Seed Libraries Newsletter                 
Cool Beans!
Native Gardens
July 2019- Issue #18
In this Issue
Open Source Resources                                                                                                   

All of the articles and resources in this newsletter and on are open source., except where noted. They may be freely used. We encourage you to use these articles and resources and share them in your community. You may repost articles in your own community newsletters or emails. Attributions to are appreciated, but not required. If there is a specific author mentioned, please include the name as a courtesy.  If you have articles that you have written that you feel would be of benefit to the seed library community, email them to
Master Class:
Native Seed Saving

Many, if not most native plants' seeds are ready to harvest between June and October. Annuals and perennials will be ready for seed collection 2-5 weeks after peak bloom while shrubs and trees may take two months or longer for fruits and seed to mature.

Seed collecting requires you to familiarize yourself with the seeds themselves.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden offers website photo collections of many common Western United States native plants and their seed along with numerous resources about native plant seed collections that are relevant regardless of locale. For additional regional resources, look online to find local native plant societies to see what resources they offer.

A good hand lens or magnifying glass is a useful tool for examining crushed seed heads and identifying seeds among the chaff.

Seed Maturity
Depending on the type of plant and the type of fruit produced, there are varying signs to look for to tell if the seed is ready to be harvested. In general, if the seed comes away from the plant freely,  the seed capsule is dry and tan, or the fruit is pulled from the plant easily, then the seed is ripe and viable. Mature seeds are usually dark in color, firm and dry.
The flesh of pulpy fruits often becomes soft and changes from green or yellowish to reddish or blue-purple and detaches from the plant easily when ripe. Determine seed maturity by cutting open the fruit and examining seeds for firmness, fullness and dark color.
For plants that haven't been collected from before, start checking the pods early, rather than come back to the plant long after all the seeds have dropped. Many pods or capsules dehisce (come open and expel seeds) when ripe and mature at staggered intervals, making collection difficult. Once maturation begins, check it every few days to collect any newly matured seeds. Try inverting a paper sack over the immature seed and tying it off with string, or hold the pod together using a rubber band. Dry, well-ventilated areas quicken the opening of pods. Hot and dry weather can speed up seed maturity, while cool, moist weather can slow it down. It's a good idea to record weather conditions, as well as flowering, seed maturity and collection dates. This information will provide a useful reference guide for future collections.
Collection Methods
Use fingers to shake or pry seeds from seed heads. It can be helpful to wear gloves. Sometimes it may be easier to separate the actual seed from the chaff(fine plant material) at the time of collection. In other cases, it may be preferred to use garden shears to clip seed heads from their stems for later separation of the seed from the chaff, flower parts and stems. In general, dry fruits are harvested into paper envelopes or bags while moist fruits are collected in plastic bags, buckets, etc. 

In the case of native grasses, it is sometimes more efficient to use a fine- toothed metal hair comb to rake seeds from their stems than it is to strip them off by hand.

To collect a higher percentage of a population's genetic diversity, collect fewer seeds from more individuals as opposed to more seeds from fewer plants. For most situations, the more individuals contributing to a seed collection, the more useful it is. As is practical, sampling should be done randomly and evenly from throughout the population.

Harvested material should be placed loosely and not packed into collection bags. Harvested plant material can also be loosely wrapped in newspaper, spread out on paper or over screens to continue drying. Some fruits release their seed explosively; therefore their collection bags should be well-sealed and spread collections covered.

Post harvest care of collections includes protecting them from rodents and keeping them under moderate to cool temperatures until they can be cleaned, safely packaged and placed into storage.

Cleaning seeds
Basic steps in seed cleaning include: threshing, screening, and  winnowing.

Threshing can be accomplished by rubbing, banging and stomping. Then  screens that have slightly larger or smaller holes can be used to separate most of the largest and smallest plant materials.

Once seeds are "sifted", they'll be mostly clean but there may be a bit more chaff to deal with. A final step to remove a significant portion of any remaining chaff is to winnow the seed, allowing the wind to carry away the lighter chaff while leaving the heavier seed behind. The larger/heavier the seed, the easier this step is. Place the seed/chaff in a large shallow bowl. With a circular up-and- down motion, the chaff will be winnowed away.

For seeds that are borne in a fleshy fruit, the fruit can decay, but can also act as a germination inhibitor. Most moist fruits are easiest to clean shortly after harvest while they are moist. Care should be taken to keep them hydrated and as with any fresh fruit they can be maintained for extended periods under refrigeration.

First step in cleaning is to place all the fruit collected into a Ziploc bag, seal, and using fingers mash the fruit through the bag. Let the fruit decay for a few days, mashing the fruit periodically. After a few days to a week, the pulp will have decayed from a firm substance to a fairly watery one. 

Dump the mass of pulp and seeds into a large bowl and fill 2/3 with clear water. Remove as much pulp from seed as possible by squeezing and rubbing the seeds. Carefully pour most of the water off - the seeds will mostly sink, while the lighter pulp will pour off. Refill the bowl, repeat several times. Clean seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Drying Seed
If seed is going to be stored for any length of time, it must be completely dry or it will likely rot. Make sure the seed is dry and put seeds into paper envelopes in a dry, dark place.
Even when seeds are ripe and hard to the touch, they often still benefit from additional drying before being stored. This will prevent mold from developing and increase the seeds longevity. The best approach to drying seed is to leave it in an open bag or bin where they receive good air circulation. Hot locations, or areas that receive direct sunlight are not good for drying, and can kill otherwise viable seed.

Protected from rain and animals, often just a few weeks of additional drying at ambient temperatures are sufficient.
Collections should be labeled, preferably at the time of collection. Label collections with the date (including year), the botanical name of the plant, and location information.

Seed Storage
Kept in a cool, dark place, seeds of most native plants can be stored for years with only a slight loss in viability. 
The two most critical necessities for storing seeds are constant temperatures and low humidity. A temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less and a humidity of 50 percent or lower are ideal. Rule of thumb, temperature + humidity = 100.

Store seeds in the refrigerator, not the freezer, until you are ready to plant. Low temperature, humidity and light level protect seed longevity. If it is not practical to store seeds in your refrigerator, store them in any place that is cool, dark and dry, protecting them from insects as much as possible. Store the seeds in paper sacks to allow good air circulation and prevent molding. Do not store seeds in plastic bags or other nonbreathable containers unless they are air-dried thoroughly first. It is important to include basic information on labels, including date of collection, species name, and location of collection.

Scarification means scratching or nicking the seed coat. It's a good idea to scarify anything with a hard seed coat. The appropriate method depends on seed size.
For bigger seeds: if possible, use a stone grinder, holding the seed with needle-nose pliers and making sure not to let it heat up.
For smaller seeds:  Dip in sulfuric acid. For thin coats, five minutes or less, while thicker coats may take up to 30 minutes. Be sure to rinse the acid off really well.
Other methods include:
* Lacerating seed with a sharp knife
* Nicking seed with nail clippers
* Roughing up the seed coating with sandpaper
* Freezing overnight, then adding seed to boiling water (cooled just a bit) in order to cause cracks
Important - scarifying increases the number of germinated seeds that are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Once scarified, most seeds will germinate quickly, and the seedling will require water. 

Stratification involves putting seed in a plastic bag with growing media (vermiculite is suggested for smaller seeds, perlite for larger) and chilling it. This serves as a sort of simulated winter.
The amount of time a seed is in the cold depends on the plant:
* Perennials such as milkweeds, columbines and penstemons can be stratified from two to four weeks.
* Stratify trees and shrubs for 30 to 90 days.
Be sure to check bag daily and keep the media moist. Once germination occurs, sow the seed in soil. 

Seed Collection Guidelines from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens
California Native Plant Propagation from the California Native Plant Society
How to Collect and Store Seeds from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


featuredresourceFeatured Resource
Native Seed Collections
Native seed collections are a great edition to any seed library. Perhaps, your collection might even be exclusively natives. 

These resources are California (& Western United States) specific, but it is an amazing template of what two dedicated volunteers who are passionate about natives can create. Thank you Carol & Anni! The packets even have QR codes that take you to a webpage with additional plant information! We are hoping to share that list with you later through

Submit Resources for Next Issue!
Seed Stories  -  August 2019 Issue
A special story about a seed is often one way people get excited about stewarding a particular variety. How do you engage your community around stories of seeds? We'd love to hear!

Please include your name and the name of your seed library, town/city, province/state, and county. 

Email us  information by July 15th. 
Many hands make for light work, and a few donations can keep Cool Beans! coming to your inbox!

We are a 100% volunteer organization and all of your money will go to hosting the website and paying for our e-subscription service for Cool Beans! Consider becoming a sustaining  at $5 a month. 

Contributions are tax-deductible through Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library's fiscal agent, Urban Tilth. 
seedlibrarysummitNational Seed Library Summit
Wed., Sept. 11, 2019
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
Free with the cost of entrance to the Heirloom Expo ($15)

Join us for the 9th Annual National Seed Library Summit! Every year we gather at the National Heirloom Expo to talk about what is happening in our local seed libraries and in the larger seed library movement. Our meeting is always Wednesday afternoon. Hear what exciting programs other seedbrarians are doing. Brainstorm solutions to common challenges. Attend interesting talks at the National Heirloom Expo. 

The Expo is also hoping to host several seed swaps and would like to have a table with information about seed libraries at the swap. If you are able to cover a shift, let us know that when you register. 
Seeds of Resistance
The Fight for our Food Supply
Ten thousand years after humans figured out how to stop wandering and plant crops the veteran investigative journalist Mark Schapiro plunges into the struggle underway for control of seeds, the ground-zero ingredient for our food.  Three-quarters of the seed varieties on earth in 1900 had become extinct by 2015. In Seeds of Resistance, Schapiro takes us into the frontlines of a struggle over the seeds that remain, a struggle that will determine the long-term security of our food supply in the face of unprecedented climate volatility.  
Schapiro reveals how more than half of all commercially traded seeds have fallen under the control of just three multinational agri-chemical companies. At just the time when scientists tell us we need a spectrum of options to respond to the climatic changes, thousands of seed varieties are being taken off the market and replaced by the companies' chemically addicted crack-baby seeds. And he dives deep into the rapidly growing movement in the United States and around the world to defy these trends and assert autonomy over locally bred seeds-seeds which are showing high levels of resilience to the onrushing changes brought on by climate change.
Schapiro applies his investigative and story-telling skills to a riveting narrative, from the environmentally stressed fields of the American Midwest to the besieged fields of Syria, as arid conditions in the two start to resemble one another; to Native American food cultivators, who are seeing increasing interest in their ability to grow food in shifting conditions over thousands of years; from the financial markets that are turning patented seeds into one of the planet's most valuable commodities to the fields where they are grown and demonstrating increasing vulnerability as temperatures rise and rain no longer falls like it used to. Seeds of Resistance lifts the lid on the struggle, largely hidden from public view until now, over the earth's most important resource as the conditions on the earth shift above our heads and beneath our feet.

Get the book! Join the Resistance!
Free Resource
Shareable Cities: Activating the Urban Commons
Review  by Australian futurist Dr. José Ramos 

Duluth Minnesota's Resolution to Support Seed Saving and Sharing is one of many local  s olutions featured in Shareable's new 275 page book, " Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons. " You can get a free  PDF  of the book  here . Here's what Annie Leonard of Story of Stuff had to say about the book, "Sharing Cities" shows that the answer is us. It lays out a vision, with concrete examples, of how we can ease pressure on the planet, increase access to the things people need, and strengthen our democracy through sharing. Read this book and let's get started building a better world!" 

There's a logical line of argument that can be simply stated in the following way: If we are to address our great challenges, our cities need to be transformed. Yet, transforming our cities will require a transformation of our understanding of what a city is and should be.

The last few years have seen such a resurgence of thinking. Described by terms such as the "urban commons" or the "city as a commons," cities are being reimagined as places that should nurture and protect all residents' well-being, empower citizens as innovators, and practice collaborative governance. Cities such as  Bologna  in Italy,  Ghent  in Belgium, and  Seoul  i n South Korea, have led the way in reshaping the popular imagination for what a city can be.

Shareable's " Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons " not only rises to this occasion, it hits the ball straight out of the park. Reading through the book invokes a sense of awe. Page after page, the book is filled with unique and powerful examples of remarkable projects from all around the world. Each of the examples is beautifully concise and expertly edited, written in plain language but with nuance and sophistication that delves into the intricacies of each example. There are literally no words wasted.

The breath of the book is impressive. It covers eleven themes: housing, mobility, food, work, energy, land, waste, water, finance, governance, and information and communications technology. This is all brought together in under 170 pages; an efficiency which is impressive. Download the book today or considering purchasing a copy to support this important work. 

NOTE: Shareables was one of the seed library community's partners in the National Save Seed Sharing Campaign when we had challenges around saving and sharing seeds through seed libraries. 
tipsfromfieldTips from the Fields
I noticed that there is a contradiction in the April newsletter. In the saving seed section, preventing cross-pollination is presented as if it's the only option. In the review of Shattering, however, "insistence on uniformity" is rightly mentioned with an implied criticism. I've grown multi-variety mixes of broad-beans, parsnips and leeks for years with good results, while cross-pollinated pumpkins tend to be poor. So I'd recommend a more adventurous attitude, but be sure to review the results.
                        - Erik B.

Editor's Note: Erik, thanks for bringing up this point. It is helpful for us to identify our intention when seed saving. If the intention is to preserve a variety, then follow "best practices" for seed saving. If food security or climate adaption are the main concerns, then being more "adventurous" is encouraged. Regardless of your approach, "Label! Label! Label!" Communicate what you are sharing and whether it is pure seed (used "best practices"), garden seed (some potential cross-pollination), or an active breeding project. 
Next Issue:
Seed Stories - August 2019
FeedbackFeedback for this issue? Ideas for the next issue?
This Issue: Native Gardens
Do you have native plants in your garden? How do you get your collection? How do you label? Please share any tips or strategies?

Next Issue: Seed Stories
What do you do to collect and share stories about seeds in your community?

Fill in this survey. Tips on what you do will be included in News from the Field to benefit others.
Seed Saving Courses
7th Annual Seed School
August 16-18, 2019
Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, IA, USA
Questions? Contact us.

Seed School
Denver, CO, USA
October 20-25, 2019
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance & Global Seed Savers

Seed School Online
Self-paced, online course
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance and Urban Farm

Offering a day long seed saving class?
Let us know and we'll include it in 
Cool Beans! and our Facebook page.
Seedy Events
Save the Date!
9th Annual Seed Library Summit 
Sept. 11, 2019
National Heirloom Expo Santa Rosa, CA, USA

Offering a day long  seed celebration or meeting?
We're happy to share it. Email us.

730+ Open!
Sister Seed Libraries
- Have you opened?  
- Added branches?  
- Created a website?

Check the Sister Libraries List to see if your information is accurate and to find other libraries near you. Fill in this survey to help us keep the list accurate.

Seed Libraries Association
-  Resources on how to start & manage a seed library
-  Sister Seed Libraries pages
-  Inspirational projects associated with seed libraries
Banner Photo
A beautiful clarkia morning
by Anni Jensen

Do you have a banner bean photo you'd like included? Email us.  Let us know the variety, your name, location, and if you are associated with a seed project.