Spring fever came early this year, nipping at the heels of a winter so mild only a few crunchy snow patches were left by late February. Sunshine brought antsy gardeners ready to grow and prune and stake things.
The libraries and extension officers launched classes for gardeners new and seasoned, and at the Hillyard Library Branch the little seed library filled up with packages of “Easter Egg” radish, “Early Hot” jalapeño pepper and beets with names like “Early Wonder Tall top.”
Established six years ago in wooden library catalogue drawers, the seed library works just like a regular library: you borrow a package of seeds in spring, plant, grow and harvest the veggies and let one plant go to seed - and then you return those seeds to the library.
Before our communities had taken steps to help control the spread of Covid-19, local gardeners had already checked out 293 free seed packages this year.
Each library visitor may check out three kinds of veggies and three types of flowers. And don’t worry if something goes wrong and you have no seeds to ‘return’ - the point is growing something green or pink or red in your yard or on your balcony. At the end of the growing season, lots of people donate seeds for next year’s planting.
What is a seed library?
Seed libraries are nothing new. In the old days, immigrants brought seeds with them across oceans, continents and countries. Seeds were cherished treasures, little bombs of DNA and flavor from “the old country.” Immigrants wanted to make sure they could still grow their favorite tomatoes or basil or onions no matter where in the new world they landed.
Gardeners are sharers by nature. They share bumper crops of zucchini (though sometimes in secret) and the names of the best varietals of early tomatoes, potatoes, winter hardy lavender and roses. Seed libraries are a natural extension of sharing seeds over the fence in early spring, and they often help preserve heirloom varietals.
Don’t worry if you didn’t make it before the libraries temporarily closed. Growing something from seed takes just an empty yogurt container, a little dirt scooped up from nearly anywhere, water, care and a sunny spot to sprout.
Don’t have any seeds? Try sunflower seeds of the kind you may snack on, or dried beans - they will probably happily sprout for you. Also, the hairy ends of scallions will grow into new scallions in about ten days, if you put them in wet soil.
And that’s what we need right now: a sprout that promises a plant and harvest sometime in the future.