What is a seed library?
A seed library is a self-perpetuating collection of heirloom seeds.
Why save seeds?
Growing and saving the seeds of heirloom plants offers a stronger and more diverse seed stock of plants that are well-suited to Michigan’s climate. Many commercial hybrid seeds are bred for uniformity and shelf life – not quality and taste. Plus, growing your own food is fun and delicious!
The KDL Seed Library is available at all branch locations, and is not limited to KDL cardholders. Participants may choose from a variety of types categorized by how difficult it is to save the seeds (easy, medium or advanced), not by how to grow them.
NOTE: If you choose medium or advanced seeds, learn how to isolate them to prevent cross-pollination.
Choose your seeds and get planting!
NOTE: There may be limitations on how many packets you can take based on demand and availability.
You can find basic seed planting information in your branch’s gardening section. If you are a beginning gardener, don’t worry about saving seeds. Select what you are interested in growing and focus on learning how to garden. The seed saving part will come later.
While some plants have fairly obvious seeds, others are typically eaten long before the flowering stage, so not everyone will recognize when seeding occurs. Familiarize yourself with the life cycle of the plant you will be growing. Be sure to collect seeds from your healthiest or tastiest crop!
The first step to seed saving is allowing the seed to become fully mature. At maturity, some seed is dry and some is encased in fruit and still quite wet. There are three basic methods of processing seeds: Dry, wet and fermentation.
Most garden plants fall into this category.
Examples: cabbages, onions, carrots
- Allow the seed to partially dry in its seed pods while still on the parent plant.
- Collect the seed before the capsules open or the seed heads shatter.
- Once the seed is fully dry, separate it from the pods and stalks, and package in an airtight container.
- For plants with seeds in the center of the flower, allow the plant to dry and harvest the seeds when the stem holding the seeds turns brown.
Follow these steps for seeds that grow inside the fleshy fruit of the plant.
Examples: melons, peppers, pumpkins
- Scoop out the seeds from the fully ripened fruit.
- Rinse to separate the seeds from the pulp.
- Spread seeds on a tray or screen to dry for several weeks before packaging.
Fermentation of Seeds
This method is used with plants that have a gel sack around each seed.
Examples: tomatoes, cucumbers
- Squeeze the seeds into a jar and add a little water.
- Cover the jar with a lid and leave at room temperature for a week or so. Yeast will break down the gel sacks, a layer of mold will form on top of the water and good seeds will sink to the bottom.
- Only keep the seeds that sink to the bottom of the jar. Rinse and dry as above.
Drop off your seeds at your local branch for next year’s growing season – remember to store them in an airtight container!
Donations of saved seeds are always welcome! The more seeds in the library, the more others can experience growing their own food. Seeds will be accepted if they are properly dried and identified. If donating commercial seeds, please be sure that the seeds are non-hybrid and non-Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds.
Donations to the KDL Seed Library came from:
- Annie's Heirloom Seeds
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
- High Mowing Organic Seeds
- Hudson Valley Seed Co.
- Sage Garden Sales
- Seed Savers Exchange
- Wintersown Seeds
- Community donations
- Kathy Coughlin
- River City Wild Ones
View the full list of 2019 donated seeds in the Seed Catalog:
- Seed Catalog 2019: Cover Crop
- Seed Catalog 2019: Herbs
- Seed Catalog 2019: Flowers
- Seed Catalog 2019: Fruits
- Seed Catalog 2019: Vegetables
Find out how easy it is to save the seeds you borrow: