Seed Libraries Newsletter                 
Cool Beans!
Seed Swaps Edition
January 2019- Issue #16
In this Issue
Open Source Resources                                                                                                   

All of the articles and resources in this newsletter and on are open source., except where noted. They may be freely used. We encourage you to use these articles and resources and share them in your community. You may repost articles in your own community newsletters or emails. Attributions to are appreciated, but not required. If there is a specific author mentioned, please include the name as a courtesy.  If you have articles that you have written that you feel would be of benefit to the seed library community, email them to
Master Class:
Starting Seeds Indoor
by Hillie Salo

Why not reap the benefits of starting seeds indoors? Perhaps you want an earlier harvest or need to extend the growing season. You can also produce larger and stronger seedlings that are less susceptible to insect attacks. Plus, it's easier to monitor seedlings inside in pots than outside in the ground. Caution: Remember that some plants, such as beans and peas, have a delicate root system and like to start and finish in the same spot. They prefer to be directly seeded, or planted in the garden, not transplanted. Other seeds, such tomatoes peppers, and eggplants, need a head start. See the table below for more plants and their preferences. You can also check the seed package for which method the plant prefers.

Get seeds from friends, neighbors, seed libraries or companies that sign the Safe Seed Pledge.

Don't start seeds too early or the seedlings will become tall and spindly, or leggy. Use the six-week rule: Count backwards from the last frost date in the spring or the first frost date in fall.  However, depending on the crop, starting time may be earlier or later than six weeks. For example, warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers need night time temperatures of at least 55 degrees or the seedlings' growth will be very slow. Johnny's Selected Seeds has a great seed starting calculator.

Seeds can be started in a range of containers from recycled yogurt cups to purchased pots, trays, or cubes. If you're recycling your containers, clean with a 10% bleach solution: 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. When choosing a container, the most important thing is drainage, so may sure you punch several holes in the bottom of those yogurt cups.

Special seed starting mixes can be useful because they are lighter than potting soil, but they are not necessary; many people find success starting seeds with potting soil that is not full of clumps. However, soil from the garden (or those bags labeled "garden soil") are too heavy for starting seedlings in pots.

You can select from several brands of commercial seed starting mixes. Most of them contain some variation of the following ingredients:
- Coir or peat moss (the base)
- Perlite (helps soil drain faster) and vermiculite (increases aeration and moisture retention.) Some mixes contain sand.
You can also make your own. Explore the links below for different recipes.

Plant seeds close for germination, then transplant the seedlings into pots after its true leaves appears. (First, you'll see cotyledons, or the embryonic leaves, not the true leaves.) Planting seeds close saves space, both in your containers and especially on the number of heat mats or warm spaces. For example, for pepper or tomato seeds, consider a grid of seeds 3 X 3 or 4 X 4 in a 4 in pot.

Small Seeds
  • Fill pot with soil, tap to settle.
  • Make indentations for seed: 1/8" for lettuce, 1/3" for tomato.
  • For tiny seeds such as lettuce sow 3-4 seeds in each hole. Try to put no more than 2 tomato seeds in each hole as
  •  you'll just have to untangle them later, which could damage the delicate root systems.
  • Cover seed lightly with seed starting mix or vermiculite.
  • Water from the bottom, not the top, and drain.
  • Cover pots with domes, plastic, or glass because high humidity can 
  • help with germination. The covering keeps the top of the soil moist, and keeps it from crusting over. Remove as soon as seedlings appear!

Large Seeds
  • Fill with soil, tap to settle.
  • Make 3 holes for seeds, 1" deep.
  • Sow 1 seed per hole.
  • Cover seed with soil.
  • Water from the bottom, not the top, and drain.
  • Cover pots with domes, plastic, or glass.


To germinate, seeds need warmth and moisture. (For some seeds, exposure to or exclusion from light can be important, but most of the time, seeds don't need light until they germinate. Until then, water and temperature are more important.)

Warmth. Although each plant cultivar has a maximum or minimum temperature needed for germination, most seeds will germinate at room temperature, just faster
and stronger with a little heat, especially summer vegetables. For example, tomato seeds will germinate well when the ambient temperature is anywhere from 70 to 95 degrees, but the optimum temperature for germination is 85 degrees. Lettuce, on the other hand, prefers a cooler germination range between 40 and 80 degrees, with an optimum temperature of 75 degrees. (See the table from PennState for specific germination needs of various seeds. ).

Find a warm place in your house such as the top of the fridge. Remember that most heat mats will raise the temperature about 20 degrees above the ambient temperature, not to a specific temperature unless you add a thermostat. Don't use a heating pad for humans as they aren't designed for continuous use and/or use near water.

Moisture. Moisture is important because it softens the seed coat and starts the swelling of the seed.

Check moisture daily. If container are on heat mats, you'll want to check heat and moisture levels several times a day. Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Avoid watering from above unless you have attachment that allows a light sprinkle. Instead, water from the bottom so you won't disturb the seed. Place the seed containers in a shallow tray with water and allow them to absorb water by osmosis. Don't leave them sitting too long in the tray. How well watered a pot is can be judged by weight. Get to know how heavy a well-watered container should feel.

No fertilizer is necessary from the time seeds are planted until they begin to germinate. Everything a plant needs to grow is contained in the seed itself! After the first seeds sprouts, remove any covering. Seedlings need the same care as seeds - right amount of water and right amount of temperature - plus seedlings need light, good air circulation and possibly a little fertilizer.

Once seeds sprout, the heat mat can be removed; though some like it warmer and can stay on heat mats (peppers and eggplants). In general, seedlings grow stronger and sturdier at cooler temperatures, 65-70 degrees daytime and 55-60 at night. Higher temps tend toward too much growth. 

Air circulation
Good air circulation is necessary for disease prevention. Thin seedlings if too crowded. Brush seedlings with a hand to strengthen stems (simulating wind) or use a small fan.

Insufficient light causes weak, leggy growth. Window sills are not enough. Indoors, seedlings grow best under fluorescent lights. A standard 4-ft shop light fixture with cool white bulbs is adequate. Place the light 1 to 2 inches above the seedlings. Use atimer to leave the lights on 14 to 16 hours a day. Move the lights up as the seedlings grow. Or use boards, old books, or bricks to raise trays of plants if the lights aren't adjustable.

Fertilize if seedlings are in pots for longer than 3-4 weeks. Use soluble fertilizer at half strength.

Continue to monitor moisture and bottom water. Let the top crust of the soil dry out before watering again.

Hardening off
Plants that have been sheltered inside need to grow accustomed to conditions outdoors before they move there permanently. Take them outside a little bit each day, first in indirect sunlight such as a porch; then, increase the time and exposure to light gradually. You can also cut back on the watering and decrease the inside temperature a bit. Such "hardening off" will prepare you seedlings for your garden.

Submit Featured Resources for Next Issue!
Planning your garden for seed saving - April 2019 Issue
We'd love to share your ideas about how you plan and map your garden for seed saving. 

Please include your name and the name of your seed library, town/city, province/state, and county. 

Email us  information by February 15th.  
Featured Resource:
Seed Swaps
Reading a poem before starting the swap. Sebastopol_ California has resources to help you and you community have a successful seed swap. Check out our resources, including this helpful How to Host a Seed Swap brochure from the Community Seed Network. 

A very helpful tip is to take  a moment to acknowledge the seed and the power of seed and how much work went into the growing of the seed. Taking a moment to come together in community to honor the seeds sets the tone for the swap and will slow down the frenzy and make for a more enjoyable and respectable gathering.
BASIL Seed Swap_ Berkeley_ California
Rebecca Newburn, Editor of
Cool Beans!, at the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library with a new seed saver.
Cool Beans! Seed Library Newsletter and the website have been funded by the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library for several years. We need the community to help pay for these resources as we have depleted our local resources to support this larger effort. Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated!

Contributions are tax-deductible (through our fiscal agent, Urban Tilth).   Donate today!

May peas be with you,
Rebecca Newburn
Co-Founder, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library
Editor,  Cool Beans! Seed Libraries Newsletter

Featured Seed Library
Grow Flagstaff! Seed Library
Location: Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Established:  2015
Number of branches:  1 plus a mobile, bike-powered library
Organizers:  Community garden, Individual citizens, Master gardeners, Non-profit / NGO

We support a large mix ethnic groups and skill levels, including our list of almost 200 subscribers. Since the library is located in a low-income neighborhood with a strong presence of underrepresented groups, we love that it is utilized by these communities frequently.

Reason for opening a library: 
In 2014 I saw a small seed library in Brandon, VT and really wanted something like that in our community. I began collecting like-minded people including Master Gardeners, City Sustainability employees, County Extension employees, and local food resiliency groups. Today our library has grown to hold around 160 different varieties of seeds and has almost 200 subscribers. It is housed in the local County Extension office where any person can have access with a free membership. And although the public is welcome to volunteer or donate to the library, it is primarily supported by Coconino County Master Gardener grants and volunteer hours.

Words of Wisdom to other seedbrarians: 
Start small and build as you have time, help, or as the need arises. Collect groups where you have commonality.

Our annual March seed swap where over 300 people attend during the two-hour event.

Greatest challenge: 
Getting seeds returned (i.e. donated) after the growing season.

Featured Seed Saver
Bill Best 
Bill Best - Photo by
Bill Best is the founder of Sustainable Mountain Agriculture, Inc., a non-profit that he  and his son, Michael, created to demonstrate how to c ollect, save and grow heirloom seeds as well as make mountain farms sustainable. Based out of Berea, KY for many years, the operation will soon move to Tennessee Technological University.  Watch for the 17 th annual seed swap the first weekend of October that attracts seed savers from all over the country. 

He is also the author of Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia (2013) and Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving (2016).

How many years have you been saving seeds?
When people ask me that, I tell them I've been saving seeds for 81 ½ years. I'm 83.  

What inspired you to start saving seeds? Did anyone in your family save seeds that taught you?
My mother, Margaret Best. She saved seeds as a matter of course while we growing up - just like many other families did in our Appalachian community of Haywood County, NC. These family seeds were usually named for women because it was the women who grew them, women who saved them, and women who passed them on. Appalachia is the mother load of genetic diversity for beans, more than anywhere else in the world.

What seeds do you save? 
  Beans, tomatoes, corn and candy roasters - although it's difficult to grow corn anymore because of the raccoons.

Do you feel like you have a seed saving specialty in a particular crop(s)? 
  I love beans. I grow about 60 v arieties on my farm each summer and have preserved 1400 v arieties over 50 years. Some I eat and some I sell at the farmer's market, but about 90% are saved for seed.

What do you love most about seed saving? Do you have a seed saving philosophy?  
I t troubles me that the more popular seed saving grows, the more people collect seeds like they would collect objects as just a hobby, not for authentic cultural reasons as coins or stamps.  I want people to understand where their seeds came from, who grew them, and how they got passed on.

Which question(s) are you most asked by other seed savers?
Bean terminology. People don't know beans about beans anymore. Fifty years ago, this terminology was common knowledge in the Appalachians. I explain the difference between bush and climbing beans - and other common terminology such as cut-short, crease back (not to be confused with greasy beans) on my website.  

What was the most important piece of advice you received when you were getting started?  Or, what single piece of advice would you give a new seed saver?
Document the stories about seed and the seed saver and the place they came from. I have seeds I've named for the mountains I can see from my farm. If you want to authentically save seeds, you have to also collect the story. Otherwise, seed collecting is just a hobby - a great hobby - but still a hobby. Sometimes there's a cultural reason not much is known about a seed. Take, Hickory Cane (not Hickory King), for example. It was a moonshiner's corn; that's one reason not much was known about. People didn't want to talk about it.

Are you doing any active seed breeding? If so, which seeds? 
  I pay attention to "sports" the old time Appalachian words for a natural mutation. Save those seeds and replant them. If they breed true over time, you could have something great like the Vinson Watts tomato below.

Anything else you would like to share?
Who are the people in your community that save have saved seeds for more than 50 years? Have you made an effort to get out and talk to them?

Featured Seed: Bill Recommends
What special seed would you love to share in hopes that more people save it and steward it?

"Any kind of heirloom seed - if you know the story - can be special."

Variety: Vinson Watts Tomato
Species: Solanum lycopersicum
Vinson Watts Tomato
Description: An indeterminate, mid-season pink tomato.

Vinson Watts was a friend of mine that I first met in 1956 when I was a student at Berea College, Kentucky and then became friends with in 1962 when I returned to work there. Wilson Evans was his boss and asked Vinson if he would grow this family tomato from Lee County, Virginia. (Wilson wanted to experiment with the new hybrid tomatoes.) Watts grew that tomato and that tomato only for 52 years, each year selecting for flavor, texture, and disease resistance. When he died in March 2008, I potted up a Vinson Watts tomato from my high tunnel and everyone who walked into that funeral home knew why that tomato was there. You can listen to the story here here. 

Where can folks get this plant if they wanted to steward it?

Seed Swapping
With the Community Seed Network
As the weather cools down, many of us find our thoughts wandering back to the garden and wondering what we'll sow next year. The good news is that, with the seed harvest now in, seed swapping season is right around the corner!

There are many great ways of keeping open-pollinated seeds in the hands of the people, and gathering with neighbors and friends to swap seeds and share stories is one of the best! Are you considering organizing a seed swap? If so, check out a great resource - How to Organize a Seed Swap - that The Community Seed Network has made available, for free, online. It has great tips and strategies for making your seed exchange event a perennial success. Check it out here , along with other great resources to help your seed initiative. If you like what you see, create a profile at , and join the CSN Facebook group . The CSN is all about fostering communication by connecting people and sharing ideas to keep regionally adapted, open-pollinated, and endlessly interesting seeds in the hands of the people.

Another way to participate in seed swapping season is to check out the Exchange, an online seed swap facilitated by Seed Savers Exchange. There are currently over 19,000 varieties offered by hundreds of growers around the US and Canada. Participants can choose to offer and/or request seeds. Find the Exchange at .

Review by Madeline Jarvis

Seedswap: the Gardener's Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds by Josie Jeffrey (2012) is a slim volume, but it is a great primer on how gardeners can become seed savers. Both the "why" and the "how" of seed saving are discussed with the beginner in mind.

Although information on seed libraries is out of date by 2019, the seed saving history, practical seed directory, and troubleshooting guide remain easy to understand and thorough resources. Seedswap covers both the social and scientific steps needed to create and sustain a local seed bank.

This book is recommended for curious gardeners, beginning seed savers, and still merits shelf space at public and school libraries.
Notes from the Field:
Tips from Seed LibrariansNotesfromfield
We run our seed swap in the Peter White Public Library, the same location as where we have our seed library cabinet. I think the biggest innovation we tried this past spring was to try and join the non-seed savers and the experienced seed savers. We start in a big circle and introduce those individuals who have been saving seeds, perhaps for decades, so the beginners can see who these generous folks are (since the old-timers bring the best seeds). The idea is to connect the abundance of "free" seeds with the individuals whose efforts brought the seeds forth. We're trying to "grow" a community of seed savers.       - Mike, Queen City Seed Library in Marquette, MI, USA
Mountain West Seed Summit
Reunion of the Radicles Mountainwestsummit
February 22-23, 2019
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
The Mountain West Seed Summit is not your average "conference." This hallmark  event will represent the vanguard of a burgeoning movement to reclaim seed
sovereignty in our local communities and create a sustainable food future. Seed  growers, seed stewards, farmers, gardeners, and food activists from across the greater  Rocky Mountain region and beyond will join together for three days of seed  knowledge and networking in beautiful Santa Fe. Lunch included with registration.

CaliCaliforniasummitfornia Seed Summit
March 23, 2019
Hosted by the Community Seed Exchange
Sebastopol, Sonoma County

The California seed libraries will be meeting for a one-day seed summit on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Registration information will be posted soon, but save the date.  We'll discuss a number of topics including:
One Seed, One Community program
Managing your seed collection
Increasing return rates
Backup plans for seed collections
... and more.

We hope you can join us!
FeedbackFeedback for this issue? Ideas for the next issue?
This Issue: Seed Swaps
Does your seed library host seed swaps? Send up your photos or promo flyers. How do you get it organized? What tips do would you recommend to others? What do you do about potential poor quality seed, such as folks bringing corn or squash (that they didn't hand pollinate)?

Next Issue: Planning your Garden for Seed Saving
How do you plan your garden for seed saving? What tips can you share with others?

Fill in this survey. Tips on what you do will be included in News from the Field to benefit others.
Seed Saving Courses
Grain School
April 12 - 14, 2019
Cottonwood, AZ - USA
$300, $240 RMSA members,
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance  (Join for $25 for discounts or better $5 a month)

7th Annual Seed School
August 16-18, 2019
Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, IA, USA

Seed School Online
Self-paced, online course
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance and Urban Farm

Offering a day long seed saving class?
Let us know and we'll include it in 
Cool Beans! and our Facebook page.
Seedy Events
Mountain West Seed Summit: Reunion of the Radicles
Feb. 22 - 23, 2019
Santa Fe, NM, USA
Learn More & Register
Come Feb. 21 for the Seed Summit Field Trip!

California Seed Libraries Summit
Sat. March 23, 2019
Sebastopol, Sonoma County
Registration info. coming soon

Offering a day long  seed celebration or meeting?
We're happy to share it. Email us.

660+ Open!
Sister Seed Libraries
- Have you opened?  
- Added branches?  
- Created a website?

Check the Sister Libraries List to see if your information is accurate and to find other libraries near you. Fill in this survey to help us keep the list accurate.

Seed Libraries Association
-  Resources on how to start & manage a seed library
-  Sister Seed Libraries pages
-  Inspirational projects associated with seed libraries
Banner Photo
Jacob's Cattle
Phaseolus vulgaris

Photo by Kari Witthuhn
Appleton Seed Library,
Appleton, WI, USA

Do you have a banner bean photo you'd like included? Email us.  Let us know the variety, your name, location, and if you are associated with a seed project.