Seed libraries sprout in suburbs and towns
It’s a simple idea that’s growing. Similar programs run at Eastern Regional Libraries, at Castlemaine and Woodend libraries and at sites across the City of Darebin including Jika Jika and Alphington community centres.
Justine Hanna, a team leader at Sam Merrifield Library in Moonee Ponds, said the Moonee Valley Libraries program started in September 2019 after a Canadian visitor said seed libraries were popular in his country and asked if there were any in Melbourne.
Ms Hanna loved the idea, and it aligns with the mission of today’s libraries to cater for patrons’ health and wellbeing, not just reading needs.
Moonee Valley Libraries members can take up to three seed packets per visit, each with 10 to 15 seeds. Written on the packets are the plant’s name, a description and care instructions.
During Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown, library staff mailed over 140 envelopes, each containing at least five packets of seeds, to members.
Popular food seeds include tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, chillis, and parsley. Popular flowers include marigolds and Russian sunflowers.
Donations have included an Italian heirloom lettuce variety called the Drunken Woman, and a ground cover herb with a pretty purple flower called Glycine clandestina.
Ms Hanna said the community had embraced the program, “donating seeds, talking to us about it and sending us photos, thank you notes and unboxing videos”.
Judith and Abigail’s mother, Betty Nellanikat, said the program was a great way to teach the girls where food comes from and that some plants don’t survive or bear fruit. “I think it’s a beautiful scheme,” she said.
They have “borrowed” and planted seeds for dill, tomato, coriander, lettuce and radish from the Seed Library, and have deposited blackberry seeds, which they had washed and dried from fruit they bought at a market and didn’t eat.
Ms Nellanikat said gardening was “good during the COVID-19 lockdowns for the girls to have something purposeful to do”.
“Everything was closed down, even the park — we could only go there for an hour.
“But when they came home there was still something, off technology, that they could go back to, which was their own. They love gardening now.”
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Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.