Create a community nature library

Have you ever found yourself with too many carrot seeds, and wished you could swap them for tomato seeds?

The dried seedhead of a Sea-holly flower.
Sea-holly seedhead
Sharing for Nature - Maggie's incredible Seed Library

Nature libraries and seed swaps are popping up across the country, as a way for people to share veggie and flower seeds, seedlings, knowledge and even tools.

They’re a brilliant way for more experienced gardeners to share knowledge with gardening newbies, as well as bringing local people together. They help people to grow their own food and flowers for free, and reduce wastage to boot. Plus, they’re an excellent excuse for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

So, if you find you’ve got a few too many packets the next time you give your seed tin a tidy up, why not create a community nature library? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Helping wildlife together

Community-run nature libraries can be a hive of knowledge-swapping and seed sharing. If it sounds up your street, why not start out with a local seed swap event? Keep it low-key and just ask people to bring seeds with them to swap. From there, your nature library can bloom into a thriving community group.

There are lots of things, big and small, that you can include in your nature library:

  • Plants: Seeds, seedlings, cuttings and mature plants.
  • Gardening tools: Secateurs, trowels, kneelers, spades, shears, forks, strimmers, lawn mowers.
  • Knowledge: Advice on how to grow plants, including how to harvest seeds.
  • Materials: Spare pots, canes, peat-free compost, topsoil, compost bins and water butts.
  • Food: Home-grown fruit and veg, as well as recipes. This is a great way to learn about other cultures, tastes, foods and ways of cooking.
A group of people birdwatching through a telescope with an RSPB staff member using binoculars.

The Incredible Seed Library

The Incredible Seed Library is a seed swapping group that was set up and run by Maggie in Llanelli, Wales. Maggie has nurtured her own garden for 20 years, growing fruit, veg and flowers, while also looking after wildlife.

Over the decades, Maggie saved a huge number of seeds from her garden. With the help of her granddaughter during lockdown, Maggie set up the Incredible Seed Library on Facebook. All people had to do was send her a pre-stamped envelope with their address on it, and she’d return it, full of her home-harvested seeds.

The Incredible Seed Library quickly took off, reaching 1,000 members within a year. But not long after, the seed stores began to run out, taking the seed library to its next phase: Seed Guardians.

Many of the group who had received free seeds from Maggie became Seed Guardians, harvesting their own seeds to send back. The group now harvests huge quantities of seeds, enabling people across the country to grow pollinator-friendly plants and open-pollinated vegetable seeds for the price of a stamp.

Rows of cardboard tubes, planted up with compost and young sunflower seedlings.

What’s mine is yours

Feeling inspired but unsure where to start? There are plenty of nature libraries around the UK. Here are a few of our favourite examples:

Eden Project Communities #BillionSeedChallenge

The Cornish Eden Project is on a mission to help communities grow together. Alongside the National Wildflower Centre, Eden Project Communities has been harvesting wildflower seeds, thanks to their wildflower warrier volunteers. From poppies to corncockle, there’s plenty of information on how to harvest and grow wildflowers in your local community.

Let The Flowers Grow

Norwich’s Stuff Hubs

A true community nature library, Norwich’s Stuff Hubs is open to anyone in the community, and offers a whole range of items to borrow for free or for a small fee. The Hubs are run by Norwich City Council, alongside Voluntary Norfolk, Catton Grove Big Local and Future Projects. Items available to borrow include gardening tools as well as community event items, from tables and chairs to outdoor games.

Explore This Initiative

The Connected Seeds Library

Based in London, the Connected Seeds Library was set up by researchers at Queen Mary University, alongside staff and volunteers from the Spitalfields City Farm. A help yourself initiative, the seed library is open to members of the local community. People can choose seeds for free, as well as discover info on how to grow them. At the end of the season, they’re encouraged to harvest and share some of their own seeds to keep the library well-stocked.

Communities Growing Together

Harlequin Ladybird perched on a singular dried stem, extending from the centre of the seedhead of an allium.

This activity is part of Nature On Your Doorstep – our call-to-arms to transform your outdoor space (window boxes welcome!) into a wildlife haven.