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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Swapping Plants

Spring is right around the corner...right?!  We had a few crocus and daffodils blooming before our last round of winter weather and made me itching to get in the flower beds.  The dogs and kids kind of wrecked them all last summer.

Another local farm mom and I have been co-hosting a plant exchange for the at least the last 10 years.  Since I am so cheap, I love this.  I have an entire flower bed that I have spent less than $30 to fill because I have been given so many plants in these exchanges over the years.


Co-hosting with Vickie seems to work great for us.  She is close to the same age as my parents and has lots of friends with wonderful established flowerbeds that are ready to be thinned and cleaned out.  I have younger friends that are just starting to garden and will literally take almost anything to plant in their flowerbeds.

We both have hosted at our homes which makes it nice that your lawn doesn't have to look perfect every year.  (Mine never does, Vickie's always looks magnificent.)

We usually have the gathering outside unless it is raining.  We have moved it into the barns a couple of time (a definite perk of being a farm wife.)


Everyone is told to bring 3-5 starts of plants from their yard.  We suggest throwing them in shoe boxes, butter tubs, solo cups...anything that will keep the roots from drying out during the party.

We are serious about not potting plants.  Vickie usually has tubs FULL of plant starts in water and guests can take a couple and put them in a plastic grocery bag until they get home to plant.  Mine are stuffed into anything I can find including tin cans.  We try to have it early enough in the afternoon that guests can go home and plant.  Here is what we took to exchange in 2013.
The boys always pitch in afterwards to help me get things planted and watered.

We try to have a few tables, but the bulbs always seem to take over half the yard.  My mom always brings 6-8 colors of iris in big buckets...enough that everyone can have some.

Trees and shrubs have been popular recently even this one...

A Nut Tree!!  LOL  I love my friends with a sense of humor and sarcasm.

Pictures are always good or at least a book to show what the blooms will look like.

Set Up

I try to have signs like a garden store, so guests know where the plants will grow best.  We focus on perennial plants, but often we have friends that have started some annuals or vegetables from seed that want to exchange and/or share the bounty of their green thumb.
  • Sun
  • Shade
  • Ground Cover
  • Bulbs
  • Trees/Shrubs
  • Herbs
  • Vegetables
  • Annuals

 I always try to have extra bags, labels, pots, plastic cups, boxes, pens, labels, markers, etc to help the guests out when the exchange starts.

The Swap

We have been blessed with a very giving group.  Most bring way more than their required 3-5 plants.  We like to give everyone at least 30 minutes to get their plants in the correct place, to ask each other questions about their contributions, and of course have some refreshments before we start the exchange.   I control the swapping by letting everyone take one and making sure everyone has their first pick before they take another.  When we get to the 5th or 6th selection it becomes a very controlled take anything you would like (please don't leave them behind...I will get tires before I get them all planted!!)

There is always a huge selection left when everyone leaves that I take to my friends that are heartbroken they have to miss the exchange.  The leftovers may not be what they would pick, but they always seem excited to have something new for their garden for free.  (Free always makes me happy  :D)
I think over the last 10 years there are only 3 plants that I purchased in this entire bed!  I moved all of these last year and they looked great until the dogs found the fresh soil.  Dog digging prevention is first on my list of gardening this year.
We usually wait until the end of April or the first of May to hold the swap, so there is plenty of time for you to plan your own (especially if you are once again covered up with snow like we are)!  I will try to remember to take pictures of this years swap and share them with you later.

-A  Kansas Farm Mom