With the weather warming up, many Virginians start thinking about life outdoors again, and with that comes gardening. From largescale agricultural growing to elaborate landscape architecture to kitchen herb gardens, Virginia’s soils are rich in growth and history.
Wondering where to start with your own garden? Head to your local library. The Library of Virginia and local libraries have extensive book collections to help guide you in your garden journey, but some of the public libraries in Virginia also provide seed libraries where you can pick up seeds to start your own garden. Librarians around the state have worked hard to forge partnerships with local groups and to organize the Seed Libraries to provide this unique service to their patrons. Check out these Seed Libraries:
The Augusta County Seed Library was started by staff member, Rachael Phillips, who is passionate about preserving and promoting heirloom plant varieties. There are multiple types of vegetables and flora that are unique to Augusta County, and Rachel wanted to promote and protect this interesting aspect of Augusta County history. The Fishersville and Churchville branches have seeds available. Select up to three seed packets, fill out the seed library log, and head home to plant your seeds. If your plants go to seed, return the seeds to the library to keep the cycle going. The Library works with Allegheny Mountain Institute for programming. (Contributed by Rachael Phillips, Augusta County Library)
After years in the planning, the Patrick County Branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library system has started a seed library by working with the Patrick County Master Gardeners for their expertise, who have also helped create an educational garden beside the entrance to the library. Follow the trail of seed packets in the library to find the seeds, and keep an eye out for kid-friendly programming about gardening in the future. (Contributed by Garry Clifton, Patrick County Library)
The CRRL does not have a seed library, but they do provide a Community Garden, as well as extensive resources on their Dig It! Gardening with CRRL page. In addition to helping users find resources and learn more about gardening, community gardens can play an important role to assist with food scarcity issues in communities.
In April 2021, the Chesapeake Public Library, in partnership with Healthy Chesapeake https://healthychesapeake.org/, opened a Seed Library at the Major Hillard Library branch, Chesapeake, VA. The Seed Library supports the city’s commitment to make Chesapeake a great place to live, work, play, and farm. Starting with donated seeds and a $420 monetary donation from Healthy Chesapeake, the Seed Library opened with a lush variety of vegetable, herb, and flower plant seeds. The Seed Library also supports local gardens, like the Great Bridge High School, Wildcats Garden, the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Department Garden, and others. Customers may request three packs of seeds per visit. Library cards are not required to participate, and seeds can be picked up at all seven locations. Customers complete a request form and staff fulfill the orders. 1,203 seeds have already been distributed! (Contributed by Vivian Washington, Chesapeake Public Library)
The Seed Library in Hampton County is located at the Northampton Branch. Wendy Illes from the Clean City Commission of Hampton donated everything to start the see library: the container, a LOT of the seeds, even the envelopes people use to take seeds. Seeds can be found in a large tote at the front of the library. Patrons are encouraged to take seeds from larger envelopes, like clearly purchased seed packs, and put their selection into smaller envelopes provided by the library. The Library asks that patrons only take enough seeds for about 4-5 planted spots, which generally varies between 1-3 per plant, so 5-15 seeds. No sign-ups or fees are required, just report to the circulation desk if you’ve taken any seeds. (Contributed by Aden Rowe, Hampton Public Library)
In 2018, Poquoson Public Library started a Free Little Seed Library with the help of a Master Gardener who had the house built by students at New Horizons Regional Education Center. The Seed Library resides in the Library’s Reading Garden. Commercial seeds (last year leftovers) are provided by the Master Gardener and some are donated from local businesses. The Seed Library is also stocked with soil test kits and flyers on seed starting and saving. (Contributed by Amy Blow, Poquoson Public Library)
Working with the New River Valley Master Gardeners and the Virginia Tech Extension Office, the Pulaski Library opened their Seed Library this year. Librarians collected grow calendars and information from the NRV Master Gardeners and the VT Extension Office to help patrons grow their seeds. The seeds are separated by type and color indicates specifics such as flowering, above-ground vegetable, below-ground vegetable, and fruit. Friends of Peak Creek have also donated native plant seeds that are specially packaged. Look for a card catalog to find the seeds at this library. (Contributed by Sheena Johnson, Pulaski County Library)
In tiny, rural Warm Springs, Virginia a few regular patrons of the Bath Branch Library had been interested in seed exchanges for a while. When some renovations were taking place, staff asked for half of the original card catalog to be saved and put to use as a Seed Library. In the fall of 2019, a group of gardeners met and processed a wide variety of seeds. Then they filed them for the winter, never guessing that the following Spring, people everywhere would be rediscovering the pleasure, and sometimes necessity, of growing our own food. In the Spring of 2020 after the closing due to the pandemic, when curbside service went into effect, patrons began to check out seed packets. By the middle of the summer, the drawers of the card catalog were empty. Another season went by and the small group of library patrons/gardeners realized that they were going to need a big boost in the supply of seeds to keep encouraging local growers. Two group members wrote to over twenty seed companies who focus on heirloom and organic plants. They learned companies like these get many similar requests, and many of them already have procedures in place to donate to community groups. With this start to a new collection, and the interest and commitment of several local gardeners, the Bath Seed Exchange looks forward to productive seasons of growing and collecting for years to come. (Contributed by Amy Porterfield and Amanda McGuire, Rockbridge Regional Library System)
The Seed Library is sponsored by the Friends of Salem Library and is a partnership program between the Salem Public Library and the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Generous seed donations were received from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, Northwest Hardware on Williamson Road in Roanoke, and the Seed Savers Exchange. Select up to three seed packets, fill out the seed library log, and head home to plant your seeds. Don’t forget to check for any handouts that will help you grow your seed. If your plants go to seed, return the seeds to the library to keep the cycle going. When you return seeds, make note on the seed packet if this plant has an interesting or endearing history—part of this process is reveling in the unique nature of these seeds!
Heather Carter, Branch Supervisor at the Chilhowie Library in Smyth County, is creating a seed lending library for Smyth County Public Libraries. Working with neighboring Washington County Library System and some local experts, the Smyth County Seed Library is open as of April 2nd, 2022. (Contributed by Heather Carter, Smyth County Public Library.)
Virginia Beach Public Library, Virginia Beach Master Gardeners and the Virginia Beach Department of Agriculture have partnered to provide a Seed Library for the community at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central, Kempsville, and Princess Anne libraries. You’ll find a variety of seeds that you can take home and plant in your own garden. Enjoy harvesting your own herbs and vegetables or admiring flowers grown in your own backyard. Each month the Master Gardeners will stock the Seed Library with new herb, vegetable, and flower seeds. The seeds have been donated by several sponsors in the community. Each packet provides a short description of the plant and how to care for it. Please take no more than five packets per visit. Any remaining packets from prior months can be found in the “More Seeds” drawer.
The Master Gardeners also offer informational Q&A sessions for those who have questions about local gardening. Check the library event calendar to find out when these sessions are held. (Contributed by Lennis B. Sullivan, Virginia Beach Public Library)
The WCPL Seed Savers Library was started in 2013 and has been growing strong since then thanks to our farmers, gardeners, and generous patrons. You can check out the seed just like a book, grow, eat, enjoy the beauty of the flowers if that is what you grow, and hopefully bring some of the seeds back to the library. The Seed Savers Library offers programming, information, and seeds to the community in order to grow, share with others, feed communities, and preserve open-pollinated seeds.
WCPL Seed Savers Library will be at the Washington County Master Gardener’s Garden Faire in Abingdon on April 16 from 9:30am to 5 pm with a collection of our seeds, information about seed saving, and a microgreen growing program. (Contributed by Molly Schock, Washington County Public Library)
Seed Library at Patrick County Branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library System
If your local library doesn’t have a seed library program, take a look at the calendar to see if there are any programs. You can also check out these areas in the library for books on gardening:
Dewey Decimal Classification
Generally used in public libraries
Composting – 631.875
Edible landscaping – 635
Flowers – 635.9
Herbs – 635.7
Seed-saving – 635.521
Vegetables – 635
Virginia gardening – 635.9
Library of Congress Classification
Generally used in academic libraries
Flowers and flower culture.
Ornamental plants – SB403-450.87
Fruit and fruit culture – SB354-402
Gardens and gardening – SB450.9-467.8
Harvesting, curing, storage – SB129-130
Seeds. Seed technology – SB113.2-118.46
Vegetables – SB320-353.5