Swap seeds at the Monmouth County event this weekend

🌷 The Monmouth County Park System is holding its second annual seed swap on Saturday

🌷 No invasive seed species will be accepted

🌷 Place the seeds in plastic bags, label the name of the plant and the year of collection

ABERDEEN — Calling all gardeners!

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

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

Common milkweed is New Jersey’s “native poster plant” (Photo: www.jerseyyards.org)

Common milkweed is New Jersey’s “native poster plant” (Photo: www.jerseyyards.org)

What is the benefit of seed exchange?

It’s a great way to not only get seeds for free, said Jason Goldman, Monmouth County Park System park naturalist and coordinator of the seed exchange event.

Buying seeds for spring landscaping needs can be expensive, he said. When each packet of seeds costs anywhere from three to five dollars, it really adds up. Instead of spending all that money, this event will allow residents to get free seeds, which will lighten the wallet.

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

Japanese everyday life

AP Japanese wisteria

What should people know about seed swapping?

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

But if people can’t come in advance, don’t worry. Just show up the day of the event with seeds in hand, and Goldman said he’ll put them in their rightful places.

Seed Exchangers must place each type of seed in a sealed Ziploc bag labeled with the name of the plant, the year the seed was collected, where the seed was collected, whether it is from your garden, what city, park or garden center it is located in, and , if possible, a photo of the plant, Goldman said.

No photo is required, but he said he noticed last year that seed bags that had pictures of what the plant would look like got more attention.

Path through the goldenrods

Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

How many seeds should people carry?

A minimum of five seeds per item is required.

“But they are welcome to bring as many as they want. The more the better. The greater the variety, the better the exchange will be. I’ve had people come in with only five pumpkin seeds. But I’ve also had someone show up with a full gallon Ziploc bag of Goldenrod seeds,” Goldman said.

Top: Japanese bay tree (USDA), Bottom: Tree of paradise (Gary Huntzinger, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension)

Top: Japanese bay tree (USDA), Bottom: Tree of paradise (Gary Huntzinger, Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension)

What seeds are welcome and what are not?

Most seeds are taken as vegetables, edibles, perennials, and most importantly, native plants.

“The only category of seed I don’t want are 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 native to North America. They were found to be spreading in New Jersey’s wild spaces, which are not good for the animals and the environment, he said.

All who exchange seeds will also take home a free gift from the Monmouth County Park System.

“I’ll have some giant bags of native wildflower seeds that people are welcome to pick up and take home,” Goldman said.

It will most likely have milkweed (which is known to attract monarch butterflies), goldenrods, and some other beautiful perennials. Seed swappers can take as much of these seeds as they want, he added.

Last year, about 30 people showed up for 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 can 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. She can be reached at [email protected]

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