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Seed Lending at the Local Library

What do you do with an old card catalog?

Like all libraries with a history, Magnolia Springs Public Library in southern Baldwin County had an old card catalog they were no longer using since the county-wide library is cataloged on line.  Librarian, Alida Given, put the old, wooden card catalog to use; it now houses a seed lending library for county residents.  Filed by type (vegetable, ornamental) and then alphabetically, the drawers are stocked with heirloom and organic seeds.  Library-card carrying residents can check out up to 6 packets of seeds.  They just need to pledge to return seeds from their harvest so the lending library can continue each growing season.  Baldwin County has 2 growing seasons.

Inspired by a seed lending library in the San Francisco Bay area, Alida started one at hers. She contacted seed companies around the country asking for donations of specifically organic and heirloom seed varieties. They started coming in from places like Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello, Seeds of Change, and Peaceful Valley, just to name a few.  She was also given some hybrid seeds which are filed separately and Burpee has donated ornamentals.

Local nurseries have helped out too.  Cecil at Old Thyme Feed and Garden Supply as well as Wilsey Nursery (both in Fairhope) have donated seed packets and starter kits.

The catalog has been utilized since March 1st of this year and the stock is dwindling down, which is a good thing.  Alida wants people to use it; plant their food and ornamentals and then share the new seeds.   The sign out book shows that over 20 pages of borrowers have checked out their garden delights and I’m sure some are plants they wouldn’t have otherwise thought twice to plant.  They’ll give it a chance and return some of their seeds for the next season.  Some borrowers have already returned their promise, then checked out some more.

Some seed packets may be stamped from last year.  Remember this is not a bad thing.  Seeds may sit in warehouses for a while before being shipped to retailers when they get their stamp.  Some old seeds may not germinate but some will.  Read about this here.

I signed out a few, too.  Alida was excited that I will write about this growing adventure and encouraged me to take a few Bird of Paradise seeds.  The seeds themselves are beautiful with half being a fuzzy orange puff ball.  I’ll be looking this one up and  figure out how I can best grow these.   The other seeds I borrowed are Burpee Cosmos Sensation Mix (purple and white flowers), Organic Heirloom Lettuce Leaf Basil and, from the Jefferson Center at Monticello collection, I borrowed Oregano, Sesame, and Love-Lies-Bleeding Amaranths.  seedbank, ft morgan, mantleHopefully I can grow some of these this summer; it may be a little late here to start sowing but since I’m moving up to the next growing zone, there may still be some time with good soil and sunshine.  I plan to give my contributing writers/friends, Ann and Tracy, some seeds to grow here.  Between the 3 of us, something will grow.

Map of Seed Lending Libraries currently in the US. Note the one in Alabama is the Magnolia Springs Library.
Map of Seed Lending Libraries currently in the US. Note the one in Alabama is the Magnolia Springs Library.

I encourage you to go to the Magnolia Springs Public Library. Follow the signs from Highway 98 through town; it’s a block south.  Let Alida know you read about it here.  If you’re not in Baldwin County or Alabama, encourage your local library to do something similar.  They can contact Alida for information on how she got started.

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3 thoughts on “Seed Lending at the Local Library

  1. What are the 2 growing seasons in Fairhope? Also what are some common native plants that will look nice in a front garden? I want to do something low maintenance using ornamental grasses.

    1. You can pretty much grow year-round here. We have flowers, herbs and vegetables going all the time. Use this link to see Bill Finch’s garden wheel to see what grows and when. That’s the key. Plant your garden so that something is always happening, not just summer flowers, but winter ones as well. http://wp.me/p1o5VT-4i Bill is a gardening columnist and Director at the Mobile Botanic Gardens. Once you move here you’ll have opportunities to meet him and to attend a workshop through Local Food Production Initiative or the Master Gardeners.

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