Gardeners across the county are reaping late harvests, putting garden beds to rest and preparing for the cold, quiet, months of winter. Many local gardeners have added a new activity to their fall checklist with the emergence of the Delta County Seed Library: seed saving.
Hotchkiss Library began checking out seeds to patrons in the spring of 2013, after receiving start-up funds from a North Fork Heart & Soul Project grant. Staff member Sarah Pope put in many hours of "behind the scenes" work to make this happen. "I am passionate about gardening," says Pope. "So, it was only natural for me to take this project on. I have enjoyed watching it gain popularity and expand to the whole county."
In the spring of 2017, the former North Fork Seed Library became Delta County Seed Library, due in part to a generous sponsorship by Alpine Bank. "We now have seed librarians, seed-related programming, seed packets for checkout, and seed-saving assistance at every library in Delta County," Pope says.
Seed saving is a vital step in the process of maintaining the seed library. "The seed returns that we receive in the fall stock the seed library for spring check-outs," Pope explains. "We do not require that patrons return seeds to the library if they check out seed packets in the spring, but we do rely on the patrons who are willing to do so."
With that in mind, Pope has established a variety of materials and programs to assist the community in successful seed saving. Additionally, she has prepared her fellow seed librarians with the information they need to continue the effort countywide.
"Seeds must fully mature before saving," Pope says. "Depending on the type of plant, seeds can be harvested in a few different ways." Dry, wet and fermentation seed processing are all strategies that Pope encourages patrons to use when seed saving.
"When patrons are ready to return seeds to the library, a donation form needs to be completed. The more information we have about the type of plant, how and where it was grown, and any other special circumstances, the better we can track the success of our seed library," Pope explains.
Seed returns must come in clearly labeled envelopes, containers or ziplocked bags. When there are enough donated seeds to work with, volunteers are necessary to help with seed sorting and packaging.
"People might assume that our busiest time of the year managing the seed library is during the springtime rush to plant," says Leah Morris, systems and collections administrator for Delta County Libraries. "The fact that we checked out 1,877 seed packages to patrons during the 2017 planting season alone is an indication that this is true. However, the process of collecting, sorting and hand packaging seeds keeps us busy year-round, and we would not be able to handle the workload without the help we receive from community volunteers."
To learn more about the seed library, seed saving, or to contribute seeds, visit www.deltalibraries.org/delta-county-seed-library/.