/Library cultivates gardens to grow, to go
Jaime Bilodeau, Haliburton County Public Library branch assistant has prepared 75 seed kits for patrons to pick up free of charge from the Minden, Haliburton and Wilberforce library branches. /Submitted

Library cultivates gardens to grow, to go

By Sue Tiffin

A new initiative to enable more people to experience gardening at home sprouts this week from the Minden, Dysart and Wilberforce branches of the Haliburton County Public Library.

The Grab ‘n’ Go Seed Library launched May 18, bringing kits that include seeds, peat pellets and growing information into the hands of those hoping to nurture a green thumb.

Jaime Bilodeau, branch assistant and Haliburton County seed library co-ordinator, has organized the kits, which are themed and will be available first come, first served, via curbside pickup with no pre-registration required.

“We’ve always had a Haliburton County Seed Library, however, because of COVID [restrictions], nobody can use it,” she said of a seed bank program typically offered inside the library that offers seeds in return for seeds at the end of the growing season to replenish the seed bank. “We can’t receive donations, and we can’t lend them out, either. So that leaves a lot of individuals not really knowing what we have available.”

With the new Grab ‘n’ Go Seed Library program, it enables residents to access the popular seed bank though libraries are closed to public entry during the lockdown.  
“We’re getting the seed library kind of up-and-running, it’s kind of revitalizing it, but changing it in the sense it’s going to accommodate people in COVID times as well,” said Bilodeau.

Building on the success of the library’s  Grab ‘n’ Go craft kits, Grab ‘n’ Go Seed Library kits will offer over the upcoming weeks a basic garden kit containing corn, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers; a herb kit containing cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, oregano, thyme; a salad kit with various mixed greens and a wildflower pollinator kit.

“We’ve put together collections of basic things you can grow at home but have benefits to yourself because you’re growing your own food, as well as to the environment because you’re not relying on grocery stores – it lessens our carbon footprint a little bit,” said Bilodeau.

The kits are available free of charge, making gardening supplies that Bilodeau notes can be costly available and accessible to everyone.
“I also want it to be available for everyone of every age, so if someone has zero gardening experience, this is going to be ideal for them,” she said. “It’s all super simple terms. There’s really no failure involved. It’s just trying to get your confidence in growing your own food.”

Distributing the packs from the library makes sense, Bilodeau said, given the role of the library to create opportunities for learning.  
“The library is a place for information and learning, and I think they go hand in hand,” said Bilodeau, noting that being able to grow one’s own food is essential in many ways. “If you really get into gardening then there’s no choice but to get into books, as well, because it turns into a learning experience and you’re going to research things, and you’re going to know why that plant is not doing as well as that plant.”

While some seeds were sourced from the seed library, Bilodeau needed more and reached out to Gelert Garden Farm, who “came in like a saint under the heavens,” she said. Besides getting back to her quickly, Lee Ridsdale of Gelert Garden Farm was able to donate some of what the library needed.
“That’s the nicest part of the whole thing,” said Bilodeau.

Seed kits are also suitable for people who don’t have a lot of space to grow.
“We’re not giving people enough to build a 40-hectare garden,” said Bilodeau. “We’re giving people enough to just create an interest, create some sort of confidence in themselves. This way, people will learn what works for them – whether it’s a teenager, or a seven-year-old, or an 80-year-old, they’re going to learn what works for them.”

In total, 75 of each kit are being offered – 25 at each of the three branches offering the program. Those interested can contact participating branches – Minden Hills – 705-286-2491, Dysart – 705-457-1791 or Wilberforce – 705-448-2510 – or “knock on the door.” Follow the Haliburton County Public Library on social media for announcements on upcoming kits.