Something else to discover at the library: Seeds for gardening


(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) An old card catalog cabinet turns out to be the perfect thing to store packets of seeds as part of the Salt Lake City Central Library’s Seed Library, as reported saw on Saturday April 16, 2022.

In The Create Space – a large bright area in the Kearns Library – customers can heat transfer a design onto a coffee mug, record a podcast or build robots.

One of the most popular space stations requires no electricity. It’s a small table with three old-fashioned file cabinets, with drawers numbered 1 through 27. Inside, librarians have hand-filled tiny brown paper envelopes with seeds.

The Seed Library was launched last year, said Trish Hull, Kearns Branch Manager for the Salt Lake County Library System, and “it has been extremely popular. … We distributed something like 7,000 packets of seeds to 600 people.

This year, with spring planting underway or soon approaching, the Salt Lake County Library has expanded the program, establishing additional seed libraries at branches at Draper (1136 Pioneer Road), Holladay (2150 E 4730 South) and Millcreek (2266 E. Evergreen Street). Seed Libraries opened in late February with a launch event at the Holladay branch, where people learned how to start their own seeds in recyclable pots.

The Kearns branch at 4275 W. 5345 South now offers Okra, Celery, Parsley, Broccoli, Beets, Mustard Greens, Brussels Sprouts, Thyme, Squash, Tomato, cauliflower, leeks, Swiss chard, lettuce, arugula, onion, green onion, radish seeds, kale, lavender, anise, sunflower , rutabaga, bok choy, kohlrabi, basil and cabbage.

“One of the things we did last year, that we tried to do again this year, was to get some specific seeds for our community,” Hull said. For example, the seed library will soon add taro seeds, at the request of the Pacific Island community.

“There may be seeds that the Latinx community might like,” Hull said. “We had people from the Vietnamese Catholic Church next door, and they would come and want certain vegetables. We tried to honor that and get as many kinds of vegetables as possible.

Seed listings are posted in English and Spanish, and all seeds are open-pollinated heirloom varieties, so gardeners can save the seeds and bring them back to the library, where they will be packaged and distributed next year. Donated seed packets will be marked, so gardeners know that they might be a little less predictable than commercially packaged seeds.

Seed Libraries will be open until the end of April, or whenever they run out of seeds. Each library visitor can choose three seed packets per day and no library card is required.

“We get a lot of families and each family member chooses three packages. So kids pick their own vegetables,” Hull said, adding that children who grow their own vegetables are more likely to eat them.

“We have everyone from newbies who have never gardened to people who walk in and start talking [about gardening] and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,'” Hull said.

And, being a library, the branch has a solid section of gardening books for beginners, as well as fact sheets on starting seeds from the Utah State University Extension Office. The county library system also offers cardholders access to online gardening courses.

A year-round seed library in downtown SLC

The Salt Lake Public Library opened its first seed library in 2019, at its main branch at 201 E. 400 South, in partnership with Wasatch Community Gardens.

To kick it off, said Rikki Longino, the city library’s garden coordinator, the library’s garden staff performed a little skit in the auditorium using the old-fashioned wooden card catalog that is now in use. to store seeds. “I played the boss who came to use the seed library,” said Longino, who uses the they/them pronouns.

Now they play a different role, overseeing The Plot, the library’s hands-on gardening program. He maintains more than a dozen raised beds on the north side of the main library, mentors cohorts of community gardeners, grows edible landscaping along the sidewalks lining the building, and hosts events throughout the year. .

Longino also runs the Seed Library, which has been so popular that it is now open year-round. In 2021, the City Library added seed libraries in its Marmalade (280 W. 500 North), Sprague (2131 S. 1100 East), Glendale (1375 S. Concord), and Day-Riverside (1575 W. 1000 North) locations. ). It is in the process of opening seed libraries at its Chapman (577 S. 900 West) and Anderson-Foothill (1135 S. 2100 East) branches, with one possibly coming to the Sweet branch (455 F Street), and all seeds and gardening materials are being translated into Spanish. The documents will also be translated into Chinese for the Anderson-Foothill branch.

Downtown, the Seed Library is located on the first floor, near the reception desk. It is slightly different from the departmental library: its drawers are labeled with the Latin names of the plant families.

“So there’s a guide that fits the labels — amaranth is beetroot, Swiss chard and spinach,” Longino said. “Alliums are your onion family. Apiaceae are carrots, celery, coriander. …it’s kind of like the Dewey decimal system of plant organization. It may be a bit difficult at first, but Latin is the universal plant language.

The public library offers seeds to anyone, Longino said. No library card is required. Those looking for seeds don’t even have an email address.

“Until recently this was a required field on the application form, but we realized some people didn’t have an email,” they said. “We want to remove as many barriers as possible.”

People can visit a branch to browse seed packets in person or view the library’s master online list of available seeds. There is no limit to seed packets, although the library asks people to take only what they will grow. Then people are asked to complete a seed request form in person or digitally. Online orders can be picked up at the main library.

Although seed-starting season is ending quickly — most people start seed until the end of April — the Glendale branch will be hosting a garden swap on Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gardeners can swap seedlings, cuttings or seeds and get more information on how to start spring gardens. There is no need to bring anything and free seeds will also be available there.

Lognino said later in the season, once people harvest their plants, they are encouraged to save their own seeds and return them, using envelopes and labels provided by the city library.

In early spring and fall, the library holds seed swap events – but as long as the seeds are securely sealed in an envelope and clearly labeled with the gardener’s name, contact details, and information on how and when the seeds have been grown, people can drop off at any library bookstore. They do not have to come from plants grown from the seed library, but GMO seeds are not accepted.

“Of course, it’s not like we’re going to charge people late fees,” Longino said. “The idea is to grow your seeds and then bring them back – to make them a free and open resource.”

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