2021 Update: No Swaps, but Seeds Available

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The sad news is that we won’t be holding any seed swaps this year due to the coronavirus. That is probably not a surprise to most of you.

The happy news is that seeds are available in two of our locations, and more locations may reopen in the near future.

Borrow Seeds in NE, NW Seattle

Two KCSLL branches are resuming seed sharing in their respective locations. Both the NE Seattle branch and the NW Seattle branch are located in their community tool libraries, which are now reopened with limited hours.

— The NE Seattle branch is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 5-8 pm and Saturday 9 am-noon.

— The NW Seattle branch is open Saturdays 9 am-1 pm. 

— Both branches are limiting the number of simultaneous visitors and requiring coronavirus precautions such as wearing a mask and observing a 6-foot social distancing rule.

Due to limited display space, the NW Seattle branch is only offering seeds of crops that can be sown now. Seeds of warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash will be made available in early spring.

Donate Seeds

Seeds can also be donated at these two locations, but please observe these guidelines: pre-clean any homegrown seed, put it in a compact package, and label it with the crop, variety name, and year saved. Partial seed packets may be donated as well; please tape them shut.

Thanks to Territorial Seed Company for sending this lovely donation last fall. Look for their colorful packets of 2019 seed in our offerings this year.

Please continue to watch this blog and our Facebook page for updates on seed availability at other locations or expanded hours. Current location hours and a link to spreadsheets of available seeds at these two branches are available on our Locations page.

Filling Orders Virtually

NOTE: This post is from 2020; seed orders are not being filled in this manner in 2021.

We are delighted that we’ve found a way to share seeds during this difficult time. In our first week, we have served several dozen gardeners, from a third-grader to a neighbor group. Our seed supply is getting short on some items, but we are happy to get the seeds into peoples’ gardens while it is still relatively fresh and viable. Thank you for your patience as our intrepid volunteers fit this task into their full lives. Shout out to Polly for all her help!

Here are a few images of the process at the NW Seattle branch, starting from cataloging the seeds to filling and packaging up the orders.

Cataloging seeds
Filling seed orders
Seed orders bagged and labeled

Support our Bioregional Seed Companies

With the current craze to start or revive an edible garden, seed companies have been hit hard. They need to keep their workers safe while filling mountains of orders. Some have stopped taking orders temporarily, or are only shipping to commercial farmers. Many report turnaround times of two weeks to ship an order.

Still, these small businesses deserve our support. Seeds are alive and need to be planted while fresh. So we plead with our supporters to please patronize our bioregional seed companies. Check multiple companies to see who is shipping now. Be patient. Thank them for their work.

Here is a list of seed companies. Those with an asterisk * are outside of the Washington-Oregon region. (Please let us know if we’ve missed any that you think we should include.)

Adaptive Seeds www.adaptiveseeds.com  

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds https://www.rareseeds.com/

Deep Harvest Seeds www.deepharvestfarm.com

Fedco Seeds https://www.fedcoseeds.com/ *

Filaree Garlic Farm www.filareefarm.com  

Horizon Herbs www.horizonherbs.com  

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com  

Johnny’s Selected Seeds https://www.johnnyseeds.com/ *

Kitazawa Seed Company (CA) www.kitazawaseed.com *

New Dimension Seed www.newdimensionseed.com  

Nichols Garden Nursery www.nicholsgardennursery.com  

Osborne Seed Company www.osborneseed.com

Peace Seeds www.peaceseedslive.blogspot.com

Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (CA) www.groworganic.com *

Renee’s Garden Seeds https://www.reneesgarden.com/ *

Resilient Seeds https://www.resilientseeds.com/

Seed Savers Exchange (IA) www.seedsavers.org *

Seeds Trust/High Altitude Seeds (CO) www.seedstrust.com *

Seattle Seed Company www.seattleseed.com  

Siskiyou Seeds www.siskiyouseeds.com

Snake River Seed Cooperative (ID) www.snakeriverseeds.com *

Sustainable Seed Company www.sustainableseedco.com

Territorial Seed Company www.territorialseed.com  

Uprising Seeds www.uprisingorganics.com

Victory Seed Company www.victoryseeds.com  

Wild Garden Seed www.wildgardenseed.com  

*beyond Washington or Oregon  

In Troubling Times, Grow With Seeds

Life might seem a bit empty right now, with limitations on our work, school and social activities. But an old Hawaiian proverb says, “When your hands are turned to the soil, you will be full.” So let us keep gardening, the healthy activity that can be done alone or with a loved one. May it fill our spirits as well as our bodies.

Growing edibles begins in earnest now as our soils warm up and the days become longer. Here are some ideas to get started.

Is your soil warm enough to plant?

  • Calculate the soil temperature. Find out the soil warmth by watching the daily highs/lows. Add the daily high and nightly low together, then divide by two. That’s the approximate temperature of open soil. (e.g.: 50+40=90/2=45) It’s more accurate if you do it over the course of a week and then average those, because the soil temp doesn’t move with just one warm day. A soil thermometer will tell you right away if the soil is warm enough to sprout seeds. Most seeds require soil warmed to a depth of 3” to germinate.
  • Temps needed to germinate. Our coolest vegetables (lettuce, peas, chard, parsley, mustard greens, beets, carrots) will sprout in soil as cool as 40 degrees F. Other crops (corn, tomatoes) need at least 50 degrees F, while others (beans, peppers, melons, squashes) need 60 degrees F minimum. Of course, all will sprout faster in soil a little warmer than the minimum.
  • Warm up your soil. You can cover the garden bed for a few days with plastic sheeting to warm it up—but remove the plastic when you begin to plant. That will increase the soil temperature a few degrees above an open garden bed.

“When your hands are turned to the soil, you will be full.”

Start earlier with season extension

  • Raised beds. Are you growing vegetables in a raised bed? If so, the soil may already be getting warmer and drying out, the two key indicators that it will be ready for seeds.
  • Cover the bed. If you have “season extension” covers for your bed, like a cloche or a cold frame, they will really help you get the soil ready. You can plant under season extension two to three weeks earlier than in an open garden bed. But remember to open the device regularly to water the bed so the seeds are kept moist (but not too wet) while sprouting, and so that it doesn’t get too hot under the device on sunny days to wilt the tiny plants.

Is your soil dry enough to plant?

  • Soil readiness test. Here’s an easy test to find out if your soil is ready: Dig up a scoop of soil and pack together a softball-size clump of it in your hands. Hold it in one hand and throw it up in the air about two feet, letting it fall back into your open hand. If it lands with a “splotch!” and water sprays everywhere, it’s still too wet for planting. If it breaks apart easily and crumbles in your hand, it’s dry enough.

If your outdoor garden is not yet ready, you can still start indoors. See our post on Starting Seeds Indoors that includes a list of bioregional seed companies.

First Seed Swap of 2020 Set for Jan. 25, Two More on Feb. 8

Sprout some new ideas for your edible garden! Come to the annual Great Seattle Seed Swap hosted at the Phinney Center by the King County Seed Lending Library.

Oregon Sugar Pod II peas

The Northwest Seattle swap will be Saturday, January 25, 2-4 p.m. in the Community Center of the PNA’s Brick Building (lower parking lot).

If you can’t make that one,two more swaps will be held on Saturday, February 8, one in northeast Seattle and the other in the Snoqualmie Valley town of Duvall. (See our Events page for details on these swaps.)

Along with seeds of favorite vegetables, you will find enthusiastic fellow gardeners eager to share their best varieties. Nearly half of the 100 attendees at last year’s Northwest Seattle swap brought their own seeds. But bringing seeds to swap is not required.

What’s more, generous seed organizations are sharing seed with us. Oregon’s Adaptive Seeds, Bellingham’s Resilient Seeds and the Organic Seed Alliance from the Olympic Peninsula are all contributing unique varieties for Seattle gardeners to try. (A huge note of thanks to them for their contributions!)

At the swap, stick around to learn about both ends of the gardening year, from sowing to harvest–and beyond. There will be short workshops on seed saving and other gardening topics. If you learn to save some of your own seeds at harvest time, you can make a deposit to the library’s seed supply at next year’s swap!

Tilth Alliance, Seattle Tree Fruit Society, Sustainable Ballard and the PNA Tool Lending Library will be on hand to share information and more gardening opportunities. Also, there will be a table of seed catalogs and books for research, and a table with supplies for cleaning and processing your seed.

Bring your edible garden seed to share if you have it. It can be commercial or home-grown seed, but please follow these guidelines:

  • Share only seeds of edible plants that your fellow gardeners would grow from seed, such as annual vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers.
  • If donating packaged seed, it should be organic or open-pollinated or heirloom.
  • If donating home-saved seed, please clean it off the stems or stalks and bring only the seed.
  • You can clean your seed at the swap. We will have screens, and buckets available.
  • All shared seed should be fresh, within three years of purchase or saving.
  • Please label all donations with seed type, variety if known, and year it was grown/saved.
Purple peas in flower

We hope you can join us to learn and share the joys of growing our own food from seed. The seed swaps are free and open to all.

See event updates on our Facebook event page.