Seed Lending Library: How To Start A Seed Library

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is a seed lending library? In simple terms, a seed library is just how it sounds– it loans seeds to gardeners. Exactly how does a seed lending library work? A seed library works much like a traditional library– but not quite. Keep reading for more specific seed library info, including tips on how to start a seed library in your community.

Seed Library Info

The benefits of a seed lending library are many: it is a way to have fun, build community with fellow gardeners, and support people who are new to the world of gardening. It also preserves rare, open-pollinated or heirloom seeds and encourages gardeners to save quality seeds that are suitable for your local growing area.

So how does a seed library work? A seed library takes some time and effort to put together, but the way the library works is very simple: gardeners “borrow” seeds from the library at planting time. At the end of the growing season, they save seeds from the plants and return a portion of the seeds to the library.

If you have the funding, you can offer your seed lending library free of charge. Otherwise, you may need to request a small membership fee to cover expenses.

How to Start a Seed Library

If you’re interested in starting your own, then there are a few things to consider prior to creating seed libraries.

  • Present your idea to a local group, such as a garden club or master gardeners. There is a lot of work involved, so you’ll need a group of interested people.
  • Arrange for a convenient space, such as a community building. Often, actual libraries are willing to dedicate a space for a seed library (they don’t take up much space).
  • Gather your materials. You’ll need a sturdy wooden cabinet with dividable drawers, labels, sturdy envelopes for the seeds, date stamps, and stamp pads. Local hardware stores, garden centers, or other businesses may be willing to donate materials.
  • You’ll also need a desktop computer with a seed database (or another system for keeping track). Free, open source databases are available online.
  • Ask local gardeners for seed donations. Don’t worry about having a huge variety of seeds at first. Starting small is a good idea. Late summer and autumn (seed saving time) is the best time to request seeds.
  • Decide on categories for your seeds. Many libraries use “super easy,” “easy,” and “difficult” classifications to describe the difficulty level involved in planting, growing, and saving the seeds. You’ll also want to divide seeds by the type of plant (i.e. flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc. or perennials, annuals, or biennial.) Include classifications for heirloom plants and native wildflowers. There are many possibilities, so devise the classification system that works best for you and your borrowers.
  • Establish your ground rules. For example, do you want all seeds to be grown organically? Are pesticides okay?
  • Gather a group of volunteers. For starters, you’ll need people to staff the library, sort and package seeds, and create publicity. You may want to promote your library by inviting professional or master gardeners to provide informational presentations or workshops.
  • Spread the word about your library with posters, fliers, and brochures. Be sure to provide information about saving seeds!

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The beauty of memorial gardens is that there are no rules when it comes to creating this special place. What makes it significant is what it symbolizes and how it makes you feel when you visit it. It can be as small as a single tree in your yard or even a long pathway of flowers leading to a pond. Like any garden, it may depend on what kind of space you have. However, don’t be deterred if you have a small space like an apartment because you can still plant and grow beautiful and meaningful things in a space like a balcony or even indoors by a window.

According to, one of the most important things to keep in mind when healing from a loss is to resist the urge to suppress your feelings and to let yourself ride the waves of grief as they come and go. Since this is a painful task, creating a memorial garden will give you a peaceful place to retreat to when working through these waves of emotion. Even the very act of building and maintaining your garden will help keep the mind focused on something beautiful and symbolic while you deal with your grief in a constructive way. Once your garden is complete, you will always have a quiet place to visit, reflect and remember.

Here are some tips for creating your own memorial garden:

Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library

The Heritage Seed Library (HSL) aims to conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely available. We are not a gene bank and all of our collection, once we have enough seed, will become available for our members to grow and enjoy. The collection consists of mainly European varieties, including:

  • rare landrace varieties, which are adapted to specific growing conditions.
  • heirloom varieties that have been saved over many generations. These are unique to the Heritage Seed Library catalogue.
  • varieties that have been dropped from popular seed catalogues over the past decade. This occurs for a number of reasons their lack of popularity with customers, their unsuitability for commercial scale production or simply the prohibitive cost of trialing and National Listing.

Heritage Seed Library Membership

Garden Organic members can add Heritage Seed Library membership for just £18 a year. In addition to the benefits you receive as a Garden Organic member you will also receive the Heritage Seed Library Seed List. The Seed List is sent out annually in December and members have until the end of February to choose up to six varieties. Members joining outside of this period will be sent some seeds with their welcome pack whilst stocks last. The Seed List does vary each year and for 2020 there will be a different selection of varieties.

Please note that due to import restrictions we are unable to send seeds to countries outside the EU. Individuals living outside the EU are welcome to join the Heritage Seed Library to support this valuable work but will be unable to order seeds.

How does the Heritage Seed Library work?

The seed library currently holds approximately 800 accessions of open-pollinated[^1] varieties. These varieties have been donated by HSL members or other members of the public, sourced through past HSL projects such as The Seed Search, or passed to us by seed companies who are no longer maintaining them. Each year, approximately 150 varieties within the collection are chosen for inclusion in the Heritage Seed Library Seed Catalogue. Subscribing HSL members receive the catalogue annually in December, from which they can choose six free packets of seeds until the list 'closes' at the end of February. Members joining after this date will be sent some seeds with their welcome pack while stocks last.

Who grows the seed?

Carrot "John's Purple"

Seed from the chosen varieties is harvested from vegetables grown by Garden Organic's HSL team at Ryton Gardens and by Seed Guardians. These Guardians are HSL members who have decided to take on the extra responsibility of growing seed for us. They make an extremely important and highly valued contribution to our heritage work, supplying approximately half of the seed available for distribution each year. To find out more about the work of Seed Guardians and how you can become one, see Seed Guardians.

What are the benefits of growing Heritage Seed Library seed?

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a complete beginner, you can enjoy the benefits of growing vegetable varieties from the seed library. By growing HSL seed, you will be:

  • supporting the conservation of unusual vegetable varieties for future generations
  • increasing biodiversity in your garden
  • able to save your own seeds from one generation to the next, our open-pollinated varieties, unlike F1 hybrids[^2], will come true-to-type.
  • helping to maintain genetic diversity within vegetable crops, which may be useful to the plant breeders of the future

You can explore the Garden Organic website for tips on growing organically and then get started with our heritage seeds after becoming a member! We also encourage you to save seed from the vegetables you grow for your own use. Advice on how to do this can be found in the Seed Saving Guidelines.

Seed savers often ask the difference between open pollinated seeds and F1 hybrids. Here is a brief description of the two:

Open pollinated These seeds will grow a variety that will breed ‘true to type’ from one generation to the next. The seeds produced will carry their parents’ genetic material and plants grown from them will bear their characteristics.

Pollination can occur by vectors such as insect, wind or by hand. However, sometimes ‘cross pollination’ occurs. This is when pollen is transferred from one variety to another – from bees, for instance, visiting many different blooms. This can cause quite significant variations from the parent plant, particularly in brassicas or squashes. Peas and French beans generally do not cross-pollinate.

It is worth noting that open pollinated varieties are inherently genetically variable, each plant being slightly different from every other plant, even if isolated from the pollen of another variety. This subtle variation enables adaptation. It allows the plant to respond to different growing conditions, and provides an all-important genetic diversity.

F1 hybrid This is a variety deliberately created by crossing two different parent varieties. By combining their genetic material, the breeder creates a seed which inherits particular characteristics from the parent plants. This could be disease resistance, for instance, or exceptional taste, size or colour.

Pollination is done under strictly controlled conditions.

F1 hybrid seeds often show vigour in growth. However, the seeds saved from F1 hybrid plants will not produce a plant with the same characteristics of the parent. The whole breeding process has to be done annually.

Seed Collection

About this collection

The planet is facing a critical time. Two in five plant species are threatened with extinction, with huge implications for the future of all ecosystems.

The Seed Collection at the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) is the most diverse wild plant species genetic resource in the world, with over 2.4 billion seeds representing almost 40,000 different species.

Seed banks are a cost-effective tool for long-term ex-situ (away from their natural habitat) plant conservation. Collections are dried and frozen, preserved for the future.

They provide an insurance policy against the threats plants face in the wild.

At Kew, seeds are collected through global partnerships and field research as part of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) network.

Once stored in the Millennium Seed Bank facility at Wakehurst, they act as resources available for research in finding sustainable solutions to global challenges.

We curate our collections to the highest standard, as high-quality collections maximise longevity in storage and the useability of collections for research, re-introduction and restoration.

What’s represented in the seed bank?

  • Over 96,000 seed collections
  • Represents nearly 40,000 species
  • Over 6,100 genera
  • 349 families

Using the Seed Collection

Our collections are available for research, plant-breeding, species re-introduction, vegetation restoration, education and display.

Seeds collected through the MSBP are duplicated to the MSB under the Convention for Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol. Where partner agreements and seed numbers allow, seeds can be distributed via the Kew Seed List.

Seed banking practices

Kew was an early leader in the development of seed banking practices first developed for crops and then expanding to wild species.

A straight-forward practice, it helps 90% of seed-bearing plant species survive by drying and then freezing their seeds, so extending their longevity reliably.

We do this in our purpose-built, state of the art facility at Wakehurst.

Once collected and transported to the seed bank, seeds are prepared and dried to 15% equilibrium relative humidity, before storage in deep freeze chambers (-20°C).


The collections are curated to international gene bank standards, at every stage of the process.

These are not always applicable to wild species collections so we used our considerable experience to set global standards across the partnership. These are used across the MSB Partnership to ensure that collections are of optimum quality and form the basis of our training programmes.

  • High quality passport data
  • Plant identification
  • Longevity and viability of each collection
  • Understanding how to break dormancy
  • Maximising germination to avoid selection during the life cycle

Recalcitrant species

Recalcitrant species produce seeds that cannot be dried and therefore cannot be banked using conventional methods.

There is a spectrum of seed storage behaviour and longevity, even within orthodox species, depending on phylogeny and environments (maternal and post-harvest).

Current data suggests that around one in ten species have recalcitrant seeds, but the rate is habitat dependent. In moist tropical forests over half of tree and shrub species could have recalcitrant seeds.

Research is underway to develop novel methods, including scoping out a large-scale cryogenic storage facility, the Kew Cryosphere.

Backup of sub-samples in cryo-storage is routinely used to extend the longevity of short-lived species.

Targets and priorities

As we move beyond 2020, we are excited to be continuing our seed conservation work. We will be looking at:

  • Increasing our focus on collection quality to ensure all collections are fit for purpose
  • Improving the genetic diversity captured in our collections, increasing our focus on sub-specific taxa, and appropriate eco-geographic and genetic representation through multi-provenance species collections
  • Prioritising plants threatened with extinction, as well as endemic plants and those most useful for the future for human adaptation and innovation
  • Prioritizing ecosystems at risk of climate change (montane, maritime and island)
  • Forestry and trees: the MSBP works to support tree conservation both in the UK through the UK National Tree Seed Project and around the world through the Globe Tree Seed Bank programme
  • Crop wild relatives: These species hold important traits for development of resilience to global change and are under-represented in seed banks. The Global Crop Diversity Trust and Kew have collaborated on the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project covering 29 major crops. We are looking to do more

Access our Collections

Find out how to arrange visit or access the online database. Please note visits to our Collections are for academic researchers only.

How to Grow a Clover Lawn

Last Updated: October 13, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Benjamin Hansen. Benjamin Hansen is a Landscape Contractor and the Owner of Artscape Gardens, a boutique landscaping company in Los Angeles, California. With over 12 years of experience, Benjamin specializes in transforming properties into aesthetic, functional, and drought-tolerant oases. Benjamin uses color scheme, dimension, and water conscious spaces to inspire the design and installation of soft scape, hardscape, patios, pathways, irrigation, drainage, fencing, concrete, lighting, and electrical work. Artscape Gardens covers all areas of the C-27 landscape contractor classification.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 12 testimonials and 100% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 671,614 times.

Clover is a popular alternative to grass for front and backyard lawns, mostly because clover is affordable, easy to grow, simple to maintain, and drought-resistant. Moreover, clover also attracts pollinating insects like bees, attracts deer, requires no fertilization, grows in poor soil, and requires very little attention and no mowing. Clover can also be seeded over an existing lawn and grows well with grasses, and can be used for a dog run or designated area for pets. [1] X Expert Source

Want to have some fun while making the world a greener, more environmentally-friendly place? Make exploding balls of seeds that are both fun to throw and an easy way to grow native wildflowers.

Here’s what you need (makes 8-10 balls):

  • 1/2 oz native wildflower seeds.
  • 3 1/2 oz dry, organic potting soil
  • 1 1/2 oz dry clay (we suggest powdered red pottery clay)
  • Water
  • A mixing bowl
  • A cookie sheet for drying the seed balls
  • wax paper

Here’s what to do:

1 inch diameter) balls and place cookie sheet or tray with wax paper.

  • Allow balls to dry in the sun for at least one day.
  • Now that I have made seed balls, what do I do with them?

    1. All you have to do is throw them at a patch of dirt and watch it explode! Once it rains (or you water them), they have everything they need to grow.
    2. They also make great gifts! Put them in a plastic bag and give them to all your friends.

    Why Native Wildflowers?

    When you are making your seed balls, we recommend you use native wildflower seeds. Native wildflowers are plants that have been a natural part of an ecosystem for long before humans started changing that ecosystem.

    The Yellow Sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia) is native to coastal areas on the west coast of North America. Credit: Eric in SF

    Humans sometimes mess around with these local plants by removing them or by planting other species of plants that they think might look better. That might not seem like a big deal, but in reality many non-native plants can actually make it much harder for the native plants to survive! These non-native plants can out-compete other plants for resources. Also, they are often not as threatened as native plants are by the plant-eating animals in the area.

    The Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is native to the eastern United States. Credit: Fabelfroh

    But if you make your seed balls with the right seeds, you could be doing the world a lot of good when you explode them onto the ground! Not only can your new plants make an area more beautiful, but also they can help rebuild natural ecosystems and take planet-warming greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

    Watch the video: Powered Libraries. El Paso Public Library Sow. Grow. RepEat Seed Library

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