Seed Library FAQ

What is a seed library?
In the past, seeds of favorite plants were passed down in families or swapped among neighbors. This allowed people to save seeds from year to year of plants well adapted to their specific geographic locale and climate.

Seed libraries are a new take on an old tradition – a way for communities to share seeds and learn to grow vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs. Seeds are made available free at the library in small quantities, with planting and growing information. Patrons later harvest seed from mature plants and swap them with neighbors for others to sow.

Through the seed library, you can:

  • Obtain packets of seeds from the library for planting in your own garden or plot.
  • Learn from the library’s resources on growing vegetables and flowers in New England.
  • Benefit from the experience and knowledge of other local gardeners by attending educational events.
  • Help protect rare and heirloom plant varieties by propagating these species.
  • Reinforce school lessons and encourage intergenerational connections through gardening.
  • Help build community awareness and partnerships between local groups, non-profits, educators, and local businesses.
  • Discover the pleasure of growing locally adapted flowers, vegetables and fruit from seed.
  • Help pollinators by raising plant varieties that benefit them.

How does the seed library work?
The Lexington seed library will be located at Cary Memorial Library. You can pick up seed packets for free, if you agree to plant the seeds you take. If you successfully save seeds, these can be brought back to the library to be shared at a seed swap. That said, we encourage everyone regardless of experience to try their hand at growing plants from seed; you are not required to save new seeds successfully.

Before you plant your seeds, please take the time to set up good record keeping practices. This program is as much about sharing information as it is about sharing seeds, and keeping records will help you remember what worked for next year, so you can improve over time. For some tips and templates, see this list.

Where can I pick up seeds?
The seed library will be located at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington.

How do I choose seeds?
Chose whatever you want to grow! Don’t be afraid to try new things – there is no penalty if your crop fails and you can’t return any seeds to the seed swap.

If you plan to garden in a community garden, or other location where the earth is disturbed on a yearly basis, seeds marked “annual” may be the best choice, as they do not live more than one year. Seeds marked “biennial” grow into plants that live two years (often only blooming the second year), and seeds marked “perennial” will become plants that live for multiple years.

If you want to try saving seeds, seeds with packets marked “easy” are self-pollinating, and you should get seeds that will be true to the parent plant. Seeds with packets marked “advanced” are prone to cross-pollination with other plants, and it takes more effort (using techniques such as hand-pollination) to produce seeds that will be true to the parent.

Where can I get advice on growing my seeds?
Watch our calendar or Facebook page for local meetups where you can get tips from more experienced gardeners. The Cary Library and the internet both hold a wealth of information. To get started, see our list of useful links.

What happens if I can't save any seeds?
That’s ok! We encourage you to experiment and try growing something new. You won’t get any overdue fines if seed saving doesn’t work out for you.

The Seed Library


Second Annual Seed Swap! @ Lexington Community Farm
Oct 22 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

This season, more than ever, it would be great to have the seed savers among us share our best seeds. Any plants that managed to survive and bear fruit or blooms, making a living in the parched landscape, are worthy of recognition and re-planting next year (remember that only seeds from open-pollinated and heirloom varieties will reliably bear the same progeny). We can assume that such plants are well adapted to the local climate and should perform even even better, whatever conditions the next growing season may bring.

The Lexington Seed Library will hold our second annual seed swap on Saturday, October 22nd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the glass greenhouse at The Lexington Community Farm, at 52 Lowell St.

Parking will be in high demand, since the farm is hosting a harvest fair concurrently. Attendees are asked to park next to the farm at the Arlington Reservoir and walk. Traffic coordinators will be on site to help direct you. Of course, if you can walk or ride a bicycle there, or take the LexPress public transportation, this would be preferable.

You are encouraged, but not required to bring a quick bread or muffins to share. We will have envelopes and markers for labeling seeds. We can all benefit from sharing and discussing our experiences, both good and bad, growing in an extremely hot dry local climate. It was a great spring for lettuce up until the first week in July, when it quickly turned to a season for peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and okra. Zucchini did well, too.

Please come if you are available and add your stories to the collective gardening wisdom. It is not necessary to have saved seeds in order to attend.