Housed in an old card catalogue requisitioned from central library storage, the new Ocean Beach Seed Library is beginning to grow. Facilitator of the only seed repository in the San Diego city library system, Destiny Rivera welcomes everyone to walk into the branch (on the corner of Sunset Cliffs and Santa Monica) and check out some seeds — no library card and no due date required. Just fill out a brief membership form, browse the seed album, and choose a packet (limit 6 per person per 3 months, please). Take home, plant, sow.
If successful, save some seeds to contribute to the collection. Librarians and volunteers (volunteers wanted) will help catalogue and package them for check out. 47 people have signed up for the seed library since opening March 23; hundreds of seeds include donations from San Diego Seed Company and Baker Creek Heirloom in Missouri. A member donated Torrey Pine seeds from a 100-year-old tree on Newport Avenue.
The most unusual seeds currently available?
“Ground cherries,” said Master Gardener Deanna Chandra, who is certified by the University of California Cooperative Center Extension. “They’re like a cross between a berry and a tomatillo—they have a husk and they grow on a vine along the ground.”
Rivera is most excited about chia seeds donated by the San Diego chapter of the California Native Plant Society.
“The chia plant is edible and native to this area,” she said. “People can take it home and try growing it for themselves, connecting to the ancient past of this region.”
Chia is a flowering plant in the mint family cultivated by Kumeyaay, Chumash, and other indigenous peoples, who used it for food and medicinal purposes. Today it is a commercial crop in Mexico and Central America.
To accompany the opening of the new seed library, the OB library plans a few plant-themed free activities. The Mongol Tribe, local urban farmers on a mission to restore food and medicine sovereignty, hosts a class about why it’s important — and how to — save heirloom seeds. The San Diego Master Gardener Association offers a series of planting workshops on Saturdays.
“Some of the seeds donated by locals from things that they have grown here are adjusted to this microclimate,” Chandra said. “We’re excited to share these plants that were openly pollinated here and will flourish here.”
Rivera recommends dropping by for some native milkweed — the plant that feeds endangered monarch caterpillars.
As an assistant studying library science, Rivera got the project going with a $500 grant and material donations from Ocean Beach businesses — like a custom-made sign and a new wooden top for the damaged card catalogue. She hopes to add gardening tools for check-out, and expand the program to other San Diego public libraries.