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How Seed Libraries Will Be Our Salvation

Seed LibrariesThe Regenerative Garden

A couple of years ago many of us adopted new stay-at-home-hobbies. These hobbies included the now ubiquitous sourdough making, banana bread baking and, according to Vancouver Master Gardener Stephanie Rose – gardening. While the world seemed shut down all around us, many Vancouverites brought life back into their neighbourhoods by growing something themselves. With sustainability in mind, many of these new gardeners have built seed libraries all over the city in order to share their newfound hobby with others looking to connect to their community.  Seed LibrariesThe Regenerative Garden

Gardens as Community Space

Rose says she became disabled in 2006, and had to “stop working overnight.” It was during this time that she found gardening. “I looked at the small plot of land I had in my East Vancouver lot, and decided ‘This is where I’m going to heal,’” she shares. But she also describes gardening as “very, very labour intensive.” That’s true – and it can sometimes dissuade would-be gardeners from starting their own plant journey. Bringing in lumber to create beds, filling those beds with soil and then getting all of your seeds, spacing, weeding and, watering is hard work. Plus, once harvested, most of us put the garden to bed and start all over again six months later. In order to maintain her own garden, Rose turned to the concept of permaculture.   

Rose breaks down permaculture in her new book, The Regenerative Garden. She describes it as “a mini ecosystem” that “requires a lot less time, a lot less money. It’s just an enjoyable space that you’re able to really sit, interact and enjoy nature,” she says, “Rather than constantly having to work at it.”  

These new gardens popping up all over Vancouver became more than just spaces to grow plants, they became spaces for community. “Folks started reaching out into their communities to find ways where they could invite and share,” she says. Just as utilizing permaculture to maintain your garden is regenerative, creating connection with our neighbours is regenerative as well. A prime example of this are the abundant seed libraries that are showing up more and more – melding community and sustainability all over the city.  Seed LibrariesThe Regenerative Garden

What is a Seed Library?

Seed gardens are not too different from the curbside book libraries we all know and love. They are boxes (some can be super elaborate, others are just a well-used plastic bin) that by definition have a selection of seeds but often contain teaching and reading materials for gardeners as well. Rose says these reading materials are key as they help educate new gardeners. The seeds are usually the leftovers from the other gardeners in your area, but local seed companies like West Coast Seeds often donate as well. Rose noted that because seeds are donated and left outside in the libraries, they don’t always germinate at the same rate new seeds would – so we shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t all turn out. Seed LibrariesThe Regenerative Garden

How to Start a Seed Library

If you’re looking to start your own seed library, Rose says that you can also include, seedlings, plants, cuttings and seed-starting supplies. The addition of cuttings and seed-starting supplies can help new and veteran gardeners alike as they build their gardens. Plus, if you have a plant that did particularly well in your garden – there’s a good chance it’ll thrive in your neighbours as well.  Seed LibrariesThe Regenerative Garden

Why Start a Seed Library

According to Rose, creating or participating in our local seed libraries provides “an opportunity to share skills and knowledge with neighbors, bring greater food security and provide environmental benefits.” Feeding back into our neighbourhooods with additional supplies while also sharing knowledge creates a community-based ecostystem, as well as plant-based ones.  Rose’s book lays out all the key points for seed-sharing libraries, as well as great local examples to take inspiration from. Above all, seed libraries are a public space for seed sharing, and can help educate new gardeners as they encourage community members to collect seeds from their gardens to share. As Rose says, “to go outside is sort of this radical act of community and engaging locally.”

Stephanie Rose’s book The Regenerative Garden is now available and delves deep into sustainable gardening as well as community-led initiatives (like seed libraries!) and other practical projects to help you turn your garden into a functioning ecosystem.