Let it grow: Peoria to launch seed libraries

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

Have you fancied yourself a gardener but never took the big step of starting that garden at your home?

Peoria libraries will soon have the needed resources to fulfill those green thumb dreams.

And it will start at step one — seeds.

The city is about to launch a seed library at both branches of the Peoria Public Library System.

Peoria received a $4,000 grant for the libraries from the Library Services and Technology Act administered by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.

Nathaniel Washburn, library and cultural services manager, said the program will include a collection of more than 50 different native vegetable and herb seeds, as well as programming at both libraries to support sustainability, gardening and growing the seeds. Mr. Washburn said library patrons will be able to check out seed packets – enough for one plant – every three weeks, just like one would a book. The only difference is that you don’t need to return the seeds, he said.

The program is expected to launch in October.

“The grant allows us to provide the programing needed for residents to learn how to be sustainable. If you are a novice, you will be able to walk through door, pick up your seeds and learn about how to start a garden. Being able to do that is huge. We provide those services to have the tools to be sustainable. It is one thing to talk about being sustainable, but you need to be able to back it up,” he said. “This falls in line with our mission and dedication to providing life-long learning. We are really excited about this program.”

Both libraries will feature a formal display, including potting benches and crates that will include informational brochures, seasonal planting guides and other tips, as well as packaging material for the borrowed seeds. Expect the display to look like the old fashioned card catalogs used before libraries went electronic. Programing will also include classes on gardening and agriculture.

“We would like to have a display of something small growing right before your eyes. Residents will be able to see plants growing and look at the offerings. And there will be informational packets that, for example, if you want to start a tomato garden but don’t know anything about it,” he said. “There will be tips on the time of year to start planting and how to sustain growth, and maybe what are some of the challenges in growing tomatoes.”

Seed libraries are  not new, but they have definitely have  seen a surge of popularity in recent years.

Hundreds of seed library programs have been popping up in public libraries across the country. Phoenix public library started their seed library program in 2014 and now uses the program in most of its 17 branches.

Lenora Stewart, a master gardener with University of Arizona and a horticulturist at the Phoenix Zoo, said people are more concerned about growing their own food and knowing where their food comes from and if they were grown with pesticides or herbicides. She said seed libraries allow the novice to take that big step and start their own garden.

Additionally, seed libraries promote diversity, which in the long run, helps ensure a sustainable food system, as well as adaptability to disease, climate change and other variables, she said.

There is not as much diversity as there was years ago, Ms. Stewart said.

“It used to be farmers100 years ago would raise corn or soy, and at the end of the season, they would save the seeds for the next year’s crop or trade with their neighbor. This added  to diversity,” she said.


Seed library
Peoria libraries are expected to launch a new seed library program at both city branches in October. It is an outreach endeavor with the library, the city of Peoria Environmental Services Department, Parks and Recreation and a Maricopa County mastergardner who will assist with programming at both libraries to support sustainability, gardening and growing the seeds. Library patrons will be able to check out seed packets — enough for one plant — every three weeks. For more information call 623-773-7555.

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