by Leah Allen
A seed library, or a seed lending program, is an excellent community practice in sustainability. Seed programs are popular and gaining momentum in the last few years, rewarding their communities with collections of seed stock that thrive in their climate.
What is a seed library? It’s exactly how it sounds – a program where gardeners can borrow seeds at no cost with the understanding they’ll save the seeds from those plants at the end of the growing season and return to the seed library (but you really don’t have to).
Besides the obvious perk of saving money when participating in a save and share seed program, it also encourages healthy living and lessens our dependence on the booming mainstream agribusiness. In other words, a seed library is keeping it fresh and local.
Our local seed lending program is located on the top floor of the beautiful Wheeler Library on Main Street. If you’re new to seed saving, it’s never been easier to get started. To borrow seeds, borrow only what you can use. Recommended beginner seeds include beans, basil, sunflowers, and peas.
Seeds which would be considered more advanced are those like eggplant, peppers and tomatoes because they have a long growing season. Plants with a long growing season need to be started 6-8 weeks early and babied. Onions should be started by the end of February.
Educating yourself about the difference between heirloom seeds and hybrid seeds will be helpful when getting started. Some tricky seeds require special planning to preserve varietal purity. If certain precautions are not taken, then the next grower will not get the same plant. It’s important that the seeds that are returned to the seed library are exactly what they claim to be. So seeds designated as “hybrid” don’t need to be returned.
Additionally, if you have been growing the same plant for generations, the seed lending library would be an excellent place to donate seeds, to play your part in spreading local heirloom plants.
Diana Hunt of North Stonington spearheads the Wheeler Library’s seed lending library. As she organized the library with a team of volunteers this past Wednesday, she noted that when you continue to plant and harvest your own seeds, you cultivate a variety of plant particular to your growing environment by the fifth year.
One of the best ways you can learn more about seed saving is talking to experienced seed-saving gardeners. Many have vast knowledge and invaluable advise that will be helpful when getting started.
Please always remember that even the most established gardeners were once beginners at one point in their life. They asked questions too! Don’t be afraid to pick the brain of an accomplished seed saving gardener and collect all the tips you can.
Also, you can read about seed lending – there are beautiful seed catalogues located at the seed library in addition to related books that can be checked out at the circulation desk downstairs. For those living online, you can join the forum at seedsavers.org and/or check out www.seedsaversalliance.org for all other seed saving resources.
Growing plants from seeds is such an awesome experience. Nothing tastes sweeter than the fruits of your own labor, not to mention the pure joy that comes from nurturing a plant from seed. When you participate in the local seed library you create a culture of sharing and abundance in addition to preserving our agricultural heritage.
Information about Wheeler Library can be found at www.wheelerlibrary.org
Wheeler Library Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10 A.M. – 4 P.M.
Tuesday, Thursday 10 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Saturday 10 A.M. – 1 P.M.
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