Interesting lettuce? New tomato? Sunflowers for solidarity with Ukraine? Join the Seed Library for the return of our Great Seattle Seed Swap! It’s our first since 2019, and we can’t wait to share seeds with you.
The swap will be Saturday, April 16, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., in the Community Hall of the Brick Building.
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.
— 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.
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.
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.
NOTE: This post is from 2020; seed orders are not being filled in this manner in 2021.
With a booming interest in gardening and the temporary shutdown of our seed lending library locations, we have devised a pilot program to get our seed supply to neighbors who can use them.
Starting today, we will be accepting emailed seed orders for our Northwest Seattle branch. We will fulfill the orders twice a week and leave them at a secure, outdoor, weatherproof location for recipients to pick up. The pickup location will be in Northwest Seattle.
We will package and label your seeds (small quantities only, regardless of our “KCSLL Supply” designation).
If we run out of an item, we might substitute another variety of the same crop.
We will respond with an email telling you where you can pick up your seeds.
Seed orders will be taken to our pickup location twice a week. Each order will be packaged with the recipient’s name on the bag. We suggest you take the same precautions when handling the package as you would at a grocery store. To be extra-safe, use gloves when taking the seed order home, then let it sit for 72 hours before opening it. We also ask that recipients practice proper social distancing if another recipient is at the pickup location.
This program will initially cover Northwest Seattle only. If successful, we will try to enact it at other branches.
Unfortunately, we are unable to take seed donations at this time. Please (safely) share with your neighbors and friends! Hopefully, we will be able to reopen our physical branches and resume regular activity later this spring.
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.
Stuck at home? Now is a great time to start your edible garden. Many people buy small plants at the nursery, but if that isn’t possible right now, try seeds. Seeds can be started indoors and transplanted out or transferred to larger pots as they grow.
Here are tips on starting seeds.
Many seeds can be started in pots indoors and then transplanted out. Try salad greens, peas, broccoli and other brassicas, tomatoes, peppers and squash. Don’t try root crops like beets and carrots—they need to be “direct sown” into the soil.
It’s best to use a light seed-starting medium rather than plain garden soil. You can buy it, or make your own with a mixture of compost, peat moss, coco coir, sand and soil—whatever you have available that will be lighter weight than soil. The goal is to make it easier for the seeds to push out of the soil.
Plant in very small pots, like “six-packs” of nursery cells, one inch wide by two inches deep. Or use small yogurt containers or take-out food clamshells. Try to have at least two inches of depth.
Sow small seed just under the surface of the soil. Bigger seed like peas can be planted deeper.
Keep the seed bed consistently moist but not soggy.
Keep the seed tray in a warm place while seeds are germinating. A seedling heat mat is a great tool for the avid gardener.
Place the seed tray in a sunny indoor spot once the seedlings appear.
Be careful when watering. Use a bike water bottle or small watering can to gently water at the soil level.
Cool-season crops like salad greens and peas can be planted in the garden when they have two or three sets of “true leaves.” (The first leaves to appear are called the “seed leaves.”)
Warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers should be “potted up” to larger pots and kept indoors until the weather is warmer, with nights consistently at or above 50 degrees F.
Before transferring any seedlings to the garden, they need to be “hardened off.” This is done by setting the seed tray outside for an hour one day, two hours the next, etc., for 5 to 7 days. This gets them used to the weather so they will survive better in the open garden. If planting in a warm raised bed or under cover, this step is less important.
Water consistently once the seeds are in the garden to help them set their roots and get off to the best start. The surface of the soil should just start to get a bit dry before watering again.
Order your seeds from one of our wonderful bioregional seed companies. Be patient as they are probably experiencing a high volume of orders.