Checking out seeds can be just like checking out books. Through the Common Soil Seed Library, anyone can check out seeds to plant.
The system works like this: People look through packets of seeds, labeled according to type of plant, vegetable or fruit. Though the checkout limit is six packets a month, seeds are available year round.
Since launching the seed program a year ago, Rachel Steiner, Omaha Public Library’s Benson branch manager, generates a list of requests twice a day from the other branches. The packet is produced, and it is transported to the customer’s home branch. The customer is then notified that the seed is available to be picked up.
The list tells Rachel which plants are most popular—herbs, tomatoes and peppers. Additionally, the list shows how many packets of seeds were requested from which branch. The popularity of the program was so great at the Elkhorn and South Omaha library branches that, in January 2015, they will open up their own seed programs.
“The one requirement I have when ordering seed from the extension office in Omaha is it must be open pollinated, which means it can be gathered and replanted next year,” she says.
The seed program not only provides plants to gardeners, it also provides education.
“We also offer classes all year long to teach people ways to save seeds so they can be used again, how they can winterize their gardens, ways to prep their gardens for spring and how to get rid of insects and plant viruses naturally,” explains Rachel.
The library also has an online guide that describes planting instructions for each of the seed types. “Libraries are all about lifelong learning and that includes learning how to garden and grow your own food,” Rachel says.
The largest volume of seed checkout takes place in March and April, but the winter is still an optimal time to collect seeds for your garden in spring.