Growing Together: Introducing the Warner Seed Library

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by Krista Madsen

seed library warner library
Among many involved in the Warner Seed
Library effort are (from left to right:) Deb
Martin, Liza Glover, Beth Hanson, Deb Taft,
Carolyn Swenson, Roberta Straus, and
Sara Hodgdon.
—Photo by Krista Madsen

Add to Warner Library’s collection of borrowable books, music, DVDs: seeds. This month, Warner Library will begin sharing little packets of native and heirloom flowers, herbs and vegetables. The good news is: you don’t have to return them but can use them to grow your garden.

Inspired by similar initiatives at several other libraries in the region, backyard gardener Beth Hanson approached Warner Library Director Maureen Petry last fall about creating a seed exchange here. Hanson rounded up a group of volunteers – about a dozen women largely from various garden clubs plus one actual farmer – to begin the process.

Through meetings that started in October 2016, the women made fast progress from drafting a mission statement to filling a large plastic container full of seed packets that Mobius Fields farmer/owner Deb Taft showed off at one meeting in early January to the delight of the attendees.

Early in the new year, there was much work to be done by March, when residents can start planting those early cool-season items.

Roberta Straus shared a draft logo morphing Warner’s rose logo into a ring of green seeds. The attendees discussed details of labeling, repackaging, distribution and collection. In theory, the seed ‘borrowers’ use the seeds to sprout plants and return at the end of growing season with dried seeds from their produce. But that requires some skill and could produce mixed results, so the seed library – for now – is there for the taking.

Donors include various seed companies who are happy to unload their extra/unused items and Taft already has a bunch on hand. “Seeds find their way to my hands all year,” she said. Some she gets from her fields, some she bought from a friend’s collection and won’t use, such as the “two pounds of French breakfast radishes – that is, hundreds of thousands of radishes.” A few are from the Experimental Farm Network, a New Jersey-based open source plant breeding organization that sends out native and heirloom seeds all over the country, and some from Stone Barns.

The seeds will not just be your ordinary onions and tomatoes but special breeds like wild broccoli rabe. As of January, they numbered 13 kinds of tomatoes, seven lettuces, five kales, and counting. All of which will be itemized in a Google Spreadsheet with planting info, etc. They are also planning to plant a demo garden in front of Warner (perhaps starting with a cool-weather launch of decorative chard, adding later herbs and marigolds), and give a few free workshops to bolster citizen knowledge from sprouting to organic gardening.

Deb Martin shared how she packages seeds for her own gifting to friends – she produces plenty of zinnia seeds she carefully puts in paper pouches and labels.

Older seeds Taft finds to be generally fine, save for onion and parsley which are notoriously testy. When in doubt, she said she does a germinating test with a wet paper towel to see if they’ll sprout.

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