Tag Archives: community supported gardening

Seed Library Update

Isn't it cool how seed packets fit perfectly in the old card catalogues? (Photo by David Woolley)

Old card catalog file turned into new seed library! Brilliant! (Photo by David Woolley)


About two and a half years ago I wrote a post on our first local seed library. It was installed at the public library in Manitou Springs, Colorado by David Woolley and Natalie Seals.

Here’s the replay on what a seed library is, if you haven’t been to one yet:

“. . . it’s a place where you can check out packets of seeds–flowers, vegetables, and herbs—to plant. In return you’re asked to donate seeds from your future harvest; usually twice as many seeds as you checked out. To some, having to harvest seeds may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t difficult. Many seeds, such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, radishes, and quite a few species of flowers, are easy to save . . . and one tomato or sunflower can produce enough seeds for many return seed packets. (If you’re still unsure, there is a lot of information online and in books on seed saving.)

What is exciting is that people begin saving and sharing their locally grown (and hopefully organically grown) seeds. It makes for stronger genetic stock that is adapted to local growing conditions. It helps people who can’t afford seeds to grow gardens, and it creates diversity, because if the library is successful many, many people will participate and share. Probably the most exciting aspect is that we can reclaim the power of owning our own seed stock and won’t have to re-purchase seed every year or be dependent on outside companies. There are myriad other benefits, but these are the ones that come to mind first. Viva la backyard farmer!”

Now for the update:

For the last three growing seasons I’ve enjoyed this library. I’ve “checked out” seeds, grew them in my garden, and returned seeds from my own harvests.  I’ve made it a point to return at least triple what I took each year. This year I brought in almost 40 packets of seeds from heirloom tomatoes, snapdragons, calendula, lettuce, hollyhock, Italian flat-leaf parsley, garlic chives, and more. Everything I bring back is organically grown and local, and that makes me feel great about being a part of this.

How’s the library doing? Well, I haven’t been able to have an in-depth talk with Director David Woolley, though I did speak with him briefly after a very well-attended talk on backyard gardening a couple of weeks ago. Woolley said the seed library was doing very well. There were many people coming in and getting seed packets. They were excited to be gardening. “Were there any problems?” I asked. Yes, he said, they are struggling a bit with getting in enough donations. There are too many who take out seeds and don’t bring back donations.

I told him I’d be happy to help, to send a few emails out to seed companies and ask them for donations. He said it was a little more complicated than that with the big seed companies, as you have to fill out paperwork, and show that the seed is going to a nonprofit. (Always, the bureaucracy!) I haven’t been able to connect with him yet to move further on this, but I wanted to get this post out today, to ask readers if perhaps they had connections with any seed companies (or perhaps seed from last year that won’t be used, or home-grown seed) for donations.  I imagine there are a lot of backyard farmers who would love to share.

A gentle reminder to those who might have forgotten to repay this service with a donation—free seed libraries will only work if we all pitch in. I know it can be intimidating, saving seed for the first time, putting them in packets and labeling them, but trust me, it’s easy! And once you do it, it becomes pretty fun.

If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll come and check out the library. You don’t have to live in Manitou Springs as it’s open to the entire region. You don’t even have to have a library or an I.D.! How cool is that?

Check out their website for full details. There’s a wonderful FAQ written by Natalie Seals that details the process.

See you at the library!

—Sandra Knauf

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Filed under DIY, Power to the People