Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Date HAS been set!

I have been bombarded with the question, "When are you having the 2011 Spring Plant Swap?" Well, I finally found a few minutes and researched when everything else is going on here in Charleston....It wasn't easy...April is a VERY busy time here in the Lowcountry. Well, The Date HAS been set! It is April 9th, here in Charleston.
Plant Swaps are really a lot of fun. They are cheap, inexpensive ways to increase your garden. With the economy the way it is, finding ways to save some money is very high on every body's list. Gardeners are no exception. There has been a lot of talk about plant swaps and seed swaps lately, I have been doing mine for 8 years now! Apparently, it's the new IN thing.
WHAT!?!? You have never been to or have heard of a plant swap? If there is not one in your area, Organizing a plant swap is actually very easy.
How do you get started?
First off, locate a good place to have one. A city park, somebody that has a really large yard or even a vacant parking lot. The key elements here are, easy parking, lots of room for plants, bathrooms, tables for food (more on that later) and if possible something for the kids to do.
Okay, you have the perfect spot, let's say a city park. Call the city and see if you need any kind of paperwork, most of the time you won't but better to check anyway. Find out if you need to have someone open the bathrooms or if they are always accessible. You might want to check on the parking situation. Somewhere in here you also need to pick a date and time. That way when you call the city you can ask if there is going to be any conflict. When considering the time, figure on set up, the actual swap and clean up. I have people start coming at 10am, (some actually start showing up earlier just to chit chat). They can bring their plants, mill around a little and look at the other plants and ask questions. The swap then starts at 11am. The way I do it, the whole swap is over in about 30 minutes (if that long). You can usually tell the city you will be long gone by 1pm.
Okay, you have the place, date and time. The next step is the big one. PUBLICITY!
I spend a total of about $2 on publicity. LOTS of time, but very little cash.
HOW you say?
First, start with websites. Gardenweb has places for swaps. and are also two very good places to post. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter any of the social networks are good. There might be others that I haven't heard about.
You can go to your local extension office. Every state has a Master Gardener program, touch base with them. Ask them to post it on their website or news bulletins. The local newspaper might have a Gardening Calendar that will post for free. Check to see if you have any small neighborhood newspapers, they might even do a story on it for you. Check with your friends and see if they belong to any Garden Clubs or Horticultural Societies, that is a great way to get the word passed around. Fliers, this is where I spend my $2. I create a flier, go to Staples and print out 25 or so. Post these at Libraries or any place that you see Yard Sale Signs. Make sure you have all the pertinent information on it, Date, Time, Place, What it is, how it works and a contact e-mail or phone number. You can also put directions on it if it is hard to find.

This is what mine looks like:

Come swap all those extra plants you have
April 9th 2011, 10am setup
Park Circle, by the Gazebo

More Information:

The Specifics
10am set-up and browse....11am swap...immediately afterwards...LUNCH!
Bring ALL your extra plants, if it grows, it will go!
Including Houseplants!
Also any garden related items, Hoses, Garden Art, Containers, Etc.
We are having it at Park Circle in North Charleston, by the Gazebo. There are picnic tables, bathrooms and LOTS of room for kids to play and even more room for plants, parking and food.
Pretty much everybody in Charleston is familiar with Park Circle....there are numerous ways to get to it, depending on which way you are coming. If you want or need directions, e-mail me, I will get it and respond ASAP.
The way we swap will be the basic Free For All. I will say go, everybody will grab ONE (1) plant and take it to their hiding area. After everybody has a plant, we repeat the process. Nice and Simple!
We will have plates and napkins and such, Please bring your own drinks and a covered dish for as many as you can. We like to do a Pot Luck style picnic and encourage everybody to stick around and participate. The socializing afterwards is as much fun as the swap itself, please try to give yourself enough time to stay and enjoy yourself!

Very straight forward. I couldn't get the clip art to show here, but, I have a picture of a woman handing over a plant.
Okay, the place, date, time and publicity is done. How exactly does the swap work?
I am sure there are numerous ways to do these things. I do mine quick and easy. The general free for all. This will sound chaotic, but I promise it works, remember I have been doing this for 8 years.
As the plants start arriving, put them all spread order, no groupings. Kind of like this:

This was just the beginning. Make sure you leave room in between plants for walking around room. Just keep spreading them around until everybody is there, right up to designated start time. Let folks wander around and look at all the goodies. Just before start time, ask if there are any questions about a specific plant. The person that brought it can probably tell you anything that is needed to know. You might be able to label some of the more exotic or lesser known plants. Having Master Gardeners around can be very useful here. I bring a magic marker and some extra labels to mark the plants that I grab so I know what to Google when I get home.
Then, if there are no more questions, have everybody step back a pace or two. Give them ready, set, GO! Have everybody take ONE plant. That is what the milling around is for, to find the first plant they want. Have them take it to a safe place, by their vehicle or just someplace away from all the action.
After everybody has grabbed a plant, and is back in position, do it again. After three or four rounds, have them grab two plants. Keep on going until all the plants are gone.
Sound like Chaos? It is to some degree, but it is also a lot of fun.

You will probably get some of the following questions:
How many plants should I bring?
A) As many as you want. I always bring lots of extras and usually take home very few. I have strange tastes and there usually isn't much that I want or need.
What should I bring?
A) If it grows it goes! You will see everything from showroom plants to stuff people just pulled out of the ditch. Houseplants, Bulbs, Perennials, Shrubs, Etc. I have seen some of the most dreadful looking plants be the first to go. It all depends on what they are, ugly rare will go before gorgeous usual.
I don't have very many plants, what else can I bring?
A) Garden Art, extra hoses, pots and containers, Garden Tools, anything Garden related. I have seen Chicken wire show up and be one of the first things snatched. They were going to make a compost bin out of it.

I also have anybody that wants to stick around afterwards and eat to bring food. Think Sunday social or picnic. Covered dishes. Tell them to bring enough food for themselves and a couple of other people. We have never run out of food. Have somebody bring plates and silverware. That's usually my mothers job. Also have them bring their own drinks, though we usually bring extra bottled water. The socializing after is as much fun as the swap itself.
Another tip is to get everybody's e-mail address.....use this for next year in the publicity department.
This what you are striving for:

I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the benefits and the appreciation from all the attendees will be worth it. Mine has been steadily growing every year, remember, word of mouth is a FANTASTIC,(free) publicity weapon. If you build it and they have fun, the word will get spread around.
What might be some of the benefits? It will be amazing what your neighbor down the street is growing that you had no idea would even grow where you live. Then there are the friendships that can develop because of a plant swap. Plus, you might just pick up that plant that you didn't even know you couldn't live without!
If you have any question, go ahead and ask....I am more than willing to help.....besides, if you are close enough to me, I might just show up to your swap!!
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. You are awesome!!! That is such a great idea. Holy cow, I have never thought of that and it's really easy to do. It would be so much fun to do something like that here...maybe not this year, but definitely the following year! Great idea....can't wait to hear how it all goes. Enjoy your Sunday:)