERE (So that we have all the lists in the same order.) This will let our volunteers go round a line of trays in that same order and fill your envelopes as quickly as possible.
Please send a stamped addressed envelope (SAE), big enough and with enough postage for your 'order' so we can post your seeds to you.
Information on postal rates is HERE
We hope to have some visual examples on here soon to give a clearer idea.
We cannot promise to give everyone all the seeds they ask for, we will do what we can. The more information you give us, the better the choices we can make on your behalf.
Post Seed Wish Lists and SAEs to
Bristol Seed Swap
PO Box 3449
How do I know what seeds you have, and what to ask for?
We get so many seeds donated, of so many varieties, it would be impossible to keep a list on the website of what we have.
The Seed Wish Form we ask you to fill in gives you space for notes so you can ask for specific varieties, e.g. 'Marmande Tomatoes', or for a more general type of thing, e.g. 'Beefsteak tomatoes' or 'tasty heritage'. You can also help by adding notes - do you like the weird and wonderful, or more 'normal' crops.
For flowers, we can never predict what we will have, but you could ask for 'wildflowers for shade', 'something good for bees' or ' I like red and yellow and have a sunny border to fill'.
Also let us know if you have a big space or are growing in pots on a balcony - the more information we have the better we can do for you.
When will I get my seeds?
We will begin to pack and post seeds from the start of February. Isolation rules may mean only one or two households can have access to the seeds at a time, which will slow us down. However, we will do our best to get all the seeds out by mid March latest.
Please remember this is all being done by volunteers, and we really do want to get seeds to as many people as possible.
If you'd like to help us you can volunteer by emailing us
Where can I drop off seeds?
We have volunteers round the city who are happy for you to drop seeds through their letterbox - see our map HERE
or using this link:
Drop off your request for seeds at the same time, as we aim to make sure people who give seeds get what they want in return, and these lists will get priority.
Why are there no drop off points near me?
Our drop off points are determined by who volunteered to accept seeds when we put out a request for help. The distribution reflects where we have most supporters, rather than the ideal arrangement.
If you find yourself in an area which hasn't got a drop off point, would you consider becoming one. Your address would be publicised, but with no name or other contact details. (We would ask for a phone number so we can arrange to fetch seeds from you.)
If you can help us, please email us so we can add you to the map.
How should I pack seeds?
We would appreciate seed donors cleaning seeds as far as possible and packing them in envelopes in the kind of portion a gardener would want.
Whole sunflower heads, unshelled beans etc make it time consuming for our volunteers to process and pack the seeds and they may go to waste.
If you have lots of seeds to donate, more than can go through a letterbox or be posted, please contact us:
bristolseedswap@gmail,com and we will arrange to pick them up.
My question isn't covered here - what do I do?
We do not have the resources to answer lots of emails, and cannot respond to queries about individual requests. Please trust that we will do our best to get your seeds to you, and will post here and on Facebook if we are extending our time frame for sending out seeds, have shortage of seeds etc.
For more general questions please -
1) Poke around the website,
2) Check out our social media for updates and further information
Facebook: we have a page Bristol Seedswap and also a group Bristol Seed Swap and seed savers | Groups | Facebook
Twitter @SeedSwapBristol Instagram @BristolSeedSwap
Still no joy? - ok email us -
We will do our best to get back to you promptly, and add the information on here for other people to share.
How many seeds
can I get?
You can ask for as many seeds as you like, but if we get masses of requests we may have to limit what each person gets - you could mark the ones you want most.
We are re-packing seeds to make up packs that would do for one garden for one year, so 10-12 tomato seeds, 50 cabbage etc. We recommend sowing seeds in modules or trays and planting out seedlings to get the most out of the seeds you have. (Or yogurt pots and plastic food trays with holes in).
If you are wanting seeds for a community garden or school or plan to share with a group of friends let us know and we will try to get you enough to you.
Please try to be realistic about what you have space for - (we know that isn't easy.)
Can I post seeds to you?
Yes. please send to:
Bristol Seed Swap
PO Box 3449
(Do send your wish list at the same time)
How should I label seeds?
Please label the seeds with variety, specific names and the year they were harvested if you know it.
If you can also give details of how they were saved, or if they were bought it will allow people to judge if they will breed true.
and if you have any stories about what the plants mean to you - is this your Gran's favourite, did it crop wonderfully for you etc etc. people love to hear about it.
What if I don't live in Bristol?
We know we have regular visitors from out of town, and we don't want to exclude you, on the other hand we can't cope with running a national seed swap.
So if you are not in a BS postcode it's at your discretion:
If you are a seed swap regular do please join in. (Add a note to your form, or with your seed donation)
If you are new to the Swap, please consider starting a local seed swap near you, or join us at the live event in 2022.
Who's doing the talks?
More details of dates, times and how to book will be posted as we have them but here's the line-up. We Have:
Sara Venn of Incredible Edible Bristol talking about food sovereignty in Bristol and beyond.
Liz Zorab who has a wonderful and informative Youtube channel 'Byther Farm'. She'll be talking about moving towards self sufficiency.
Diane Holness of Bristol Seed Swap talking about the how's and why's of seed saving.