Bloody Marvel Lettuce about to flower, June 2019, photo: Richard Galpin

Dear members and friends of the London Freedom Seed Bank,

Whether you’re new to seed saving, an established saver wanting to try out some new varieties, running a relevant community event, or keen on the politics of the seed trade, we’ve got it all for you this month.

First up, we’re excited to share with you a project which has been some time in the making. Last year, we teamed up with Global Generation for the Seeds For a Better World project. A key outcome of this collaboration is the London Mobile Seed Bank. A portable, interactive tool, the bank contains 20 of our favourite freedom seed varieties along with the stories of those who saved them. Artist-researcher duo Sara Heitlinger and Franc Purg made the bank with the Seed Sisters, young people working with Global Generation on seed politics and saving. The outcome is beautiful and has been enthusiastically received so far. We’ll be taking the bank to community events across London so get in touch if you’re hosting an event that might like it.

photo: global generation

Our featured variety this month is the experimental  Bloody Marvel Lettuce. Bred by our own Richard Galpin in Walworth, South London, it is inspired by research Bloody Cos variety, also known as Spotted Aleppo which originated in Syria in the 18th Century. The parent plants for Bloody Marvel were Marvel of Four Seasons and Majan Jaguar, selected through the 2017 Walworth Lettuce Trials for their suitability for London growing conditions. They were then manually cross-pollinated and the resulting cross selected for desirable characteristics – resilience, red flecks of colour, vigour and taste. This is only the third generation and so plants will vary considerably. Community gardens are being asked to help trial this variety and report back on the results, in a collective effort to develop a new London variety. Get in touch if you’d like to trial the next generation.

photo: Richard Galpin

New to seed saving?  Where to start?

If you are new to seed saving, but want to give it a go – it’s not too late for this growing season as some seeds can be saved from plants you are already growing for food. The easiest plants to save seeds are self-pollinated (the pollination happens within the plants’ own flowers, with no pollen being transported from another flower via wind or insects). Which means the seeds will grow to become a plant with the same characteristics as the parent plant – it comes ‘true to type’. So, the easiest plants to save seeds from are the following:

  • Tomatoes
  • French beans (not runner beans)
  • Lettuce
  • Peas

Initially grow just as you would for eating, and we’ll be posting more seed saving tips in the next newsletter, as the crops mature.

Reading on Seed

Here is our own Helene Schulze writing in Anthroposphere about some of her research into the UK seed saving scene:

Fostering concern for seed preservation is essential for the potential thriving of human and non-human life on Earth. By supplementing national and international seed banking networks, individual and community seed saving initiatives are taking this important conservation work into their own hands. [They show us how] resistance to corporate domination and resilience to climate change play out on a smaller scale.”

You can read the full article here

That’s all from us for now. Stay tuned for the next events we’ll be attending and hosting and as ever, let us know if you’re growing out our varieties. We’d love to see your pictures and feedback!

London Freedom Seed Bank team

Two seed swapping opportunities this weekend

Are you keen to get your hands on some London-grown, organic vegetable and flower seeds for FREE? The London Freedom Seed Bank will be taking seeds from our collection, grown by our network members, to a couple of events this weekend. Come and get your hands on some interesting varieties and find out more about what we do:

Biggin Woods Allotment Seed Swap, Saturday 23rd February, 1-3pm

@ St. Oswald Green Lane, Norbury, London SW16 3SB


OrganicLea Open Day (12-4pm) and Seed Swap (1.30-3pm), Sunday 24th February

@ OrganicLea, 115 Hawkwood Crescent, Chingford, E4 7UH

OrganicLea’s monthly Open Day features a whole host of activities including a family art & craft session, farm stall, locally-produced lunch, coffee and cake, and site tours. For more details:

We hope to see you there!


Out and about in February

The London Freedom Seed Bank will be out and about in February. We will be taking our collection of locally-grown, organic seeds to three upcoming events taking place in London. Come and find out more about what we do and pick up some seeds to take home.

Incredible Edible Lambeth’s Seed Swap, Saturday 9th February, 12-3pm

@ the Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB

The Seed Swap will be held in the main nave space of the museum. Please let front desk know that you are coming for the Seed Swap and entry is free. Bring seeds to share. Free seeds from Franchi Seeds will also be available.


Walworth Garden’s Seed Day, Sunday 17th February, 11am-4pm

@Walworth Garden, 206 Manor Place, SE17 3BN

A free day of training about why save seeds, how to save seeds, and a guide to successful seed sowing. Booking open to Lambeth and Southwark residents only: 


Seed day poster


OrganicLea’s Open Day, Sunday 24th February, 12-4pm 

@ OrganicLea, London E4 7UH

The Seed Swap will be held at OrganicLea’s monthly Open Day. There will also be delicious lunch, cake and drinks available, plus kids activities, farm stall and site tours. 





Join us at IEL’s annual Seed Swap – Sat 9th Feb

Come and join us at Incredible Edible Lambeth’s annual Seed Swap at the Garden Museum on Saturday 9th February from 12-3pm.

Are you keen to get your hands on some seeds that have been grown and saved in London using organic principles? This could be your chance! The London Freedom Seed Bank will be there with a selection of seeds saved by our network members including heritage tomatoes, lettuces, beans and pollinator-friendly flowers.

If you are interested in learning about how to save the seeds from your favourite vegetable crops then some of our network members will be on hand to answer your questions. We are also looking for donations for the seed bank so if you have surplus quantities of any seeds that you have saved then please bring them along.

Incredible Edible Lambeth (IEL) have secured a large donation of seeds from Franchi Seeds, a reputable Italian seed distributor, and will be giving these away for FREE!

For more info:

We hope to see you there!

Seed Saving in South London – Tues 20th Nov.

We warmly invite you to join us for a Seed Saving Evening at the South London Botanical Institute on Tuesday 20th November from 6.30-9pm.

We will be screening the Seeds of Freedom documentary, sharing top tips on how to start saving, and hearing from Richard Galpin about his experience breeding new lettuce varieties. Richard will also be demonstrating his DIY Seed Cleaner, built using an Open Source design on the Real Seeds website – come and see it in action!

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For tickets, please go to the Eventbrite page.

We are happy to be collaborating with Incredible Edible Lambeth and the South London Botanical Institute on this event.

Three seedy events in October not to miss

We’re delighted to share news of three seedy events coming up in October:

Screening of Seed: The Untold Story, Monday 15th October, 4.15pm, at the Bertha Doc House. Melanie Fryer from the Gaia Foundation will be joined by food activist Anna Lappe for a Q&A afterwards

Talk: A food revolution starts with seed, Tuesday 16th October, 11am-12.15pm, at the Bargehouse Gallery. 9 out of 10 bites of food we take owes its origin to seeds. And yet seeds are often overlooked in discussions about our food system. As part of a full-day of exciting events organised by the Land Workers Alliance, learn how small-scale seed producers are boosting the quality and amount of locally-adapted, organic seed as part of Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme.

Both of these events form part of a busy programme surrounding the launch of the Gaia Foundation’s photographic exhibition, We Feed the World

Seed Swap at the Jetty, Saturday 20th October, 12-3pm. Learn about seed saving and swap seeds for the season ahead. Come in the last hour and enjoy a tour of this quirky, floating garden. This event is organised by Urban Growth Learning Gardens.

London Freedom Seed Bank is happy to support these promise-to-be-excellent events.

Peas and Solidarity!



Skip Garden Harvest Festival, 22nd September

Join us at the Skip Garden on Saturday 22nd September for their Harvest Festival. Come and celebrate the bountiful harvest and learn about seed saving at this time of year too. Enjoy a delicious afternoon tea prepared by the wonderful community kitchen, stalls packed full of homemade produce, and drop-in activities to keep the littles ones busy.

Tours of the garden will be taking place throughout the afternoon, lead by the Skip Garden’s Seed Sisters, a group of young women dedicated to raising awareness about seed saving and heritage.

Charlotte from the Freedom Seed Bank will be sharing her knowledge about the theory and practice of seed saving, and seeds from the bank will be available for people to take home for free.

Tickets are FREE but must be reserved in advance, here:

We hope to see you there!




How to start seed saving workshop – 1st Sep

Come and learn about the basics of saving your own seed with Charlotte Dove from the London Freedom Seed Bank, on Saturday 1st September at The Albany in Deptford. 

Learn the basics of saving your own seed from common vegetables, herbs and flowers. Saving seed is a great way to become more self-sufficient, to save money and to grow healthier, more vigorous crops which are adapted to your local environment.

You will learn top tips for saving and storing your seeds correctly and have a go at some practical seed saving activities.

Seeds from the London Freedom Seed Bank, grown and saved in London, will also be available for you to take home for free.


Inspiring talks & a garden tour

We are hosting a Network Get-together on Wednesday 23rd May at St Luke’s Community Centre from 7-8.30pm. If you are already a member of the Freedom Seed Bank Network or you’re interested in finding out more, then please come and join us.
The evening will feature talks by our network members, plus drinks and nibbles, and a tour of the St Luke’s ‘Edible Yard’
Our speakers on the night are:
Helene Schulze, co-director of LFSB, writer and editor 
Here’s an intro from Helene…’Why do we save seed? Last summer I did my masters research on UK seed savers. The premise was simple: visit savers in their gardens and greenhouses, over cups of tea and packets of seeds, and talk. I wanted to know what their motivations were, how saving seed changed their relationships to the soil and their surroundings, what it meant it meant to them and whether they felt themselves part of a larger, global community of seed guardians. I returned with a wealth of tales far too long to squeeze into a dissertation and I would like to share them with you.’ 
Maria Precedo, Seed Guardian for the Heritage Seed Library 
Will speak about her seed saving journey and her work with the Heritage Seed Library 
Marco Bottignole, Community Gardening Officer at St Luke’s Community Centre
Will talk to us about the seed saving that they have been doing at St Luke’s and explain why he’s passionate about seed saving 
The full address is St Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central St, London EC1V 8AJ.
Please email to reserve a space. We hope to hear from you! 

Berlin’s pedal-powered seed bank

Reflections on the affinities between the SeedBike and the London Freedom Seed Bank

As urban seed savers, we are confronted with a very particular host of challenges. Our London gardens, balconies and allotments are not known for their abundance of space. The unique London microclimate and awkward clay soils, suffering under hundreds of years of construction and pollution has not led to a wealth of London veg varieties. Packed so tight with other growers, avoiding cross-pollination is tricky to say the least. Cross-pollination occurs when a plant pollinates a plant of another variety. This combines the genetic material of both plants and produces seeds with characteristics from both parent plants. These seeds are not true-to-type and so cannot be saved as such. Preventing this our little gardens is difficult stuff!

This has not stopped us though. The more you look for greenery, the more you realise that our city is bursting with potential in concrete nooks and crannies. Whether pots of herbs piled high on balconies or meticulously tended Estate communal veg patches, Londoners want to grow their own food. Increasingly, I am convinced, they want to close that loop completely and save their own seed too.

A few weeks back I met Hanna Burckhardt and Svenja Nette from the SaatgutRad, or SeedBike, in Berlin. Sat over packets of fresh seed in the office of the Prinzessinnengarten, the community garden where they are based, we realised that their SeedBike and our London Freedom Seed Bank (LFSB) were confronted with quite similar issues.

The SeedBike is a new project launched this spring. Observing and adapting the folding mechanism of sowing or tool boxes, the team built their own XL version which was mounted on a bike. The structure folds into a handy wooden box as it is cycled around the city.


(Illustration by Viktoria Spittler)

Travelling to allotments across the city, the SeedBike wants to facilitate both seed and knowledge sharing. Packed up in many small jars, they provide an expansive range of seeds as well as much information material on the importance of crop biodiversity and the practicalities of seed saving. One of their key struggles, the pair tell me, is the bulk of information they feel they need to provide.

Seed saving is not necessarily easy business, they argue, and it is not to be taken lightheartedly. When you choose to grow and save seed from a rare variety, you become a custodian of that genetic heritage. That is serious stuff. Particular varieties often require quite specialist care in order to ensure seeds are true-to-type. I enjoy this attention to detail and the seriousness with which the pair approach this work.

It has me thinking. Much of my own work in the food and seed movement over the passed few years has been around accessibility: how can we get more people with their hands in the soil? How can we make sure that everyone who eats food feels themselves to be part of a food movement for tastier, healthier, more socially and ecologically just food? How do we make these issues easier to engage with? I thought the more people involved, the better our chances.

For the most part, I still stand by these concerns. But I also think it is worth stressing that saving seed, particularly of rare varieties, is important and sometimes tricky work. It requires care. The question is: how do you balance valuing seed saving as specific, challenging work whilst also being accessible and encouraging more people to save seed?

The challenge is to not put people off. Novices, such as myself, should feel themselves motivated to really learn about these plants and learn how best to nurture them.

In terms of access to information, the SeedBike is working on creating an online database of advice and guidelines. With seed packets, growers are given a questionnaire to complete what went well, what was tricky and what tips they could pass on. This will at some stage be gathered into an interactive section of their website. Our own seed bank is increasingly collecting this kind of information also and some kind of easily-accessible online or physical collection of this information is certainly something we should think about.

For now the bike travels around the city to hold seed saving seminars in allotments but the team hope to expand their reach to schools and other food-growing spaces in future. Interestingly, and different to the LFSB, they are not targeting community gardens. Our logic is that we need only one community gardener to join our workshops, to get a whole garden saving seed. Knowledge is passed on. Their logic in focussing on allotments is that they are frequently ignored in much of the attention given to urban agriculture. Many allotment gardeners are of older generations with many years of food growing experience under their belts. These make ideal, knowledgeable candidates for saving seed.

The SeedBike has only its maiden journeys behind it so they cannot yet speak of that many experiences. With a busy summer ahead of them and big plans for the future though, I am excited for what stories they will tell the next time we meet. We are both necessarily small projects, our reach extends just to London and Berlin city boundaries, respectively. Because of our similar urban contexts and differences in experiences, I think there is real potential for fruitful skill-sharing between our networks and perhaps some future collaborations. At the very least, I will make sure to bring some LFSB seeds to our next meetup for an exchange.

By Helene Schulze, Co-director of the London Freedom Seed Bank

(Main image credit: