Skip to page body Home Using the Library Research / Resources Events Children / Teens About the Library Support the Library
Classic Catalog Link+

What is the Santa Clara Seed Share?

Quite simply, the Santa Clara Seed Share is a collection of seeds which patrons can take for free and grow in their gardens. At the end of the season, patrons harvest seeds from the plants they have grown and return them to the collection. While the idea of saving seeds is unfamiliar to many of us, it is an extremely old tradition.  

Why Save Seeds?

Seed ShareIn the past, gardeners and farmers would often save the seeds from their best plants each year and replant them the next season. This is often what is referred to when people speak of “heirloom varieties.” They are seeds planted and saved year after year.

Saving seeds helps:

  • maintain a diversity of heirloom plants- Seeds from store-bought hybrid plants cannot be saved. You have to buy new ones each year. If the seed producer discontinues a variety of hybrids, it is a variety that is gone for good.

    However, if you grow open-pollinated plants, you can save the seeds each season and plant them again the next year. Each time you save seeds from a plant, you are helping to improve that variety’s unique characteristics. In this way, the plants become ideal for your local environment and feature the qualities which you find most desirable. So long as you continue to save the seeds, that variety will be around.


  • save money- Seeds can get pricey. But if you save seed each year from your plants, you won't need to buy as much (or any if you're really good) the next season. You may also spend less on food seeing as you’ll be able to eat most of what you grow.


  • preserve history- Seeds represent both our past and our future. Heirloom seeds may have been grown and saved by many generations before you. By cultivating heirloom varieties (or by beginning an heirloom) you become part of this tradition and pass on something positive to the generations who follow.

How the Santa Clara Seed Share Works

Check the Seed Share binder for a list of seeds we may have. After locating the plants you’d like to grow, check the Seed Share catalog box to see if they are currently available.

Take a seed envelope from the drawer in the catalog box and write down its growing information from the Seed Share binder. This planting and growing information helps you know what the optimal growth conditions are for the seeds you’ve taken. Additionally if you return seeds from this plant to the library at the end of the season, the next gardener will be grateful for your notes!

Take as many seeds as you plan to plant and a few extra in case some don’t germinate.

Fill out the check-out sheet on Tab 1 of the Seed Share Binder for each type of seed you are taking home. The Library needs this information to ensure adequate inventory of the Seed Library.

Return some seeds from the plants you grow. (See How to Save Seeds below)

While you aren’t required to return seeds, doing so will greatly strengthen the Santa Clara Seed Share for future years.

 How to Save Seeds

The library has a number of books related to seed saving. Click here to browse our selection.

The following websites are also great resources for seed saving techniques:

  • Richmond Grows- The gold standard of seed libraries in public libraries, Richmond Grows is a wealth of information for anything seed related. 
  • The name pretty much says it all.
  • The Real Seed Catalog- A UK based seed producer with tons information regarding seed saving.

Here are some videos to introduce you to both how to collect and save seeds:

How to Harvest Seeds from Your Plants (via Cooking Up a Story)
How to Save and Store Seeds (via Cooking Up a Story)



This project was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

Last updated: 3/23/2015 3:21:02 PM