Sharing Seeds

Harvest the wit of the soil at Greene's seed lending library.

The name says it all: Greene Public Library in Coventry is launching a new program that, starting this week, offers stack-sorted nourishment for both mind and body.

It’s called the Co-Greene Seed Exchange, a seed lending library that allows library cardholders to check out vegetable seeds at the start of the planting season — and for free. The program kicks off this Thursday at the Coventry Town Hall and extends through the end of the growing season. In the fall, borrowers will return the harvested seeds to the library and, according to Greene’s circulation tech, Gail Mitchell-Slezak, they can share their growing experiences with other patrons, too.

“We watched a webinar last year by the Center for a New American Dream featuring other libraries and we learned how they kicked it off,” Mitchell-Slezak says, and mentions Providence’s Washington Park Library, as well as libraries in Concord, Massachusetts, and Fairfield, Connecticut, that successfully launched their own seed lending libraries. “Our patrons were very interested — Coventry is a rural community and we have a community garden right across from the library — so we decided to give it a shot.”

Mitchell-Slezak says patrons can browse seeds, organized alphabetically by genre (is there any other way?), then present their library card and get to growing — no green thumb required. “Some libraries set it up where you’re actually checking out the seeds by scanning them, but we thought about the overdues and, well, how would we fix that?” she says jokingly.

All of the available seeds are organic, heirloom or open pollinated varieties. “Chemical companies have eliminated a lot of variety and diversity in our seed bank,” Mitchell-Slezak says. “It’s a big movement, trying to save seed heritage. It really was just the last couple of generations where people didn’t save seeds. Before, grandma always saved her bachelor's button seeds and handed them down. We know it’s easier to go to the store and buy seeds every year, but this way we get to learn a little bit more about gardening.”

Greene also houses an extensive collection of gardening books for the novice, and the library has arranged six gardening workshops led by URI’s Master Gardeners at the Coventry Town Hall to prepare patrons for spring and summer digs. The workshops launch in February.

“In the fall, we’ll hold get-togethers for cleaning and sorting the seeds,” Mitchell-Slezak says. The library also received a Seed Matters grant to purchase cleaning screens, envelopes and other materials for sorting and saving. “When patrons bring something back, they can write down any notes on whether they had a good crop or how the seed did in a rainy season or how successful this particular plant was,” she says. “We don’t expect everyone to return as many seeds as they take. It will start slow, but we just want inspired people to be able to give it a try.”

Dates to Remember:

Jan. 23, 7 p.m. Co-Greene Seed Exchange kickoff party.

Feb. 6, 7 p.m. Workshop: Dirt, garden, soil.

March 6, 7 p.m. Workshop: Growing cold-weather crops.

March 27, 7 p.m. Workshop: Tomatoes.

April 3, 7 p.m. Workshop: Starting seeds inside or outside.

May 8, 7 p.m. Workshop: Bugs, bugs, bugs, good and bad.

All events are held at the Coventry Town Hall Council Chambers, 1162 Flat River Rd., Coventry.

The seed lending library is located at Greene Public Library, 179 Hopkins Hollow Rd., Coventry. Library hours are Tues. and Thurs. 3­–7 p.m., Wed., Fri. and Sat. 9 a.m.­–1 p.m. Call 401-397-3873 or visit coventrylibrary.org/greene-library for more information.