Seed Library

“It is in the nature of seed to be saved and exchanged. Saving seed is an ethical duty.”

                                                                                                  Vandana Shiva

THE SANTA CRUZ GROWS SEED LIBRARY at the Live Oak Public Library, 2380 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz is maintained by the TimeBank and is a project of the Reskilling Expo.

The mission of this free urban seed project is to increase the capacity of our community to feed itself wholesome food and to enhance biodiversity by saving and sharing productive locally-adapted varieties. We contend that the lending of garden seeds will encourage urban food production.

The Seed Library fosters community resilience, self-reliance and a culture of sharing. It operates on the honor system. You become a member of the Seed Library when you withdraw seeds to plant. We ask that you commit to growing out and returning at least one variety per year.


Seeds are precious. Take only those seeds that you intend      

to plant during the next season. Take only one packet per variety. Be mindful of others who will need seeds.

Learn to save seeds. Try to grow out an easy variety by letting it go-to-seed at the end of the season. Return a portion to us to help us restock. A well-stocked Seed Library will make our community stronger.

We depend on you to treat the seed drawers with care. Each person may withdraw six packets per season. Don't take more than you need. Sign your seeds out. Endeavor to learn to save seeds correctly so that you can contribute. We need the relationship of the Seed Library to the public to be one of trust and reciprocity.

We encourage all members to learn basic seed saving techniques. Returned seed will allow us to keep the Library well-stocked. We'd like to convene a Grow-Out Collective of experienced gardeners who will commit to growing certain varieties out for Seed Library use. Contact us for details.


Some seeds are easy to save. Others require more effort, experience and time. We ask people who save seeds for this Library to grow them organically.

Beginning seed savers will do well with easy-to-save plants such as peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and grains.

Beginners can also do well with moderately easy-to-save plants such as beets, chard, parsley, parsnips and carrots. These plants are biennials which means they produce seeds during the second growing season. You need to be willing to leave the plant in the ground longer and be mindful of its bolting cycle.

Difficult-to-save plants should be avoided by beginning seed savers because you don't always reap what you sow. These plants may cross-pollinate with another variety and produce an inedible fruit.  You won't be certain what the saved seeds will produce unless you know how to save them properly.

Difficult-to-save plants are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, corn, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons.


If you harvest small tomatoes, you're likely to get small tomatoes when you replant. If you harvest the first tomatoes of the season, their offspring will probably produce earlier in the season.

When choosing seeds to harvest, consider size, shape, taste, health of the plant, and time of season - early, mid or late.

Keep notes with your saved seeds. Write down why you chose to save these particular seeds, where you grew them, and when you harvested them. This process will help you learn from your plants and allow you to start creating the varieties that work best for your location.


  • Make sure the seeds are dry.
  • Remove as much of the chaff as possible.
  • Label the seeds you return with as much information as possible. People who borrow your seeds will rely on what you've written to decide if this is a plant that they would like to grow. More info is better.
  • Return seeds in bulk. We will package them. Excess seeds may be donated to sister Seed Libraries.

Please only return seeds from plants that you know how to save properly. Easy-to-save seeds (tomatoes, beans peas and lettuce) can be fairly reliably saved without cross-pollination or unintentional hybridization. Do not return seeds from the brassica (such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage) or cucurbit (such as cucumbers, squash, melons) families unless you have taken appropriate steps to prevent cross-pollination.

Contact us to donate seeds.