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Australia has a problem in that most garden and building centers where you can buy seed usually only sell one or two brands and there is such limited variety e.g. beans, lettuce, tomato etc. Also, the country being isolated, there are several restrictions on what can be imported, etc.

For my own interest I would like to try growing a larger variety of vegetables. How can I go about finding alternatives to commercially available seeds or maybe heirloom varieties to try? I'm not looking for a specific retailer, but rather for the most logical place to look for alternatives.

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Per the suggestion in yoda's meta post, here's a chat room for anyone wanting to talk about seed vendors that offer a larger variety of seeds. –  bstpierre Nov 8 '11 at 19:26
    
@xiaohouzi79 I've reopened your question. I hope you understand why it was determined off-topic in the first place. Please chime in on this meta post if you have suggestions on what I've proposed. I fully understand that you folks have a unique issue, being isolated and all that and hope you get a good answer . I hope this version of the question is close enough to what you wanted to ask :) –  Lorem Ipsum Nov 9 '11 at 1:55
    
@yoda I don't understand why this was initially considered off topic. Can you explain for the benefit of all readers? –  Lisa Dec 19 '11 at 3:57
    
@Lisa See the meta post in the comment above yours. Also see this –  Lorem Ipsum Dec 19 '11 at 4:00
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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Being in Australia, I started out with exactly the same question, xiahouzi. I've found that in attending vege swaps (regular, moneyless, small community trading events), people are always swapping seedlings and seeds as well. This is a really useful way to source quality seeds, given they're simply backyard gardeners saving the seeds from their favourite veges.

I've obtained or given away seeds for beans, marigolds and mustard greens in this way already this season. And I've received or given away seedlings for Lebanese cucumbers, rosemary, Black Russian tomatoes, aloe vera, various lettuces, parsleys, basil and a foot-tall apricot sapling! That would give you an idea of how vigourous the swapping can be.

My local vege swap at West Croydon (which anyone is most welcome to attend if travelling through Adelaide) is one of Australia's best examples. See http://users.tpg.com.au/vegeswap

There is a list of regular swaps around Australia at http://www.ceres.org.au/node/114 but that information appears slightly outdated so you might have to do a bit of localised research or try to start your own local swap to proceed.

I'm not sure if the concept is widespread internationally, but if someone else knows, feel free to chip in and add to this answer.

UPDATE (24 Feb 2012): I've since discovered dedicated seed swaps are also occurring all over the country. If you can get in contact with one person from a local gardening or seed saving community you'll be pleasantly surprised at the passion for seed saving that occurs quietly without much reflection of that activity on the web.

Recently I went along to a local seed savers meeting and picked up a year's worth of vege seeds and some flower bulbs to attract the bees. Many of these were seeds you can't easily buy because they're the offspring of plants cultivated over many years by some dedicated gardener, shared in the gardening community and typically genetically distinct in some way that home gardeners prize.

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FYI mainstream media in Adelaide just did a story about the local vege swap I attend: adelaidenow.com.au/dont-ditch-swap-vegies-instead/… –  Lisa Feb 3 '12 at 6:17
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Take a look at Seed Savers Exchange. I don't know if they have any "branches" in Australia, but you may be able to find related/similar organizations where you can find a larger variety of seeds.

In the same line of thought, ask the vendors at a local farmers' market. (You'll probably have better luck if you aren't asking during the busy hour.) Look especially for growers who are selling "unique" or heirloom varieties. They may be able to point you to good sources for seed.

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There are import restrictions in Australia (as in most countries), to avoid spreading diseases, etc. Sources in other countries may not be useful - make sure they ship to Australia.

Simply googling for

vegetable seeds Australia

will bring you to a variety of Australian sources, including heirloom vendors.

Apart from that, hope for a fellow Australian with experience with particular vendors to answer.

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