Seed Library

What is a Seed Library?
A Seed Library is a collection of seeds made freely available to the public for home gardens.  Please take no more than 5 packets per visit.

Why is saving seeds important?
Saving seeds not only helps improve agricultural biodiversity, but helps farmers and researchers find varieties of crops that grow better in different regions.  Seed saving is central to the ideals of sustainability and food security, especially in times of concern about climate change and food safety. All seeds have a story – where they grew, how well they grew, and how they turned out.

How does it work?
You do not need a library card or to be a Buckingham resident. We just want to help folks grow their own crops and learn about plants that grow well in our area.


  • Seeds are free of charge we only request you try to bring some seeds back at the end of the growing season.
  • Fill in a donor form for our records.
  • Select the seeds you are interested in growing.
  • Take any handouts or books to help you along.


  • Once you have selected your seeds, the fun begins! By taking the time to plan, prepare, and care for your garden you will ensure your flowers and vegetables will have a full life cycle and you will be able to have viable seeds to return to the Seed Library.


  • When you have seeds to add back to the seed library, bring them to the basket on top of the seed drawers.
  • One of the staff will provide you with a bag or envelope with a label.
  • You can donate as many seeds as you would like but we request enough seeds for the next gardener to grow at least three viable plants.

Donor Label Example (The story and details that you add to your donation will help the next grower and add to the history of the community and our seeds)

Common Name: ___________________________

Scientific Name: ___________________________

Variety: __________________________________

Seed Source: ______________________________

Location Grown: ___________________________

Date of Donation: ___________________________

Donor: ____________________________________

Notes / Story:

How do you harvest seeds?

First you will need to identify if your plant is an annual, biennial, or perennial.  Not all plants flower, set seed, and die in a single growing season.  Once you have harvested the seeds, there are three basic methods of saving seeds:

Dry—Saving seeds from plants like peas and beans is the easiest.  You simply open the dry pea or bean pod and scoop out the seeds.  Seeds from flowering stalks are also easy to save.

Wet— With seeds that are wet (cucumbers, melons, peppers, and squashes), you can scoop out the seeds and rinse them under running water until they are clean.  Dry them on a paper towel, a paper plate, or a coffee filter.

Fermentation— Removes the germination-inhibiting substance on the seed coat. During fermentation, bad seeds generally float to the surface of the water; good, viable seeds sink to the bottom.  Example:  when saving tomato seeds, you will need to use the fermentation process.

The Seed Library is open when the Buckingham Public Library is open.

Important Definitions:

Varieties of seeds that have been passed down through generations due to their outstanding qualities such as unique flavor, disease resistance, or storability. These varieties have been in circulation since before World War II, prior to the commercial introduction of F-1 hybrids and the changes that resulted in the domination of “Big Agriculture.”

A hybrid seed is created when the pollen from two different plant varieties are crossed. The resulting cross produces the traits desired by the breeder, for example, this is how seedless watermelons are created. Subsequent generations of seed, however, if saved, will not grow “true-to-type” when replanted the following season. For this reason, we will not add hybrids to our collection.

Seeds that are never treated with fungicides or pesticides of any kind and are certified by the USDA as organic.

Open Pollinated
Non-hybrid, non-GMO varieties of seeds that will grow true to type when saved properly and replanted. Open-pollinated varieties are more genetically diverse and are able to adapt faster to their growing region and specific climate variances. Each open-pollinated variety remains protected in the public domain as the common property of everyone.

Seed Viability
While seed packets are printed with a “sell by” date, many experienced gardeners know this is merely a suggestion. When stored under the right conditions (cool, dark, and dry) many seed varieties can remain viable for years.


North Carolina Seed Catalog Company with helpful information

Richmond Grows – California sharing and seed library details

Heart of Virginia Master Gardener

Buckingham Dillwyn Garden Club

Special Thanks!
Randy Smith, Seed Savers Library Coordinator at Washington County Public Library for sending me seeds and samples of their documentation.

  • Resources available at the library:
    • Look through the Backwoods Collection near the fireplace
    • Non-Fiction 630s
    • Picture books – Garden category
    • Some specific examples:
    • Seed libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of people/ BWC 631.5 CON
    • Saving Seeds: the gardener’s guide to growing and storing vegetable and flower seeds by Marc Rogers / BWC 635 ROG
    • Beginner’s Illustrated Guide to Gardening / 635 ELZ
    • Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini / BR 571.82 RAT
    • Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace / Gardens and Plants E WALLACE
    • Busy in the Garden by George Shannon / Gardens and Plants E SHANNO