History and FAQ

Southampton Seed Swap was founded in 2006 by Ziggy Woodward, a local organic gardener and one of the founders of The Art House.

Inspired by ‘Seedy Sunday‘ in Brighton, this annual  event brings gardeners together, not only to share seeds but ideas as well.

When does the event happen?

Southampton Seed Swap happens every February, usually the weekend after the Brighton event.

Why swap seeds?

Over the past century we have lost 97% of our vegetable varieties in the UK alone. A handful of corporations now control a quarter of the world’s entire seed market – the very same corporations that are pushing their GM ‘products’ into our homes and on to our tables.

For most of human history, we haven’t bought seeds but saved them, meaning that growers had access to a wide range of plant species, ideally suited to their local climate and soil.

Agricultural supply companies are in the business of persuading farmers and growers to buy things which they formerly produced themselves, including seeds. This has brought about dramatic changes in the kinds of plants we grow. Seed companies sell most of their seeds to commercial growers, so it pays them to focus their resources on developing a relatively small number of varieties.

Since the 1970s, UK and EU legislation has unintentionally exacerbated the decline in traditional varieties of fruit and vegetables by having “National Lists”, which limit the varieties that can be legally bought and sold. This means that any variety that is not ‘Listed’ is illegal to buy or sell it. This is why seed swaps, where unlisted varieties change hands, do not charge for seeds, but ask for a donation to cover costs.

The idea behind seed swaps is to preserve biodiversity by encouraging gardeners to save seeds.

What happens at the Seed Swap?

The swap table is a centerpiece of the event, and is usually staffed by Ziggy and Keith, who are both experienced organic gardeners and happy to give advice.

There are also stalls, covering all sorts of things which gardeners may like from plants to environmental and ethical campaigns.

This year, we plan to have speakers or films at The Art House after the main event finished at 3.30pm

What if I don’t have any seeds to swap?

Don’t worry!  You can also make a donation in exchange for seeds.

What’s with the pirates?

Farmers who save seed instead of buying new seeds every year have been accused by global seed giants of ‘Seed Piracy‘.   We think this is whack.  So we dress like pirates (also, we like dressing like pirates – aaaar!)

Where is it?

See our contact/find us page for full information on how to find the swap and details about accessibility and other facilities.

Can I bring children?


Will there be food at the event?

There will be no catering at the event itself, however The Art House will be open serving lunch and takeaways all day, and we are just across the road.

Can I have a stall?

Please fill in our stallholders expression of interest form here.

Who funds the Seed Swap?

This is a self-funded event, which means all of the costs have to be covered by the entry charge of suggested £2, donations, and stall fees.  Any surplus money raised goes towards funding the follow year’s event, and a small donation is made each year to the Heritage Seed Library.

Please consider supporting this splendid event by making a donation of any amount now.


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