- Author: Natali Johnson
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
With buy-in from her supervisors, support from the Clovis Friends of the Library, and help from library aide Angel Hernandez, a seed library was launched in March 2023 housed in a vintage card catalog cabinet in the foyer of the Clovis Library (1155 Fifth St., Clovis).
“Our seed library is pretty simple,” Johnson said. “We take donated seeds, package them into single-serving envelopes intended for small garden use, and then we let the public take what they want. We don't require a library card, there's no check-out, no due dates. The idea was to keep it simple and easy to use.”
Even with a second seed library at the West Fresno Library branch, 188 E. California Ave., the concept is ripe for duplication in mini libraries, churches, community centers and among groups of friends and neighbors.
The materials needed to start a seed library are minimal: seeds, packets or envelopes and a storage container. Other materials may include labels, a catalog and participation log sheet. Keep the cost low by reusing an old shoebox to store the seed packets or invest in a sorted storage cabinet.
What are the benefits of a seed library?
Variety and genetic diversity. Seed libraries promote the use of more types of plants, unusual varieties and greater genetic diversity than seeds found in commercial settings.
Lower cost. Seeds can be expensive. The seeds in a seed library are free.
Disease resistance. Compared to transplants, growing from seed reduces the risk of introducing diseases into your garden.
There are a variety of ways to harvest seeds, but it is important to always collect seeds from healthy plants and healthy produce. When choosing what to grow for seed saving, consider growing open-pollinated varieties. It is also important to note which plants self-pollinate and which cross-pollinate.
Let seeds mature on the plant before collecting. Clean and dry seeds, then store in a cool and dry environment. Label and date seed packets, keeping note of color, season, sun/shade preferences and other available growing information.
For detailed seed-saving instructions, see Seed saving: Connection to the past and a link to the future by Margaret O'Neill, UC Master Gardener coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension San Bernardino County.
The Clovis Library will host a Crop Swap from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 14, to give gardeners a chance to meet for trading seeds, sharing information and building community around a common interest.
“We're always on the lookout for opportunities to partner with other community organizations to bring new classes and programs to the library,” Johnson said.
Saving seeds: Select, collect, store, sow, UC Master Gardeners in Marin County
Why Save Seeds?, UC Master Gardeners in Marin County