By Chris Faulkner
Local librarian Allison Richert grew up around gardens.
“My dad has always been an avid gardener,” Richert said, adding that it prompted the idea to do a seed giveaway program at the Burlington Public Library this spring.
Richert, the youth services specialist, works primarily with children from birth to elementary, and she saw this as a good family activity.
“The idea is to help with food insecurity and encourage people to get out with their families, with their kids, and get their hands dirty,” she said.
“Gardening is just a really positive experience, and you get beauty and food out of it.”
Richert partnered with the Iowa State Extension Service, Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah, and Nine Square Feet of Des Moines. A few seed companies also made donations.
“I basically get the giant packets and disburse them into smaller” packages, Richert said, “because if someone is making a smaller garden, they don't need 100 or 200 seeds.”
The packets are shelved in an old-fashioned card catalog that libraries used before computers, and they're at the check-out desk.
All of them are free for the taking.
“I can't keep up. We are at over 2,000 packets given away,” Richert said.
People have until the first Saturday of June to get seeds, and it's primarily vegetables left, along with a few flowers, fruits, and herbs, Richert said.
“You don't have to have a plot of land,” she said. “There are things you can plant in a plot and set outside.”
The library has a list of plants for various experience levels of gardening.
Tomatoes and peppers are great for beginners.
“Sometimes when people think 'gardening', they see it as this huge undertaking,” Richert said. “They think, 'Well, I can't do that.' We wanted to make this as easy as possible, empowering people to do that for themselves.”
Richert could have printed out instructions and gardening tips for the various plants, but that would have wasted a lot of paper.
So there are QR codes above the card catalog container that you can scan to find all sorts of gardening guides from the ISU Extension Service and the seed-sharing groups.