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Garden Q&A: What to do with those extra seeds? Share or trade your bounty on National Seed Swap Day

Q: Seed packets always seem to have way more seed than I’m going to be able to grow any one year. Is there a source for smaller amounts? I don’t want to waste it but it would also help my budget go further if I’m just getting what I need for this year.

A: Regarding both veggie and flower seeds, many store well for a year or more after you purchase them, so in those cases you can keep what you don’t sow for another season. Store them in a sealed container in a cool, dry location. Or, see if neighbors or friends (or community garden plot members) want to make use of the extra.

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National Seed Swap Day is coming up soon, offering perfect timing for gardeners looking to supplement their seed supply. Photo by

National Seed Swap Day is coming up soon (always the last Saturday in January) — good timing for gardeners looking to supplement their seed supply, who have extras to donate, or who want to trade so, as you point out, you can just get what you need without having extras to store. Local UME Master Gardener web pages or the Master Gardener Coordinators in your county may have information about seed swaps happening near you. Public libraries, public gardens, area garden clubs, and social media can be other good sources of information or places to trade.

Another option, if you have the space, time, and resources, is to sow the full complement of seeds and either donate the surplus harvest, share with neighbors, or trade crops (either potted or once harvested) so you can get a few fresh veggies or cut flowers to diversify your own bounty.

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Q: I took a leaf cutting to propagate a new houseplant and it worked, but am not sure what to do with the leaf piece once new baby leaves have appeared. Does it stay? Should it be cut off? It looks good so far.

A: Congratulations! I find this type of propagation fun to watch and rewarding, since it uses so little of a plant. Begonias, peperomias, and African violets are commonly used for leaf propagation.

The original “mother” leaf can be kept as-is until it falls off on its own (or, since it won’t really fall per se, since it’s touching the soil already, until it can be easily pulled off as the attachment points wither or decay). By keeping it attached, its nutrient reserves can be absorbed by the young plant before it shrivels and disintegrates on its own due to age.

How slowly or quickly that process occurs is hard to predict; sometimes the original leaves from a successful leaf cutting (of any houseplant) can survive for weeks or months, especially in high humidity or on succulent plants. As long as it looks healthy and holds firm when gently tugged, it can stay. Plus, if the leaf is hard to detach without damaging the new plant, it’s probably best to let it remain so you don’t cause more harm than good. If it’s decaying but won’t detach, trim off what you can as close as you can get without damaging the young roots or new foliage. With good air circulation to discourage molds and fungal rot, this die-off of the “mother” leaf usually doesn’t cause any problems.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Extension” to send questions and photos.


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