The Dorval Library is joining some of its neighbours in offering its members free seeds and encouraging them to share them at the end of the growing season.
Gardeners love to share their gardens’ bounty with others—from flower seeds to late-summer surfeits of vegetables. But the concept of “borrowing” seeds from a library is now taking root in Dorval.
In a pilot project called Seed Library: Borrowing, Sowing, Sharing, the Dorval Library is offering free garden seeds to its members. “This is an idea that began three or four years ago among libraries,” says Marjorie Le Cavalier-Parant, the library’s section chief of services to the public. “We’ve created an inventory of seeds that includes leafy vegetables, root vegetables, flowers, herbs, legumes and fruiting vegetables.” In other words, just about anything a gardener would want to cultivate.
Residents are not actually being asked to “borrow” the seeds, but rather to take them, plant them, and share with others at the end of the season in a horticultural pay-it-forward gesture. “We want to encourage seed-sharing in the community,” Ms. Le Cavalier-Parant says. “It’s like the idea of community book boxes. You take a book and leave a book.”
And, she adds, “there are many ways to share. You can give away seeds, give your vegetables to a food bank, or prepare food and give it to your neighbours.”
Ms. Le Cavalier-Parant says that in creating the program, the library tapped into the wisdom of Urban Seedling, a Montreal company that specializes in creating organic vegetable gardens in urban areas. It also turned to members of the Dorval Garden Club. “Five volunteers from the garden club came to the library and helped us package seeds to give away,” she said. “Some 1,748 packages, to be precise.”
Among the 57 varieties of seeds on offer are five varieties of annual flowers (although the calendula is now all gone), 11 varieties of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuces, radishes, beets, herbs, pumpkins and squashes, to name but a few.
To qualify for free seeds—a limit of four packages per person—residents must be library members in good standing (with valid membership cards and no outstanding late fees). The online portal to order them was opened on March 21. “We can respond within five business days, and members can come to the library to pick up their seeds,” Ms. Le Cavalier-Parant said. “This is the first year we’ve done this. The goal is not to provide people with a full garden, but to create that community of sharing. Gardening is for everyone; it’s an intergenerational experience.”
Ms. Le Cavalier-Parant says the idea for the program came from nearby Pointe-Claire’s library, among others. In fact, Pointe-Claire inaugurated its seed-sharing program in 2021.
“Within two days, we were cleaned out of 600 bags of seeds,” says Marie-Pier Paquette-Séguin, Pointe-Claire’s director of communications. “We had to buy more.” The idea for the program, she added, had come from the libraries of Cote St. Luc and Town of Mount Royal. Good ideas, like seeds, have a way of travelling.
This year, Pointe-Claire residents can choose as many as three bags of seeds. “We still have them available but they’re going fast,” Ms. Paquette-Séguin says. And as with the program in Dorval, Pointe-Claire gardeners are being invited to pay it forward at the end of the growing season by returning to the library with seeds for redistribution.
The concept of reciprocal seed-sharing is taking root in the West Island. It’s an opportunity to share the bounty with others.
Dorval Library members can order their seeds online here: www.biblioweb.ville.dorval.qc.ca.