The other day I picked up a copy of Edible East Bay magazine. There were lots of great articles, as usual, but one really stood out to me - a story about a man in Berkeley who had recently opened a Community Seed Library in front of his house. His drive to make this project a reality, and the possibilities about making this a true seed-sharing movement, really struck me. So I emailed the owner, Charlie, to see if I could come and visit his seed library and have a conversation about it.
Charlie responded with enthusiasm and invited me to come to his yearly tomato tasting. Charlie lives in an historic property (which is named MariLark) on the edge of Tilden Regional Park; what a location! My friend Nils, also a suburban farmer and beekeeper, came along with me. I brought four of my tomatoes to add to the tasting, and Nils and I enjoyed trying all the fruits on display. Lots of them had been grown by Charlie, but many had been grown by friends, family, and neighbors, and it was fun to see all the different varieties represented. There were no doubles - somehow everyone had brought different kinds!
It was a beautiful sunny day, but Charlie has growing challenges with the often-present cloud cover due to our local celebrity, Karl the Fog. He still manages to have a really wonderful garden, filled with greens, tomatoes, flowers, and herbs, over a large terraced property. He also is growing an enormous pumpkin!
I enjoyed chatting with Charlie about the design of the seed library and his mission to grow the movement and have a seed library in every neighborhood. I've wanted to have a seed library for quite some time now, but I have logistical concerns, especially in the very hot summers and direct sun experienced in my garden. Optimally, seeds are stored in dry, chilly temperatures. Our chilly weather is often wet, and our dry weather is often bloody hot. So I'm not sure how viable the seeds would be after six months in the sun, or four months of rainfall. Charlie and I discussed how to get around that issue - maybe make mine seasonal, or do some sort of finagling to make full-time shade in a certain spot in my garden. Ideally I'd like it to be right next to our Little Free Library, but that might not be the best place for it. Charlie would like to have a 'sister seed library' and is hoping I am game to provide it. It's going to take some thinking, first.
There's a lot to like about the library in Charlie's yard. My favorite thing is the pull-out writing table, so you have a place to sort and label your seeds. Charlie provides the envelopes and pens. He has gardening books inside, too. Other folks have left notes such as "free native plants to a good home" and an email address. The seeds themselves are on the bottom shelf, placed in boxes, far back in the shade, in an insulated area. We discussed how to make some sort of shade cover for them in there - special film? A removable cardboard cover? Nils suggested that we put these library boxes on pivots, so that you can pivot it toward the shade, with instructions how to pivot it around to get inside. All good ideas. Hey, you engineers out there, weigh in on this please.
After all this, I realized I had forgotten to bring seeds to share, so I'll have to go back. This is a really neat idea, and I want to visit often.
Do you have a seed library that you visit? If so, please tell us all about it in the comments.