Free Seeds: How I got 19 Heirloom Varieties

FOR A VERY SMALL INVESTMENT, I WAS ABLE TO GET SEEDS FOR MORE THAN THREE QUARTERS of the vegetables I plan to grow this year. I invested $7 and got seeds for 19 varieties (actually many more if you count the ones I’m not going to grow).

What’s more, the $7 bought more than just run of the mill seeds. They’re mostly for heirloom vegetables and, in some cases, rare varieties that would have cost a pretty penny, that is if I was lucky enough to find them.

Here’s how I did it

First, I got three unusual heirloom tomatoes from the USDA Agricultural Research Service for free. It cost me absolutely nothing — not even postage – for these beauties. See the details of how I got free seeds at Rare Vegetable Seeds from U.S. Government. The interesting thing is I didn’t have to stop at three varieties. If I had room, I could have asked for more.

Second, I signed up for Dave’s Garden so I could begin seed trading and the gardening site sent me 29 packages of seeds. It cost me a $5 membership fee and almost $2 in postage for what they sent me. See Getting Started: Seed Trading and My “Kick Start” Seed Trading Package for the details on how it works. I’m going to try and grow 15 of the 29 they sent me and save the seeds from my garden so that I can donate them back to DG.

Third, I saved seeds from last year’s garden for four of the varieties that I liked. Last year was the second year I saved Brandywine tomato seeds. The Brandywine I saved seeds from was as big as a small pumpkin and wonderfully delicious so I’m hoping that this year’s plants will be even better.

Here’s a list of the varieties I got for almost free:

Varieties saved from my garden:

Caspian Pink Tomato
Brandywine Tomato
Italian Roma Tomato

Varieties from the USDA Agricultural Research Service:

IXL Bolgiano’s Extremely Early Tomato
Pomodoro Palla di Fuoco Tomato
Kwand His Hung Shih Tomato

Varieties from Dave’s Garden:

Moss Curled Parsley
Bouquet Dill
Bloomsdale Spinach
Chiaggia Beet
Romaine Lettuce
Red Sails Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Savoy Perfection Cabbage
Hollow Crown Parsnip
Mixed Colored Marigold

This is a lot more than I normally grow, especially if you take into account the 10 or so varieties I buy from seed catalogs.  I’m going to have to find the space, which won’t be easy.

Now if I could only figure a way to get seed potatoes at little or no cost. Unfortunately, I never have the self restraint needed to stop from eating all the potatoes that I grow.

Of course, getting seeds this way is a bit like going to Las Vegas … you place your bet and see if you win. I hope my odds are better than playing the slot machines … and I hit the jackpot.

If all this is too chancy or too much work for too little gain, you can order your heirloom vegetable seeds by using the link below. I make a small amount of money if you order them from Amazon using this link.

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds

I’m sure readers would like to know how you get your seeds on the cheap. Let me know your novel seed sourcing strategies by commenting below.

If you liked this post, you might like these:

1. Rare Vegetable Seeds from U.S. Government
2. Getting Started: Seed Trading
3. My “Kick Start” Seed Trading Package
4. Free Vegetable Seeds
5. Free Seeds from the Government

*If you buy using this link, I make a few cents, which helps me continue to write SHF.


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24 Responses to “Free Seeds: How I got 19 Heirloom Varieties”

  1. February 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    These are all great ideas! Add to you list, trading with other bloggers. That’s how we got a lot of different varieties of seeds to try out this year.

    PS, I am really enjoying reading your blog.

  2. February 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Trading with other bloggers is the best way to get seeds. I’m still looking for a sweet grape heirloom tomato, but I think I’ll have to get one from one of the online catalogs.

    • Tomato Lover
      March 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm #


      I have some extra grape heirloom seeds I could send to you if you still need them. They are “Sprite” certified organic seeds. I can send you 10 seeds if you let me know where to mail them.


      • March 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

        Joe — I’d love to give them a try. I’ll send you an email with my physical address.

        • Tomato Lover
          March 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

          Seed envelope ready to go out in tomorrow’s mail 🙂

  3. Heirloomer
    April 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    With regard to aquiring free seeds and seed trading, the best place of all, in my opinion, is “GardenWeb” ( Become a member (it’s free), set up your member page, then join the garden forums,…particularly the “Exchanges & Trading Seeds” forum. There, folks often offer free seeds to newbies and whoever else would like them. Then, when you’ve collected seeds from the plants you’ve grown, you can offer some up for trade for different seeds. You can offer commercial seeds as well. – GardenWeb is a great community of wonderful, generous, helpful, fun people!

    Oh, and for other free seeds, go to!

    • April 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

      Thanks for letting us know about GardenWeb and It’s great information.

  4. Milisa Hardin
    March 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Thanks for writing this. I am trying to start something this year where we grow enough not only for us but to donate to our local food bank. Any extra places to get seeds is great! Thanks for the info!

    • March 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

      Milisa — I received my seeds this year from the government about a week ago. I got three great heirloom varieties and will be starting seedlings this week.

  5. researcher
    March 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I’m a researcher with GRIN and a vegetable breeder. It specifically states that these seeds are not to be used for home gardeners, which you have stated they will be used for. Not only that but you are advertising this govt resource so others may do so as well. Anyway, I have your full name and your site which I will be passing onto the GRIN site, so they hopefully will not be sending you seeds again!

    • March 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      I’m glad that you commented on this site. It would be good to have an open discussion about GRIN’s specific policies. I’ve always been very clear about how I would be using the requested seeds. I would germinate and save seeds and write about it in Suburban Hobby Farmer. The GRIN representative that sent me the package noted this on the slip that was sent with the seeds.

      My question for you is what is the specific policy for providing seeds. I understand that GRIN does not want to be in competition with seed providers. But a backyard gardener who is growing and saving seeds from the rare varieties available from the government is in a way conducting research and keeping these rare breeds alive. Is this not the case?

      • Milisa
        March 26, 2012 at 9:18 am #

        While I know very little about the program I am left to wonder how is the government keeping these breeds alive and reporting on them any less valuable than what a home gardener would do?

  6. Milisa
    March 26, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Oh wait, Does the government profit from their research in any way?

    • March 26, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Milisa — These are two very good questions that only the people at GRIN can answer. I know that they don’t want to appear to be competing with commercial heirloom seed providers.

  7. April 25, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    The most fun seed trading I’ve ever done is at the facebook group called “Great American Seed Swap Project”. There are well over 2000 members and most varieties are organic, heirloom or both! Such wonderful happy and helpful folks there!

  8. Rhonda
    December 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    I have been trying for four years and have success with Toms, cucumbers, peppers, squash but iD like to branch out to pole beans but have limited space any suggestions… Oh I live in the south but have no luck with seeds. I don’t know when or how to start them in my house. When I transplant them they produce very little. Please help

    • December 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      Rhonda — Since you are in the south, you want to consider starting seeds in the house when it is too hot to start them in the ground. Some varieties do not handle southern planting very well and some do nicely. Depending on what you are growing you probably want to transplant in early winter for harvest in spring.

  9. Lisa Thomas
    March 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    I taste veggies at farmers markets and save those seeds! Beat harvest EVER last year!

    • March 22, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

      Lisa — Yes, especially heirloom tomatoes … eat the tomato and save the seeds.


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