, Newburyport, MA


April 23, 2014

Growing a collection

Newbury Library encourages patrons to 'check out' seeds

A library is typically a great source of materials for planting the seeds of knowledge.

Now, the Newbury Town Library is also a great source for actual seeds to plant in the garden.

The Newbury Seed Library allows anyone interested to “borrow” seeds for free. Growers are then asked to save the seeds after they harvest their crops and return the new seeds to the library in the fall.

“A lot of libraries across the country are doing it,” said Amy Sadkin, director of the Newbury Town Library. “It seemed like a good fit for the community.”

The goal is to create a self-sustaining library that, over time, will feature seeds that have increasingly acclimated to the region’s growing conditions. The result is stronger, hardier plants.

“If you save the seeds, you’ll get a plant that’s more adapted to the local environment,” said Traci Sobocinski, an experienced gardener who will lead a workshop at the library this Saturday. “That’s helpful because you can hopefully get selections that are stronger with the weather and the soil and the pests you encounter here in New England and even in your yard.”

To get the seed library started, assistant director Jean Ackerly contacted Beach Plum Farms Nursery & Garden Center in Salisbury. Beach Plum offered to donate the seeds and soon sent over a huge box.

“It was like Christmas,” Sadkin said.

Gardeners can pick from vegetables, herbs, flowers and grasses. Choices include peas, edamame, squash, eggplant, pumpkin, lettuce, Swiss chard, corn, beets, broccoli, wheatgrass, coriander, basil, mustard, sunflowers and quinoa. The seeds are open-pollinated, meaning they rely on natural pollination from insects or wind. There are also some heirloom varieties that are at least 50 years old.

More than 25 people have checked out seeds in the first two weeks of the program, Sadkin said. Patrons are limited to three packets, and they are required to fill out a sign-out sheet.

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