The Seed Library at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (CVCA) has a huge assortment of flower and vegetable seeds available free to anyone with an interest in growing. The library currently holds more than 300 packets of seeds, alphabetically sorted and located in an antique file cabinet in the corner of the gift shop.
“It is all stuff that will grow locally,” says May Sullivan, the seed library’s co-creator.
In fact, most of the seeds in Globe’s Seed Library are from plants that have grown here: sunflower seeds from Bob Zache’s garden, artichoke seeds from Flat Four Farms, and more.
“When we came up with the idea, I asked all of my friends who have flowers to save me seeds,” says May. “There are people who have gardened for a long time and have lots of seeds.”
“We just want people to be home gardeners and grow things…and eat healthy food,” says Mindy Lively, a master gardener and co-owner of Flat Four Farms.
Mindy partnered with May to bring the seed library idea to fruition and encourages people to help themselves to the seeds of their choice. Each envelope has enough seeds for a home gardener. For those starting winter gardens, there are carrot seeds, swiss chard, arugula, and more.
“Seed libraries have been around for a long time,” says Mindy. “That’s what people did. They exchanged seeds.”
Unlike a seed bank, in which the main purpose is to store seeds against possible destruction, a seed library’s goal is to disseminate seeds to the public and preserve plant varieties through propagation and ongoing seed-sharing.
Payson and Bisbee each have seed libraries, both housed in their public libraries. May and Mindy were looking for a location and a way to house the seed library when Mary, a CVCA board member, learned that an old filing cabinet from the assessor’s office could be used to great effect. It now stands in the corner of the CVCA gift shop, time-period appropriate and accessible to all.
“It was her great idea of having it here,” says Mindy, standing in the CVCA lobby. “It’s the hub of town. A lot of things happen here. “
“We want it to be an exchange,” says Mindy. “Take some seeds from the library, and when you have extra seeds of something, share them.”
Contributors can leave their seeds in envelopes or plastic baggies in the top drawer of the cabinet. Include your name, the name of the seed, and when it was harvested. They’ll be sorted into seed packets and file drawers for others to find.
Mindy also purchases seeds in bulk through the Great American Seed-Up (https://greatamericanseedup.org) through donations she receives for the seed library.
More information about seed-saving and winter gardening is available on YouTube in a series of Garden & Country webinars facilitated by Chris Jones, with the University of Arizona Gila County Cooperative Extension (https://bit.ly/3yOCfiO).
“What’s most important to know about seed-saving is that there are species that are true-to-parent and easy to save, such as beans, peas, lettuce, arugula, and broccoli,” Chris says. “Plants that hybridize readily require isolation, and there are special techniques for ‘wet’ species, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons.”
Now is a good time to begin seed-saving, according to the seed librarians. Summer flowers are spent and the autumn harvest is upon us.
“You cut into a pumpkin for Halloween, you save the seeds,” Mindy says.
It’s not always that simple, but sometimes it is. Mindy’s neighbor threw a rotten squash out into his yard and now has acorn squash growing.
“I told him to save the seeds,” Mindy says, “because those are going to be hardier than most seeds you can get.”
A traveler, Patti Daley came to Globe in 2016 to face the heat, follow love, and find desert treasure. She writes in many formats and records travel scraps and other musings at daleywriting.com.