Check Out Seed Libraries
Free garden seed exchange offered through local public libraries
Libraries are full of gardening books, and in some locations they will also lend you the seeds to go with them. Six area libraries offer seed libraries where you can “check out” vegetable, fruit and herb seeds for your own garden, for free. No library card required.
The beauty of the program is that the gardeners gain access to many heirloom and native varieties of plants that have adapted to the specific soil composition and climate of our area. This is important, both for the strong, fresh produce they produce and also because seed sharing prevents local seed varieties from disappearing, which is an increasingly troubling trend.
Already, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Division, 90% of the fruit and vegetable varieties that were grown in the United States in 1900 have been lost. As the seed industry consolidates, regional and heirloom seeds are dropped from their seed lines. Right now, 72% of our food comes from just 12 plant varieties and five animal species, making the food supply unnecessarily vulnerable to disease and climate change.
In true “think globally, act locally” fashion, Campbell-based Silicon Valley Grows is partnering with libraries to encourage gardeners each year to grow the same plant, creating a locally adapted stock of seeds to support our local food system. Gardeners who check out seeds from local libraries are encouraged (but not required) to bring some seeds back after harvest, and share them with others for next season’s plantings.
This year, the chosen plant is the Petaluma Gold Rush Bean, a vigorous heirloom bean that grows all summer, and gives a rich flavor to many dishes—soups, dips, stews—that call for dry beans. Its pod transforms from a green to a beautiful golden yellow with mottled pink-scarlet streaks. Legend has it the seeds first arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush in the pocket of a sailor on a whaling ship. He settled in Petaluma to grow the bean, supplying miners on their way to the gold fields. The goal is to raise, and have borrowers return, 50 pounds of these bean seeds to share with local gardeners and cooks next year.
Give seed sharing a try at these local public libraries: East Palo Alto Seed Library, Palo Alto Rinconada Library, Mountain View Public Library, Sunnyvale Public Library, Santa Clara City Library-Central Park Branch, San Jose City Library, Berryessa Branch, Woodside Library.