What are heirloom seeds?

Very simply heirloom seeds conform to a few loose ‘ideals’. They are 1) Open Pollinated 2) They do not have any Plant Breeders Rights attached to them. 3) They (the variety) are generally older than 1950. 4) They have a history of being passed down from year to year with the seed being saved each year.

Do you supply seedlings of your heirloom seeds.?

Livingseeds is a specialist seed house and as such we only supply seed. Our focus is on growing and supplying the best quality seed. As we actually grow the seed ourselves we are unable at this point to grow out seedlings.

What is the mission of Livingseeds.co.za?

Our ‘mission’ if you would to call it that, is to provide heirloom and open pollinated seed to private gardeners and small scale market gardeners. Seed that can be harvested, and kept from year to year without the need for people to buy specialist seed from large corporations every year.

In addition to this, we would like to see people become more self sufficient and take back the ability to produce their own foods. Livingseeds and our sister site SelfSustainable.co.za is one way that we can assist in doing this.

Where does Livingseeds.co.za get their seeds from?

We are proud to say that Livingseeds is one of the few seedhouses in South Africa that produces almost all (over 95%) of our seed on our own property, a few lines are specially grown for us by one or two other seedhouses and are only offered via our site. This ensures that you are recieving seed that has been grown in local conditions and is not seed that has been imported and that may be subject to a restricted or experimental status.

We currently have well over 200 seed varieties in our repository and are expanding our catalogue on a monthly basis. Most new seed is released after about 2-3 years of work. This includes the initial planting, seed saving, a grow-out trial, and a final germination tests by ourselves.

Where can I get a hardcopy catalogue?

We unfortunately do not offer a printable catalogue for one specific reason.

Our seeds are locally grown and as such we do not have large quantities of seed available, we will often go out-of-stock on certain varieties quite often. (We can either grow a lot of seed of a few kinds or a small but regular supply of many varieties, we opted for the more exciting larger range)

In the past where people had access to a hardcopy catalogue, they would mail us an order and deposit money only to find that we were out-of-stock of certain items, this led to frustration and unhappy customers. We now only have an online catalogue (our website) that is generally pretty much up-to-date.

In addition, as we grow fresh seed every year, items come back in stock with the current years seed, which gives us some of the best germination rates in the country.

How does your seed count work?

Simple, the focus of Livingseeds is to supply seed that can be planted, the fruit harvested for consumption and seed saved from this fruit for the next years planting. This is the whole purpose behind heirloom and open pollinated seeds. We generally supply enough seed that if based on a 80% germination rate (which is poor) most families (i.e. 2.1 kids and a dog and a hamster) will be able to use or process all of the fruits in a single season. Then all one needs to do is take the seed out of a single fruit, the best looking of course, for the following season and you can plant as many as you wish…. at no cost to you for the rest of your life. That I think is a bargain.

The stated seed counts on the site and packaging is a minimum seed count, typically you will find between 10% and 50% more seed in each individual packet.

In addition to this there are certain varieties that require a minimum population to maintain their genetic diversity (Corn/mielies) are a very good example where 40 – 80 plants are required to ensure that the genetic diversity is carried over from year to year. We  supply enough seed for you to maintain this genetic diversity within your own planting, any less and we would be doing you a dis-favour and it would not be in keeping with the spirit of heirloom and open pollinated seed.

There is white powder in my bean seeds, are you treating the seed with chemicals?

Thank you for your email, the answer to your question is yes we are treating our seeds, and at the same time, no we are NOT using chemicals. Due to the way that we produce our seeds, we have two forms of seed treatment. the first is freezing (between 3 and 10 days) and the second is with Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Originally we only froze the seed and then packed the seed for sale. We have found however that it was not 100% perfect and the occasional bug did manage to survive the freezer. It's a bit disconcerting when a client phones and complains about weevils in their seed. 

Over the last two years we have been experimenting with DE on deliberately infected seed samples. (i.e. 100 seeds and 10 introduced weevils) and have found a >99% success rate. Which for us is fantastic as we are assured of not having to use chemicals to prevent insect infestations in our seed. 

From 2011 you will start seeing that most of our susceptible seed will have DE added. In addition the seed will be correctly frozen prior to DE treatment to make every effort to supply you with clean, insect free and viable untreated seed.

I have XXXXX variety of heirloom seed that I’m willing to sell you [Sean adds or trade] are you willing to buy from me?

This is an interesting question and it is open to discussion on a case by case basis, most of the seed that we have has been given to us as a direct gift in the tradition that heirloom seeds have come to represent. We encourage you to share your seeds with friends and family. They make a perfect Christmas of birthday gift, one that keeps of giving.

If you have a particularly unique seed and feel that a trade is required for you to share your seed, by all means please email or call us and we can discuss.

How do you post/ship your seed?

Please see our Shipping Information page

Do you allow visits to your farm?

Please understand that the nature of our business at this point does not allow us the luxury of visitors. We are a working farm that not only produces seed for this site, but we are also a fully functional farm that feeds our family on a sustainable basis. We do not have the staff, infrastructure or the time at this point to accommodate visitors. We are hoping that in the near future will be able to open our property to day visitors. Most likely this will be on one or two selected days to start with.

Do you ship outside South Africa?

Unfortunately, we no longer ship outside of our borders. Our percentage of missing international parcels exceeds 20% which for us is unacceptable. Your only option would be to get a local friend to order for you and ship on wards or collect seed on a visit to South Africa.


If you have any questions that you feel should be in this FAQ please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be glad to add the question (and the answer) to this list. Please drop us a mail