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Seed Library Guide  

Learn more about the Monterey Seed Library and the growing seed library movement.
Last Updated: Oct 26, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Seed Libraries

Hundreds of seed libraries are flourishing around the world and connecting their communities together through this priceless resource. Learn more about the many different seed exchange programs and ways to begin one in your community.

  • The Seed Library Social Network
    Supports existing and emerging seed libraries by providing a wealth of useful resources including resources for starting a seed library.
  • Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library
    Richmond Grows is a non-profit seed lending library located in the Richmond Public Library.
  • San Francisco Seed Library
    How it works: Borrow, Grow, Return
  • Seedfolks Community Seed Libraries
    A dedicated group of seed-lovers living in Oakland, CA who believe in empowering our community to take control of their own genetic resources.
  • East Palo Alto Seed Library
    The seeds in the Seed Library are organized by plant family, with a planting calendar indicating which families will be most successful during each planting season.
  • Santa Cruz Grows Seed Lending Library
    The Seed Library celebrates biodiversity through the time- honored tradition of seed saving, nurtures locally-adapted plant varieties, and fosters community resilience, self-reliance and a culture of sharing.
  • UCSC Demeter Seed Saving Project
    Amazingly, our “modern” food system is only dependent on about 150 different plant species, and 12 of those supply about 70% of the world’s food supply.

Water Conservation

Nearby Plant Nurseries

Monterey Seed Library

What is a Seed Library?  A seed library provides the free exchange of locally adapted seeds for our community to check-out, grow, and return harvest seeds while encouraging healthier ways to live and share. Numerous benefits include preserving and protecting the biodiversity of plants and food crops. Like a plant, the seed library will continue to grow with varying classes, community gatherings, and learning opportunities.

How does it work? First, complete a free membership form. Second, look through the seed library and select the plant seeds you'd like to grow.  Next, write down the seed packets you're taking in the Seed Check-Out Log. 

Where are the seeds from and is it free to check-out packets? Community members donated self-harvested and commercially grown seeds and we received a generous donation from select seed companies. We do our best to stock only non-hybrid, non-GMO, and open-pollinated plant seed for the seed library. The seeds are lent to you at no financial cost.

How many seed packets may I check-out? There is no limit to the number of seed packets that you check-out. Please only take seeds that you will plant and grow.

How many seeds are in each packet? Each packet has approximately 10-20 seeds. The exception is when we receive a sizeable donation or if the seeds are 2-3 years old to account for potentially lower germination. 

How is the seed cabinet organized? The smaller four drawer seed cabinet on top has bean, lettuce, pea, and tomato seeds; this is where beginning seed savers who want to return harvested seed should start. The larger cabinet has seeds arranged by common name and then variety. 

Do I have to harvest or donate seeds to borrow seeds? No. In fact, beginning gardeners are encouraged to first experience the joys of growing plants. We hope that eventually you’ll learn seed saving skills, return self-harvested or a packet of seeds, or consider donating funds to help maintain our community seed library.

I’d like to harvest seeds to donate but I’m not quite sure how… You’re not alone! If you’re new to seed saving, start by returning seeds from self-pollinating plants such as bean, lettuce, pea, and tomatoes. These seeds produce plants like the ones that you grow. Ask Library staff to help you find seed saving resources or visit online seed saving resources. Seed saving is an ancient skill that involves knowledge and understanding of many different aspects pertaining to plant health, collection from a number of plants, and isolation distances to prevent undesired cross-pollination. We want to be sure we’re stocking the library with healthy and viable plant seeds. Seeds older than three years old will not be placed into the seed cabinet.

How do I donate seeds? Seed donation forms and a donation box are located next to the Monterey Seed Library near the back entrance of the Library. Donations may be left during open hours of the Monterey Public Library. A Community seed donation day will also be held for to contribute your locally harvested or commercially purchased and non-GMO seeds for our growing seed library. Please ensure that saved plants seeds are non-hybrid and non-GMO. The seed donation form includes the following information for you to complete: Harvest year and geographic location of plant seed; plant name, variety, and color (for flowers); scientfic name (if known); organic (yes/no), and any special notes or folklore. Check the events page or email montereyseedlibrary (at) to be placed on the notification list.

Does the seed library accept donations? Yes! Tax-deductible donations are accepted and very much appreciated—just note that it’s for the Monterey Seed Library. Donations may be made online securely via the Monterey Public Library's website by clicking here, via postal mail, or in person. If you would like to speak further about how your donation will be utilized, please call (831) 646-5603 or email montereyseedlibrary (at)

The Monterey Seed Library is a growing partnership between the City of Monterey Public Library, Parks Department, UC Master Gardeners of Monterey Bay, Citizens for Sustainable Monterey County, MEarth, and the Monterey Institute of International Studies Our Green Thumb Community Garden with support from the CSUMB Service Learning Institute, and dedicated community volunteers.

We are grateful to Seed Savers Exchange for donating the bulk of our starting seed stock and to Hudson Valley Seed Library, High Mowing Organic Seeds, & Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for donations in 2015 and to our local community members who donated hundreds of organic and self-harvested seeds grown in Monterey County.  Thank you!




    Seed Saving

    Welcome to the world of seed saving!

    By learning to save your own seed you are preserving heirloom varieties and protecting biodiversity in our food crops. You are also helping us all take a step toward community resilience and self-reliance.

    Make sure you are starting with seeds or seedlings from an open-pollinated variety of plant. Open-pollinated varieties breed true; they produce fruit just like their parents. You are invited to save seeds from a selection of your healthiest plants to help stock our community seed library. New seed savers are asked to return seeds from bean, pea, lettuce, tomato, and sunflowers.

    The Monterey Public Library has a selection of seed saving books for you to check-out.

    What are Seeds?

    A plant produces seeds in order to reproduce itself.  Just like an egg has to be fertilized to become a new animal, a seed must be pollinated to produce a new plant. Understanding pollination is key to getting seeds to produce the plants you want. Some plants are self-pollinating—the male and female parts are contained within a single flower that fertilizes itself.  Other plants, called cross-pollinators, have separate male and female flowers and their pollen has to get from one flower to another in order for the flowers to be fertilized.

    The seeds from families of plants that are self-pollinating are in the four drawer Beginning Seed Savers cabinet. The most widely crossing of the cross-pollinators are noted as “advanced” because it takes effort and additional knowledge to keep them from crossing with each other.

    Types of Seeds 

    Open-pollinated or heirloom varieties have been grown for so many generations that their physical and genetic qualities are relatively stable. This seed will be “true to type” if saved. In simple terms, you will reap what you sow.

    Hybrid seeds. If a packet has hybrid, F1, or VF written on it, seeds from those plants will not produce plants like the parent plant. They may produce something somewhat or very different, or they may produce nothing at all.

    Plant Families

    If you learn the family, genus and species of vegetables, you will also learn their basic seed saving needs and risks.

    Families define the basic form of the flower parts of plants. All plants with the same flower (and reproductive) structure are in the same family.

    Genera (singular: Genus) define more closely related plants. Crosses between genera are rare but can occur.

    Species define specific botanically recognized plants with similar fruit, flowers, and leaves. Plants within one species will readily cross with each other.

    Cultivars are cultivated varieties that can cross with each other but will not cross with varieties of other species. When we save seeds we usually want to maintain a cultivar or breed a new one.


    Family: Cucurbitaceae  Genus: Cucurbita

    Species: Cucurbita pepo  Cultivars: Acorn squash, Warted gourd

    Squash and gourd are the same species and can easily cross-pollinate, which might result in an inedible variety thus the reasoning these are "advanced" seeds in terms of seed saving, not growing.


      Local Environmental Organizations Serving Our Community

      • Communities for Sustainable Monterey County
        Communities for Sustainable Monterey County is an affiliation of eight community-based Local Action Groups, from different areas of Monterey County, and several Regional Projects helping communities transition to sustainable practices.
      • UC Master Gardeners of Monterey Bay
        The primary role of the Master Gardener is to educate the community in the latest gardening research.
      • MEarth
        Educating + Inspiring
        MEarth is an environmental education nonprofit with roots in Carmel Valley, California, that is growing the next generation of environmental leaders through education, collaboration, partnerships and community action. We educate and inspire through environmental stewardship.
      • The Offset Project
        The Offset Project works with individuals, municipalities, businesses and special events to establish sound waste policies and implement best practices in environmental stewardship. TOP offers consulting, event “greening,” trainings/workshops, and a localized carbon fund to offset emissions by helping individuals and businesses invest in local environmental projects.
      • Return of the Natives
        RON is a community and school-based environmental education program dedicated to involving students (Kindergarten through University) in habitat restoration and service learning projects in the schoolyard and the community.
      Mailing Address
      625 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940

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