April 26 celebration will launch Port library’s effort to give area gardeners a catalog that grows
Even as the weather teases area residents with hints of spring, the Niederkorn Library in Port Washington is readying something sure to bring visions of green to gardeners.
The Seven Hills Seed Library will open Saturday, April 26, with a celebration from 10 a.m. to noon.
More than 1,000 packets of seeds will be available for gardeners to “borrow.”
That includes seeds for 130 types of vegetables and herbs — basil, tomatoes, beans, cauliflower, corn, popcorn, eggplants, lettuce, melons, okra, mustard, hot peppers, bell peppers, Swiss chard ... and the list goes on.
There are some flower seeds as well, but they are greatly outnumbered by the vegetable seeds.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” said Annie Bahringer, director of adult services at the library. “We’ve been very lucky to have generous donors.”
And for each type of vegetable, there are numerous varieties a gardener can try. For example, there are about 12 varieties of beans, Bahringer said, and six kinds of hot peppers.
There are numerous tomatoes, including current tomatoes, which Bahringer said she tried last year.
“I grew two plants last year, and they turned into this huge bush with a gazillion tomatoes,” she said. “They were so sweet — just delicious. They were great for salads, just the right size, or for eating off the plant.”
She recommended anyone trying the current tomatoes put one plant in a large container because of the way it bushes and the abundant crop.
The library’s seeds have been packaged in small envelopes, each with enough for a small garden.
“A lot of people in town don’t have a large garden or they just have a plot at the community garden,” Bahringer said. “If you have a large garden, it might not be practical to get all your seeds here.”
But for people with a small garden, the seed library is ideal. Not only are the seeds from plants that grow in the area, the selection allows gardeners to sample new and different vegetables and flowers.
“Sometimes, you don’t want to spend $3 for a strange plant that you don’t know if you’re going to like or even if it will grow here,” Bahringer said. “This is a way to try different varieties and different vegetables.”
The seeds were all donated to the library — some leftover from packets of seeds bought by patrons and others collected from plants last growing season.
“Most of the time, when people buy a package of seeds, they don’t use them all,” Bahringer said. “This is a chance to share those you don’t use.”
The seeds have been placed in small packets and placed in alphabetical order in the library’s former card catalog. A binder will provide information on the various seeds that are available and how to grow them, as well as pictures of the plants.
“We want to give people an idea of what they’ll get,” Bahringer said.
Patrons are asked to sign out the seeds, listing their names and addresses and a list of what they are checking out, she said. They will be able to print out an informational sheet for each type of seed they check out.
Cards will also be available for people who are donating seeds.
Those who check seeds out are not obligated to return them, Bahringer said.
“We’d like to encourage people to do that, but we’re not requiring it,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be cool, a couple of generations down the line, if we had a Port Washington heirloom tomato that started here.”
Some seeds are easy to harvest, such as beans, tomatoes and garlic, Bahringer said. Others require hand pollination.
Because people are urged to replace the seeds, the library will hold several classes on how to harvest seeds.
Seeds donated to the library will be checked for viability by an Ozaukee High School science class, Bahringer said.
The grand opening for the Seven Hills Seed Library will include raffles to raise money for seeds, refreshments and information about the seed classes.
The next gardening class, on basic gardening techniques, will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, April 28.
Image information: CATALOGING MORE THAN 1,000 packets of seeds for the Seven Hills Seed Library at the Niederkorn Library in Port Washington was the task undertaken last week by (from left) Annie Bahringer, adult services director at the library, and volunteers Edith Bahringer and Chris Schmidt. The seed library will formally open on April 26. Photo by Sam Arendt