A quiet Sunday morning is a nice space in the week for a seed library swap, which I discovered when meeting a group of seedy enthusiasts at Mount Maunganui’s The General Cafe.
The keen gardeners had come together to exchange seeds and ideas. The conversation bubbled along as everyone chatted happily while sipping tea.
“So what time of the year shall I plant this?”
“Well you could plant it any time.”
“How much land have you got to plant on?”
“About an acre.”
“That’s tons - you could feed a few families on that.”
The seed library idea, recently initiated in Tauranga by Tui Mincher and Kazel Cass, has resulted in a quickly growing collection of seeds. Pop up seed swaps have been held at the Kaimai Cafe, Grindz Café; and in Whakatane, through linking up with the Eastern Bay Crop Swap group.
Similar to a lending library for books, a seed library allows for people to “borrow” seeds to plant in their own gardens. Once the fresh food is harvested or flowers plucked, a few plants are left in the ground to go to seed. This saved seed is then returned to the library, and available for more members to borrow. Communities can build their own seed reserves of unique, locally adapted varieties.
The seed library in Nelson operates from out of the public library, which enables a wider awareness and helps energize the public space. They have over 200 varieties of seed in their collection, mostly made up of edibles but with a growing collection of ornamentals, natives and a few exotic species.
Papamoa’s Rock Community Garden has already contributed seeds to the Tauranga Seed Library, and these are stored in wage slip envelopes ready for lending out.
“This is the first time I’ve attended a seed swap,” says Welcome Bay resident and gardener David King. “I’ve been a seed gatherer all my life. My father did it and it’s something I received from him. You always save one or two plants and let them go to seed, then collect the seed. It’s the best way to get your own organic seed which is naturalised to your place. I just save seed. It’s in my genes.
“When I heard about the seed swap group I thought ‘yeah I’d like to be involved in that’. So every time it came up on my Facebook page I was interested. I’m very glad I did.
“I brought a few seeds in hummus containers, because we eat a lot of hummus. And I’ve brought what I think is a fair swap, and I’ll look after these seeds and return them to the seed library in due course.”
David has seeds to take away, that he’s swapped for the seeds he brought to the meeting.
“I’ve swapped sunflower, zinnia, buckwheat, beans and spaghetti squash,” says David. “Zinnia is a good flower for attracting a lot of butterflies and creates a nice insect haven around the garden. I’ve swapped them for things I don’t have, like lettuces, parsnip, butternut, so I’ve done well. Also organic beet, banana melon and Austrian Hulless seed pumpkin. Apparently you eat the seeds not the pumpkin. And yellow courgettes.”
Papamoa’s The Crafty Gatherer Teresa Partridge is also at the Mount pop up seed swap event bringing her wealth of simple and sustainable seed and plant growing experience. She regularly blogs on her website Crafty Gatherer.
The next pop up seed swaps are planned for October 16 at Woodstock in the lower Kaimai Range, and October 19 at the ‘Be the Change’ film night at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Katikati. The Tauranga Seed Library can be contacted through their Facebook group.
Teresa Partridge and David King exchanging ideas at the seed swap.
Tauranga Seed Library pop up seed meeting at The General, Mount Maunganui.