Alameda, CA

How You Can Still Grow Veggies With Help From Alameda’s Seed Libraries

Karin K Jensen

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Seed Library in the Alameda Free Library, Main BranchKarin Jensen

You might think August is too late to start growing your own food, but surprise! It’s not. Thanks to Alameda’s mild climate, we can grow food year-round. And with help from local seed libraries, you can not only experience the joy and miracle of watching edible plants and herbs sprout from tiny seeds, but you can also save money and begin developing food independence.

Where Can You Get Free Seeds?

There are currently four locations in Alameda where you can pick up free seeds:

  1. Alameda Main Library
  2. Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) little seed libraries at:
  • 2829 San Jose Avenue (East End)
  • 305 Santa Clara Avenue (West End)
  • 16 Cove Road (Bay Farm)

The Alameda Main Library has the most extensive collection of seeds in one location and includes vegetable seeds and a small selection of herbs. The Library requests that you save seeds at harvest time and return some to keep the inventory stocked. Information on how to do this can be found in a binder on the top of the seed cabinet.

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Boxes of seed packets in the seed libraryKarin Jensen

ABG little seed libraries each have six kinds of seeds from which you can choose. ABG says that families and individuals may choose up to six packs of seeds per month and are encouraged only to take what they will grow.

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Alameda Backyard Growers little seed library at 2829 Santa Clara StreetKarin Jensen

How Do You Know What to Grow?

The best place to start is the Alameda Main Library. The Library’s Green Thumbs, Green Minds program maintains binders of information that include:

  • A Planting Calendar that tells you what you can grow at different times of the year, either from plant starts or seeds.
  • A Plant Index that tells you the common and scientific names of different vegetables and herbs and how relatively easy or difficult they are to grow.
  • Information on how to save seeds from different vegetables and herbs at harvest time, so you can not only develop a personal library of seeds that work well in your garden but return some to the Library to help more community members experience the pleasure of growing their food.

The Planting Calendar for August reveals that good plants to grow from seed include beets, carrots, collard, lettuce, mustard, parsnips, peas, potato tubers, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. Looking ahead to September reveals an even greater number of vegetables that can be grown from seed.

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Excerpt of the Planting Calendar at the Alameda Main LibraryKarin Jensen

The beauty of borrowing seeds from the Library is that you can take only the number of seeds you will use. For instance, if you want to grow a couple of basil plants in pots in the spring, you needn’t buy an entire packet of seeds and risk wasting most of them. On top of the seed cabinet are little brown envelopes you can use to take just what you need. (And if you do have an excess of newly purchased seeds, consider donating them to the Library so that others can enjoy them.)

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Karin Jensen

How Do You Grow Vegetables From Seeds?

If you’re new to growing vegetables from seeds, Alameda Backyard Growers has got you covered with lots of information for the newbie on their website, such as this video. Note that root vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and potatoes should be planted directly into the ground.

In general, you’ll want a location that gets at least 8 hours of sun per day with soil that’s loose and includes organic matter mixed in. Organic matter can come from homemade compost or purchased planting mix.

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Radish grown from seed from the seed libraryKarin Jensen

Why Grow Food and Herbs from Seeds?

The Green Thumbs, Green Minds program says that seeds are “lent to you at no financial cost, and they are priceless…growing plants from seeds is a gift. When you participate in the seed library, you create a culture of sharing and abundance.”

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Proud Alamedan writing about our arts, business, politics, and events. I also write about local Asian American history. On Instagram @karinkjensen.

Alameda, CA
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