Blog, Gardening

Sowing Seeds & Growing Community

Amber Shehan January 4, 2024

On saving, sharing, and buying seeds and planning wisely, and some thoughts on a gardening community.


I’ve been indulging in one of my favorite winter activities – dreaming of spring and planning the garden. Proper winter hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ve already thumbed through all my seed catalogs and assembled my want lists! I have to let the lists sit for a few days and then review them critically before I place an order so that I don’t get overexcited and bite off more than I can chew.

I’ve made a habit out of overenthusiasm. In years past, I’ve dived into seed ordering and garden planning with reckless abandon, making much bigger projects than I’ve been able to handle. This year is different. The Amber that I am today can’t keep up with that old, rambunctious energy! 

As much as I desire to grow and preserve food to feed my family and share with my community, I must be realistic about my limitations. I have a full-time job, a child in school, and multiple people with health conditions in my household that require consideration – including myself. My physical and mental state can’t wrangle a big garden and handle all the bounty it provides on top of my regular workload, nor will my sun allergy allow me to frolic outdoors for long.

I’ve joked on this blog for years about being a lazy gardener, but I have been using the half-assed practices that I’ve cultivated to help me plant a sustainable, food-based ecosystem that thrives with benign neglect. That means that I try to prioritize native plants whenever possible since they are more resilient to the local climate.

A Growing Community?

As an occasionally grumpy introvert, I have a difficult time asking for help or accepting anyone’s advice and meddling while I’m puttering in the garden. Still, the truth is that it is hard to do it alone. A lot of the nostalgia that people have about the “good ole days” comes back to the abundance of community and working with others – something often lacking in modern life. We have to open up to collaboration and break down the walls between us if we want to have a healthy network of friends and acquaintances who can rely on each other in tough times. 

So invite that one friend over to help you harvest the tomatoes next summer. Call a buddy over to help you can some jams or preserves – many hands make light work. Have a bottling day party the next time you have a big batch of mead to put away. Sow seeds together and harvest together. Now is better than never!

How much will this garden cost?

Before going overboard ordering seeds, sit back and consider your garden plans. It doesn’t matter if your garden is big or small. Whether you have a few pots of herbs on a windowsill or tilled acreage to work with, make sure you’re working within your means. You have to consider all aspects of your project – the financial cost, the physical cost, and the mental cost. What can you handle adding to your days? How much of a budget do you have to work with?

If you’re working on a shoestring budget, there are a few places to get cheap or free seeds. All you need after that is dirt and water!

Cheap or Free Garden Seeds

Organize a neighborhood seed swap! It is a great way to build a seed bank and build a community of like-minded plant people. Invite a few gardening friends over, have a tea party, and share extra seeds! 

Check with your local library! Many libraries have a seed bank where you can get free seeds for your garden. I’ll bet that if they don’t have a seed bank, the librarians can probably help point you toward some community resources.

Master Gardeners in your area can help. In the United States, there is an Extension Master Gardener program in almost every state. Master Gardeners and your local cooperative extensions can provide soil testing, advice, education, and even plant sales. If you need help finding resources for starting a garden, these folks might be able to lend a hand.

Best Places to Buy Seeds

Here are a few of my favorite sources for buying herb and vegetable seeds. Most of my picks are geared toward my home in Western North Carolina and southern Appalachia. You should choose seed companies that are from a climate similar to your own for the best results. 

Sow True Seed

This Asheville, NC-based company is my go-to for high-quality, local seeds. They are an employee-owned collective, and they have an amazing selection, very helpful staff, and do a good job of building community among gardeners. If you’re in southern Appalachia, check out their selection of heirloom seeds from this region.

Richters Herbs 

This Canadian plant company sells seeds, bare roots & bulbs, and live plants. They always have a wide variety of herbs, veggies, and flowers for a vast variety of climates. Their herb of the year for 2024 is Yarrow – one of my favorites! I’ve been working with and buying from this company for years and had only good experiences! Browse the Richter’s catalog online. 

High Mowing Organic Seeds 

Based in Vermont, High Mowing Seeds features organic, non-GMO seeds. They are a great resource for the discerning seed buyer. Shop High Mowing Seeds today!

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Amber Shehan

Hi! I'm Amber Pixie, and this is my site. Enjoy the recipes, information, posts, and please feel free to message me if you have questions!

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