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Seed libraries: A giant leek seed pod at the Pine Street Community Garden in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
A giant leek seed pod at the Pine Street Community Garden in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Public libraries become seed libraries

Now we all know that our local libraries offer us books, computers, research centers, book clubs and children’s activities. Who would have thought they would create seed libraries as well?

But Darin Williamson, lead librarian at the Carlsbad Cole Library, has created a wonderful free library open to area residents at the three branches of the library system. The Cole and Dove libraries and the Learning Center all offer packages of seed that are displayed in old apothecary-style cabinets at the front desk of all the Carlsbad libraries.

According to Darin, “We have been working on this project for a number of years, and we are now partnering with the Carlsbad Community Garden Committee to accept, organize and display over 1,000 seeds per month.”

Now as a gardener, I know how tricky seed collection and dissemination can be. So I was surprised to hear that Darin had come upon the perfect set of volunteers at the Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Retirement Home.

“This group is doing a wonderful job sorting and packaging hundreds of seeds that become part of the library’s seed collection to the public.”

The library’s website includes complete directions for donating seeds from local gardens, and cautions, “Open-pollinated or heirloom varieties are requested.  Donated GMO or Hybrid seeds will be distributed outside the Seed Library. (A donation form is not needed for these donations.)

• Why no GMO or Hybrid Seeds? These seeds may not produce plants exactly like the parent plant. They may produce something somewhat close or very different. They can be grown for food, but not for saving for the Seed Library.

• Open-pollinated or heirloom seeds will be “true-to-type” if saved and grown again.”


And following suit, Trista Tabanico from the Oceanside Library has created a similar project for local residents as well.

“We found, especially during the pandemic, that people became interested in all aspects of gardening. Not only did our customers seek out FYI books, but became interested in the health benefits of growing one’s own food!”

When asked how she learned more about gardening, she replied, “Well, I did the research. That’s what librarians do!”

For complete information about the Oceanside Library Seed Library, contact the library at (760) 435-5600.


According to the folks at Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa:

“Seed saving is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for 10,000 years, coming together at markets, town squares, in huts and in halls to swap seeds and stories.

“But the seed swap is being rediscovered by a new generation of plant people, and their collective joy, excitement, and knowledge is really at the core of the community seed movement.

“Seed swaps welcome experienced seed savers who want to connect, expand their collections, and improve their skills; new gardeners and seed savers who want to learn about crop diversity, regionally adapted varieties, seed politics, and the power that comes from developing local seed solutions. Seed swaps also offer the opportunity to cultivate a network of people interested in ongoing seed projects and to collectively develop and share seed that supports a more diverse and resilient local food supply.”

The Seed Savers Exchange website ( also includes complete instructions about how to create a seed swap in your gardening community.

According to Seed Savers Exchange, a seed swap “is a gathering of people, usually gardeners and farmers, who have come together to share seeds. The seeds can include locally saved seeds, excess bought seeds, seeds brought back from another region or country, or excess seeds that a seed company donated—you decide what you want to swap.”

For complete instructions on creating a Seed Swap, go to

Seeds that are gathered locally can also be part of the Seed Savers Exchange Program for gardeners who wish to exchange on a national scale.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and teaches classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center. She can be reached at [email protected]