What Are Seed Libraries and How Do They Work?

Even if you don't already have a green thumb, your library can help you get started growing flowers, herbs, fruits, and veggies.

Start your garden for free with help from your library.

We’ve talked about unconventional libraries before, and while places like the Napa Wine Library are typically one-offs, not all unconventional libraries are quite so rare. Take, for example, seed libraries. Though they’re not as common as standard public libraries, there’s a fair chance you live within drivable distance of a seed library.

If you, like many people, haven’t heard of seed libraries before, we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know about seed libraries, how they work, and why you should use them.

What Are Seed Libraries?

Seed libraries are exactly what they sound like—a place where anyone can borrow free seeds to plant. Gardening is a wonderful hobby that just about anyone can pick up, and seed libraries are the perfect entry point.

Because they deviate quite a bit from more conventional library offerings, you can’t find seed libraries everywhere, but with a bit of research, you should be able to find one in your general vicinity.

Once you’ve found a seed library, take a look around! Seed libraries offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants. Each seed packet comes with helpful growing instructions to make things as easy as possible and, in some cases (like at the North Brunswick Public Library), an indicator to show how challenging the plant is to grow.

Plus, with gardening enthusiasts and literature both readily available, finding answers to your gardening questions is a piece of cake! The convenience and versatility of seed libraries make gardening a more accessible hobby than ever, so give it a shot next time you get the chance.


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How Do They Work?

Of course, there’s the obvious question: How do you borrow a seed? The Eckerd College Seed Library explains how the process works.

The word borrow is something of a misnomer here; it’d be more accurate to say you’re just replenishing the seed library’s stocks. Once you’ve picked out some seeds, you can take them home, plant them, and tend to them like you normally would. After the plants have grown, you retrieve a few of the seeds from your crop and return them to the seed library.

If you want to go the extra mile for your local seed library, you can save some extras for yourself as well. Next growing season, you can plant those seeds instead of borrowing, harvest seeds from the crop, and then donate them to help expand the seed library’s stock even further.


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Why You Should Use Seed Libraries

All of this brings us to one very important question: Why does all this matter, and why should you use your local seed library? The answer is simple: It benefits not only you and your hobby but also the community as a whole.

Public access to a diverse collection of seeds has countless positive impacts on the community and environment, from preserving biodiversity and local flora to allowing people to discover otherwise rare plant varieties. Preservation of local flora is especially important in this day and age, with invasive plant species often wiping out the plants that make our areas unique and harming the local fauna as a result.

Seed libraries can, in this sense, help keep our communities beautiful and teeming with life. Of course, as with any other library, seed libraries live or die depending on the support they receive, so visiting your seed library, checking out seeds, and offering donations can have a greater impact than you’d ever imagine.

If you’d like to learn more about unique libraries like seed libraries and how they enrich the community, feel free to check out other stories on our EveryLibrary Medium page today!



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