Monday, April 16, 2012

The Seed Lending Library

The Broome County public library, in Binghamton, new York, has started a Seed Lending Library.

"You can check out seeds at the Information Desk starting April 7th.  You will need a valid library card..."  The seeds are donated, and are organic.

There is no cost, and the seeds offered include tomato, radish, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, melon (noting melon can be a bit of a gamble crop here in upstate NY-I hope what they are offering is a short season variety) cilantro, parsley and broccoli.

Apparently some public libraries out in California have had similar programs.  I have a feeling BC Library is on the cutting edge.

The expectation is that people will save seeds from the best plants and give back to the library.  "however, you will not be penalized...."  I would hope not.  The reason given is that this is a new program. 

In a way, I have to be a little leery over the expectation that people will be expected to return seeds at the end of the year.

1.  Are people going to be educated as to exactly how to save seed and return at the end of the year?    It may be easy to save cucumber seed.  Parsley, not so much.  It is, after all, a biennial and the person has to be able to overwinter it.  There may be a similar problem with late cabbage in that the gardening season may be over by the time the cabbage bolts.  If they are community gardening, it may be impossible to keep the plants that long.

2.  Some items offered, such as eggplant, plus the aforementioned melon, are not easy to grow here.  Eggplant, especially.  I've tried to grow eggplant several times (from purchased plants!) with wildly varying success and I have about 35 years of gardening experience.  A couple of the offerings, I think, are just not good choices for beginners.

3.  Some veggies offered, such as cabbage and lettuce, don't bolt until the useful life of the plant are finished.  Again, people will have to be educated to this.  And, they will have to sacrifice the very best plants, to fulfill what is expected of them in the seed saving arena.

These, however, are quibbles and I hope this is a successful program.  With a little education, I think it can be.

Thank you, High Mowing organic seeds, for donating seeds to this program.

Do you have a seed lending program at your local public library?  Has it worked for your area?


  1. What an awesome project. Sharing and hoping that others will pick up on this.

  2. That's a fantastic Idea. I love community sharing aspect of it and I wish more people would catch on to it x

  3. I love this idea. What a great way to encourage local gardening.

  4. This is a FASCINATING program Alana - I've never heard of such a thing but it's brilliant! Thanks for expanding my horizons!

  5. We don't have a program like this at our library. But I think it would be such a great thing to begin. And then have a program for kids with a garden at the library or they could read books and take care of a garden at home. What a great idea.

  6. Just curious...
    What makes you think these seeds are organic? Do you know where the donor so acquired them? Or, that nefarious purposes (to dilute the stock) are not intended?

    I am not against the practice. Just against the belief in fairy tales.

  7. Everyone, thank you for your comments! Celebration: The paper library circular says "Seeds donated by High Mowing Organic Seeds." When I went to High Mowing's website, before writing the post, I saw that High Mowing shows a seal of USDA Certified Organic. I'm aware that there can be dispute about exactly what is "organic"; there is no guarantee that High Mowing's seed being donated is organic even if the seed they normally sell is. I do see some flaws in this well meaning program, too - besides the one I mentioned (some of these seeds would be difficult for a beginner or community gardener to propagate). There is no guarantee the library will get any seeds back and if so, if the seeds were propogated correctly. Still, I am glad they are trying, and for once, our library and our area seems to be on the "cutting edge."

  8. How cool! Thanks for sharing this. I went out to the internet to find out if we have such a program. We do, but not from the library. I love the idea!


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