The goal the Copper Queen Seed Library is to form and encourage a learning community centered around the saving and sharing of seeds in our unique desert climate. The practice of seed saving has been around for more than 12,000 years. It is a part of our heritage and is now more important than ever in preserving unique seed varieties which have drastically decreased due to commercial see farming practices. Seed libraries like ours have the potential to secure the future of food in the Desert Southwest through conservation, sharing and education. Check out our debut article in the Herald/Review!
How The Seed Library Works
Our Seed Library is located at the Copper Queen Library at 6 Main Street in Old Bisbee. Our Seed Library depends on donations, growing success, and seasonal changes. Seeds are organized by the plants common name and in alphabetical order. The seeds you borrow in our library are all open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, meaning seeds saved from these plants will produce fruit the next season which will be the same as the parent plant.
To borrow seeds from the library, all you need is a Copper Queen Library card in good standing order. Seeds can be checked out just like our books and DVDs. The seed packets contain enough seeds to grow at least five to ten plants. You can check out up to ten packets every month. You don't return the same seeds, so there are no due dates, and you'll never accrue any overdue fines.
Returning seeds is not required. However, as you learn and grow as a gardener, sharing seeds is highly recommended to help keep our Seed Library going. Collect seeds from your healthiest and tastiest crops. Place your processed seeds in clearly labeled envelopes or containers and be sure to include a donation slip when you drop them off at the library's circulation desk.
Heirloom plants are typically at least fifty years old, and are often pre-WWII varieties. Most come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular geographic area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. All heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they are pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. In addition, they ten to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. All of the seeds in our Seed Library are either open-pollinated or heirloom.
A hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two varieties of a plant, aiming to produce an offspring that contains the best traits of each of the parents. Seeds saved from hybrid plants will not produce plants like the parent plant, and are thus considered unstable. Our Seed Library does not accept hybrid seed donations.
GMO plants are the result of genetic engineering. This is a process during which a plant's DNA is altered in a way that cannot occur naturally, and sometimes includes the insertion of genes from other species. Our Seed Library does not accept GMO seed donations.
Seed Saving Techniques
Dry Seed Processing
This process is for plants whose seeds grow on the outside of the plant, like beans, lettuces, and herbs. Allow the seeds to dry on the plants, and collect the seedpods before they break open. For plants with seeds that develop in the center of the flower, allow the plant to dry.
Wet Seed Processing
This process is for seeds that grow inside of the fleshy fruit of plants like peppers, melons, and eggplant. Rinse the seeds and dry them thoroughly.
Fermentation Seed Processing
This process is for seeds that have a gel coating, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and some squash. Mix the seeds and the seed juice with a little water in a small plastic or glass container with a lid. Allow the seeds to ferment for four to six days. When a layer of mold has formed on the top of the water and seeds sink, the fermentation is complete. Add more water, swish it around, and remove the mold and pulp. Drain the water from the seeds and let them dry thoroughly.
Place all processed seeds in a moisture-proof container and be sure to label them. Store seeds in a dry, secure location for future use and for sharing. When donating seeds to the library, please fill out a donation form which is available at the front desk and include as much information as you can about your seeds. Feel free to include a personal story if it applies to your seeds, as well.
Copper Queen Library
The CQL has resources from you to borrow which includes books on gardening, seed saving, and seed processing. Click here to access the online catalog. The Library also hosts a monthly garden club in the Meeting Room every second Tuesday of the month at 2 PM. Each month features a special guest speaker and focuses on gardening in Bisbee.
Located in Tucson, this nonprofit seed conservation organization has spent years promoting food security through seed banking, seed distribution, support, research, and education. Click here to access their website for gardening resources including the Seedhead News, the official newsletter of Native Seeds/SEARCH.
Seed Savers Exchange
This Exchange conserves and promotes America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. You can join their online forum and receive expert garden advice by clicking here.
Portal/Rodeo Seed Library
The Portal/Rodeo Seed Library is hosted at the Myrtle Kraft Library in Portal, Arizona. The first of its kind in Cochise County, this Seed Library was the inspiration for our own.
Friends of the Copper Queen Library
Cochise County Library District
Native Seeds/SEARCH of Arizona
Baker Creek Seed Company of Missouri
High Mowing Seeds of Vermont
Karen Fasimpaur of the Portal/Rodeo Seed Library
The Copper Queen Seed Library is proud to present our new Seed Blog which is intended to allow patrons to share photos of their own gardens, plants, and harvests, as well as gardening insights they have learned along their gardening journey. Click here to check it out!
To submit to the blog, please click here. You can upload photos (JPEG format) or submit your thoughts and experiences on gardening in our unique desert climate. Inspired by a special plant you’ve seen in your travels? Take a picture and upload it! Learned a trick to get your plants to grow? Share it!
To subscribe to the blog so that you get updates when a patron submits to it, please click here.