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Check Out Some Seeds Along With Your Books

Check Out Some Seeds Along With Your Books
Mill Valley, Calif.—For many, the library is the go-to spot for borrowing books, DVDs, magazines, and more, but what about seeds? Soon, visitors to the Mill Valley Public Library will find that they can leave with packets of seeds for such plants as Scarlet Nantes carrots, California poppies, Sweet Chocolate peppers, and Genovese basil in addition to their usual checkout materials. On Monday, April 7th the Library will debut SeedSmart, a seed lending library that encourages community building through the sharing of open-pollinated, heirloom, and locally adapted seeds.

Through SeedSmart, the Library encourages those in the community to "borrow, grow, and share." The concept is simple. Users "borrow" seeds of their choosing, picking from among 30 different varieties of edibles, herbs, and ornamentals; "grow" the seeds and their knowledge about gardening; and then "share" by returning some of the next-generation seeds and telling us about their seed-growing experiences.

The SeedSmart seed lending library is located on the main floor of the Mill Valley Library. Visitors can search the Library's online catalog to see which varieties are available or sift through the old-fashioned card catalog to the right of the New Books section, where they'll find packets of seeds organized by variety. Each packet contains a label with general information about the seeds within as well as helpful information about planting, from seed spacing and planting depth to days to germination and maturity. Seed packets will also feature a colored sticker indicating the level of difficulty to save seeds. Packets with a green dot are perfect for beginners, as seeds are easy to save and produce plants like those planted. Yellow dots indicate medium seed-saving difficulty, while red dots mean that planting the seeds requires some advanced knowledge and special planning, such as isolating plants to prevent cross-pollination. Signage and other resources within the seed lending library will provide guidance about planting techniques, seed harvesting, and more.

Visitors check out seed packets just as they would check out books, DVDs, or CDs, but there are never any fines, and no one will chastised for not returning seeds. The intent behind the program is simply to encourage resource sharing and to provide the opportunity for users to learn about or enhance their knowledge of gardening. The Library strongly encourages users, however, to let at least one plant go to seed and to return some of those seeds to the SeedSmart library for others to borrow.

Once users have checked out seeds, they can keep track of the varieties they'll be planting by signing into their MARINet library accounts and switching on the Reading History function. Reading History allows library users to keep track of all of the items they've checked out.

Those looking to grow their knowledge about gardening or seed saving can take part in one of the Library's new GardenSmart workshops, led by local gardening experts. The Library will provide learning opportunities throughout the growing season for gardeners of all levels. Among the first GardenSmart workshops available are "Growing Tomatoes in Mill Valley During a Drought" on Wednesday, April 9th at 7pm, and "From Big to Small, Planting Seeds Can Be Fun" on Saturday, April 19th at 1pm. The Library will continue to add workshops over the coming months.

The Library is also launching a complementary website, www.millvalleylibrary.org/seedsmart, which will include information about how to use the seed library, and a listing of great resources, in print and online.

Funding for SeedSmart comes primarily from donations made in memory of Jean Canepa, a longtime Mill Valley resident who died in 2013 at the age of 80. A Tamalpais High School graduate, Canepa was married to Jim Canepa of Mill Valley Market. Jean was an avid gardener and an active volunteer at the Mill Valley Library. She served eight years on the Friends of the Library Board and managed the Friends Book Sale from 2007-2012.

In addition to the 30 varieties of edibles, herbs, and ornamentals that will be available upon SeedSmart's launch, Library visitors can also select a limited-edition collection of five seed packets curated in honor of Jean Canepa. The collection, called “Jean’s Favorites,” includes Romano beans, Stupice tomatoes,Nantes carrots, Romanesco zucchini, and Mâche.

As the SeedSmart program progresses, the Library will continue to introduce additional varieties of plants, growing the seed library to include up to 50 to 60 varieties. Patrons are encouraged to help curate additional “limited-edition collections” by contacting the Library at seedsmart@cityofmillvalley.org.

The Library would like to give a special thanks to Kathy Ziccardi and Kevin Sadlier for their expertise and generous support in helping to launch SeedSmart, and to The Living Seed Company and Green Jeans Garden Supply for donating seeds to help boost the initial collection of seeds offered. The Library is also grateful to a larger group of volunteers, including Crystal Baker, Annie Blackadder, Dylan Dullea, Laura Figueirinhas, Bea Johnson, Kathy King, Rowan Lauver, Suz Lipman, Mark Miglio,Sandra Murray, Laura Nicoletti, Maya Rabow, Charlie Sadlier, Laney Sadlier, Else Tamayo, and Xander Wessells, who helped sort, package, and label seeds.

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