🌷 The Monmouth County Park System holds its 2nd annual Seed Swap on Saturday

🌷 No invasive species of seeds will be accepted

🌷 Put seeds in plastic baggies, label with plant name, and year collected

ABERDEEN — Calling all gardeners!

New Jersey may be in the so-called “dead of winter” but it’s never too early for resident gardeners to start thinking about what they are going to plant this spring.

That’s why the Monmouth County Park System is holding its second annual “Seed Swap Day” on Saturday, January 28 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Freneau Woods Park Visitor Center in Aberdeen.

Common milkweed is the "poster native plant" of New Jersey (Photo Credit: www.jerseyyards.org)
Common milkweed is the "poster native plant" of New Jersey (Photo Credit: www.jerseyyards.org)

What is the benefit of the seed swap?

This is a great way to not only get seeds for free, said Jason Goldman, park naturalist at the Monmouth County Park System and coordinator of the seed swap event.

Purchasing seeds for landscaping needs in the springtime can be expensive, he said. When each seed packet costs anywhere from three to five dollars, it does add up. Instead of spending all that money, this event will allow residents to score free seeds, making it easier on the wallet.

Hopefully, people will come together, share their love of gardening, plants, and flowers, make some new friends, and realize there is a whole gardening community right in their backyard, Goldman said.

Japan Daily Life
AP Japanese Wisteria

What do people need to know about the seed swap?

New Jerseyans are encouraged to drop off their seeds every day this week, ahead of the event at the Huber Woods Park Environmental Center in Middletown. Goldman said it’s easier if he has the seeds ahead of time to set up for the event.

But if people can’t come beforehand, no worries. Just show up the day of the event with seeds in hand and Goldman said he’ll put them in their rightful spots.

Seed swappers should place each seed type in a sealed Ziploc bag, labeled with the plant name, the year the seeds were collected, where the seeds were collected from, whether it’s from your garden, what town that’s in, a park, or a garden center, and if possible, a photo of the plant, Goldman said.

A photo is not required but he said last year he noticed that the baggies of seeds that had pictures of what the plant will look like, attracted more attention.

A path through the goldenrods
Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

How many seeds should people bring?

A minimum of five seeds is required per item.

“But they are welcome to bring as many as they want. The more the merrier. The greater the diversity the better the swap will be. I’ve had people come with just a simple five seeds of squash. But I’ve also had someone show up with a whole gallon Ziploc bag of Goldenrod seeds,” Goldman said.

Top: Japanese bayberry (USDA), Bottom: Tree of Heaven (Gary Huntzinger, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension)
Top: Japanese bayberry (USDA), Bottom: Tree of Heaven (Gary Huntzinger, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension)

What seeds are welcomed and what are not?

Most seeds are accepted such as vegetables, edible plants, perennial plants, and most important, native plants.

“The only category of seeds I do not want is any plants that are considered invasive,” Goldman said.

Some examples of invasive plants include Japanese Wisteria, Japanese Barberry, Chinese Silver Grass, Winged Burning Bush (a common landscaping plant), and Norway Maple.

Many of these invasive plants are not from North America. They have been found to spread into New Jersey’s wild spaces which are not good for the animals and environment, he said.

All seed swappers will also take home a free gift from the Monmouth County Park System.

“I will have a few giant bags of native wildflower seeds that people are welcome to scoop from and take home,” Goldman said.

He’ll most likely have milkweed (which is known to attract monarch butterflies), Goldenrods, and some other pretty perennials. Seed swappers can take as much as they want of these seeds, he added.

Last year, about 30 people showed up to the first annual Monmouth County seed swap. Goldman said he hopes to at least double that number this year.

The more people, the more varieties of seeds could be available.

Some of New Jersey's Native Plants

New Jersey has more than 2,000 native plants in the state. But 350 of them are in a searchable database at www.jerseyyards.org. Here are some native plants you can find in the Garden State, some perfect for hummingbirds and butterflies and others for yard beauty.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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