Charlotte Seed Library

Seed sprouting
This is a project of the Charlotte Library, to encourage and support our community’s home food producers and seed savers. It is part of a network of Seed Libraries and Seed Savers worldwide which promote the growing of heirloom varieties.  This year the focus of our Seed Library is heirloom vegetables.

Seed Library Catalog [PDF]

Gardener Support: Programs & Resources

Swap Seeds & Stories
Monday, February 3, 2020, 7:00 – 8:00pm
Bring any heirloom vegetable (or herb) seeds you have available to share with others including the Seed Library, and we’ll have a swap! We’ll also have 2020 seed catalogues to browse and discuss. Even if you don’t have seeds to contribute, come anyway because we’ll also be swapping stories! Tell us especially about your favorite heirloom vegetables and why you grow them.

Exploring Gaia’s Garden Book Discussion
Thursdays, January 9, 16, 23 & 30, 2020, 7:00 – 8:30pm
A 4-part study of Toby Hemenway’s classic guide to home-scale permaculture, Gaia’s Garden. Pre-registration required. Copies of the book are available at the Library. New and experienced gardeners are welcome for the study of this practical book. Expect interesting reading (about 70 pages in preparation for each session) and lively discussions!

Introduction to Permaculture with Karen Tuininga:
How to sustainably produce food & beauty on your land by working smarter, not harder, December 4, 2019
Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway
Intro to Permaculture Resource [PDF]

Slow Food Gardens: Eat it to Save It! Harvest Potluck Supper and Slow Food Guest Speaker Mara Welton, October 2, 2019
Slow Food Vermont
Slow Food: Good, clean and fair

View Earlier Programs and Resources

Seed Circle

Stay informed about the Charlotte Seed Library. Sign up for the Seed Circle email list.

Why are Heirloom Varieties Important?

A quote about seeds.

Heirloom (or heritage) varieties either pre-date or are unaltered by, the last 100+ years of modifications by plant breeders. These varieties have been passed down from neighbor to neighbor or through families for generations, prized for their particular appearance, flavor or texture, genetic diversity, hardiness and/or resilience.

Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated.  When they are self-pollinated or pollinated by another plant of the same variety, the seeds they produce can be saved and will grow out “true to type” (just like the parent plant).  But if an heirloom is pollinated by a different variety of the same species, the seeds produced will be hybrids.


Hybrids created either by chance, or intentionally through plant breeding techniques, combine traits of both parents.  This first generation hybrid (F1) can have desirable characteristics such as greater disease resistance, yield, uniformity or flavor etc.  However, the seeds of these hybrids do not produce true to their F1 parents, and so are not useful to save.

Creating desirable hybrids is a common plant breeding practice, which generally then relies on large-scale commercial production of F1 seeds each year for growers.

Keeping Heirlooms Alive

Germinating seedling

Heirloom varieties contain more genetic diversity than hybrids, and so provide the species with greater ability to adapt to changing growing conditions.  The need to maintain this resilience has never been greater, given that in the last 100 years, 90% of the varieties of the world’s food crops have already been irretrievably lost due to the practices of large-scale industrialized agriculture.

How Does it Work?

Carica papaya seedling macro

Both experienced and new gardeners are welcome to “sign out” the Seed Library’s small packets of organic heirloom vegetable seeds (at no charge) to grow at home, harvest and enjoy.  Participants are encouraged to use eco-friendly gardening techniques, and to save some of this year’s harvest of seed to restock the Seed Library for next year.  We will support you with technical information and hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year.  Check our calendar for updates.

Growing food from seed can be a deeply satisfying experience, –including seeing the miracle of seeds turning into plants, taking responsibility for husbanding the plants to maturity, harvesting what they produce, and then eating the healthy and delicious results of this labor.

Getting Started

To get started, look through the Seed Library Catalog [PDF].  Choose some vegetable varieties you’d like to grow, —either because they are new to you and you’d like to try them out, or because they are already favorites and you’d like to start saving seeds instead of buying more each year.  Complete the Seed Library Card with your contact information and what seeds you are taking.  Find your seed packets in the alphabetized Seed Library Cabinet.

Time to get your hands dirty!

Other Resources

Agricultural Literacy Week: Celebrating Our Ancestral Roots
Links and videos: