I was reminded last week that this has been taken to a much higher level by our good friends at the Almonte Public Library. The Almonte Seed Lending Library was started in July of 2014 and it has already seen remarkable growth – in the spring and summer of 2015 more than 1,500 packets of seeds were shared with seed library members – and those members now number more than 125. Seeds continue to come back to the library as garden harvests have been completed.
The following photos from 2015 provided by the library show Shannon, the student volunteer sorting seed packages before the seed library opening, an example of a package of flower seeds donated by a Pakenham gardener, seed packages alongside their corresponding seedlings on display at the Farmer’s Market, and Promoting the Seed Library at Dandy Fest.
The seed library concept as a public library initiative started more than ten years ago by a New York State librarian and since than has blossomed in public libraries, arriving in Lanark County at the Perth Library in 2013 and in Almonte in 2014. Borrowers check out a package of seed for free at the library, plant them and let them grow to maturity. They are then encouraged to save some of the seeds from the harvest to bring back to the library where they will be packaged for next year.
As I mentioned last week, many seed packets contain enough seeds to produce many more plants in a year than I could conceivably want or have space to grow, for example I only have room for 12 celery plants, not 50. But I find it extremely wasteful to throw out partial seed packets knowing that seeds will remain viable for many years. And often I will purchase larger packets of seeds than I need for one year, since often for twice the price I’m getting four times the number of seeds. These present opportunities to share with others by becoming a member of the seed library.
It is important to bear in mind that it is not possible to save seeds from plants grown from hybrid seeds – the operative type of seeds are ‘open-pollinated’ ones. It is also possible to plant seeds that have been around for a while. The following are approximate ages at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool dry conditions will still provide a satisfactory rate of germination:
-Beans – 3 years
-Beets and Swiss chard – 4 years
-Cabbage Family – 5 years (includes broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts)
-Corn –1 to 2 years
-Cucumbers – 5 years
-Eggplant – 5 years
-Onions – 1 to 2 years
-Parsnip – 1 to 2 years
-Peas – 3 years
-Peppers – 4 years
-Pumpkin – 4 years
-Squash – 5 years
-Tomatoes – 4 years
The library has also been doing wonderful things on the education front. Joining forces with the Neighbourhood Tomato in the spring four lectures on organic vegetable gardening were held with capacity audiences. Other seed-saving workshops have been held as well as a Tastiest Tomato Contest in late August. Your modest scribe admits to having placed first in the People’s Choice category with the Sun Sugar cherry tomato.
If you have seeds to donate, put them in a jar, an envelope or a zip-lock bag and drop them off at the circulation desk in Almonte. You can also become a member – ask at the circulation desk. If you want to join the volunteer helpers call Karen at 613-256-1037.
To me this is just one more remarkable example of how much more is possible when we come together as a community!