Seeds Give-Away


Contest Closed!


“Plant the Seeds, Frame the Art!”

When Ken Greene founded the Hudson Valley Seed Library a dozen years ago at the Gardiner (NY) Library, it was the first seed library hosted by any public library in the United States. The concept was that patrons could borrow seeds in the spring, grow them into plants, and then harvest the seeds and re-deposit them in the library collection for others to use and enjoy.

seed packet 1a

Since then, Greene’s seed library has grown into an independent business, a seed company that focuses on heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables and flowers. It no longer shares seeds for free, nor does it depend on patrons as sources of its products.   But it remains just as dedicated to a do-it-yourself, locally sourced style of gardening. Its criteria for including a cultivar it its catalog is not only the quality and, commonly, the history of the plant but also that it must be suited to seed-saving.   Many of its seeds HVSL raises itself (organically) on its 3-acre farm; the rest it buys from other organic growers.   Currently it offers a list of some 400 different cultivars.

What I enjoy most about HVSL, though, is another aspect of its effort to preserve our garden heritage. Old time catalogs were full of original art – for some rural customers, I suspect that the arrival of the seed catalogs in late winter was their main exposure to the fine arts from one year to the next.   In this spirit, HVSL commissions original art to adorn its seed packets.   Produced in media as varied as paint, ceramic, needlework and even stained glass, these images are varied in style, but all are contemporary and fresh. Each takes as its theme the type of seed contained in the packet, and lends a special context to the crop. The Seed Library calls these its “art packs”; I like to think they contain seeds of aesthetic as well as horticultural growth.

seed packet 2

GIVE AWAY:  Share a tip from your experience with seed saving and you may be the person to win a free set of Art Packs from Hudson Valley Seed Library.

The give-away will include:  2016 Art of the Heirloom Calendar
7 gallon “fabric” planter, with handles for easy transport
2 gallon fabric planter
9 seed packs: an assortment of some of our very favorite varieties!

A retail value of over $55.

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Thomas Christopher

My father was a compulsive tree planter, but it was my mother who taught me the finer points of gardening.

Her homeschooling was followed by two years in the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, and then ten years as horticulturist at an Olmsted Brothers designed estate on the Hudson River Palisades.

I’ve worked as a horticultural journalist for 35 years, contributing to publications ranging from Martha Stewart Living to the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society and The New York Times.  My most recent book is Nature Into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, which is a tour of the lessons to be learned from that great public garden.  I’m currently focusing on my new podcast (at which features weekly interviews with leaders of environmentally-informed gardening.

My special enthusiasms include sustainable gardening, especially sustainable lawns;  heirloom chicken breeds; and recreating vintage New England hard ciders.


Contact Tom by email


  1. Ooh!!
    My only real seed-saving advice is: give it a shot. There are whole books on seed saving, but you don’t need a book to tell you common sense. Try what seems to make sense and experiment. This is supposed to be fun!

  2. Don’t over water; make sure there’s plenty of sunshine; if you thin, do it by cutting, not uprooting, as the roots get entangled. I love what these guys are doing!

  3. My goal is to spread the love of CA poppies. I have a swath of them growing where my lawn used to be a decade ago. Early summer, when the plants have flowered and the seeds ripened I collect the seed heads, then stash the seeds til now. Rains finally are beginning and my first volunteers from last year are germinating…. using that as my cue I then start tossing the seeds along hillsides etc. Golden hills here we come!

  4. I’ve saved seeds from my flowers – especially my wildflowers – and scatter them in our wild area in hopes to get even more! A couple of asclepias types and columbine I’ve saved and started as well. I find that a lot of things “save” themselves voluntarily in my garden.

    I hope to start collecting and saving the OP tomatoes I’ve been growing. The seeds last a long time, but eventually I run out.

  5. It actually is important to let tomato seeds ferment before washing and saving. Took me a couple of years to heed that advice, but once I did – Hallelujah!

    I’ve also come to appreciate my Mom’s seed-saving technique for squash and beans. Seeds in a paper towel inside a plastic bag in an airtight container in the freezer. I swear she would dig out seeds that were a decade old & plant them with excellent results.

  6. Oh, I would love to win this. Gardening is both science and art and I appreciate any endeavor that celebrates this duality as the Hudson Valley Seed Library appears to be doing quite well. Here is my tip: the most fun (and perhaps most difficult) seed harvesting is from plants that have exploding seed pods. Impatiens and Thunbergia alata are two that come to mind.

  7. Seed saving is fun and it feels rebellious. One of the best ways to learn about it is to find a seed exchange near you. Our local community garden, the East Snyder Community Garden in Selinsgrove, PA, hosts a seed exchange every year in February. Gardeners bring their own saved seed to share and we also give away seeds donated from various seed companies. Many people who’ve never saved seed come to the exchange empty handed and leave with enough seed to start their garden – for free! People also share information on how to save seed by myth and handouts. This encourages people to start saving their own seed. Want to find a nearby seed exchange? Check with your community garden, library, school, and sometimes they are listed on the website for Seed Savers Exchange.

  8. I love saving seeds – I look forward to it every fall. Love going out and checking to see if the Cleome are dry enough to run my hands down the seed pods and come up with a handful of seeds! I typically collect seed just from my wildflowers – cosmos, tithonia, celosia, zinnias, etc .. The plants that I will sow again the next year. Seeds from my perennials I leave for the birds to take care of!

  9. I’m just a beginner. I’ve collected seeds from my Baptisia and Calycanthus Floridus plants and shared with friends. I’ve yet to plant my seeds but will try starting them inside this winter. I’ve had luck with my Butterfly weed. I had so many seed pods from Calycanthus I spray pained them gold and used in winter greens arrangements and wreaths.

  10. I save the desiccant packets from medications and shoe boxes to add to my seed saving envelopes as extra insurance against moisture.

  11. I agree with Kathy! There have been several “mystery” plots in my garden when I could not remember what plants the seeds were collected from. I also collect seeds from native gardens that are in my care; the seedlings are then planted where needed in other public areas. For the newbies: just try it. My gardening bug bit me at a very early age, when I planted a baby potato and grew a whole basket full!

  12. I enjoy saving flower seeds like with snapdragons, moss roses, combflowers. The types of plants where I don’t worry about breeding them true. Then its fun to see the new color combinations every year.

    This is my first year with a yard, so we’re trying our hand at vegetable gardening. Lots of species are pollinated by insects or the wind and if you want them to be exactly the same as the parent, then they need to be bread in isolation, or you need to somehow isolate a blossom and pollinate it yourself. I may try using pouches/baggies to get some true melons, winter squash and tomatoes so I can save them for 2017.

    As a gardener you’re always experimenting! ☺

  13. I am trying to learn to be more patient by growing plants from seeds instead of buying them. I would see a plant with seeds that were ready while I was doing something else in the garden and forget to go back and get the seeds. Now I carry several small pill bottles around with me to put seeds in so I don’t forget to harvest them.

  14. Hello,

    I’ve loved gathering native seeds, forbs, grasses and shrubs, here in the high desert of northern Nevada since I was inspired by some forward-looking gardeners in Marin County CA in the late eighties.

    I don’t always label them, but after staring at them for a minute in early spring, their origin comes back to me as a pleasant memory. And sometimes, the quail don’t eat all the seeds I spread and they sprout! This year, I will try covering them with Agrobon.

  15. Part of the fun of saving tomato seed is being able to trade seed worldwide! I look for interesting local varieties so that I can try them and then, if I like them, spread them far and wide.

  16. The rewards of seed saving are great. With light, patience and a little luck, it enhances the range of available plants and gives the gardener a sense of continuity with past.
    I would love to win the Hudson Valley package.

  17. My advice is to get your seeds before the rain sets in and they rot! (thinking in particular of runner beans, hyacinth beans, and marigolds)

  18. I have been collecting seeds from my plants for a few years but I rarely plant any of them. I’ve always been so busy buying new plants that I don’t have any time to use them. I do give some away every year at our Master Gardeners County Fair booth. This year I’m going to try not buying anything new and planting all the things I’ve been “holding”. This kit would be wonderful to help me get PLANTING!

  19. When I moved, I was sad to leave behind my gardens I had worked so hard in, but also excited to start new ones. I harvested seeds from many of my plants to give me a quick start of familiar plants in my new garden.

  20. I like to save seeds for the easy stuff– annuals with big seeds that are easy to clean and handle. They also seem expensive to buy, since there are usually only a half-dozen seeds in a packet. My favorites are hyacinth bean, scarlet runner bean and castor bean. I strip the seeds from their dried pods, wrap in a bit of paper towel, and put in a snack size zipper lock bag, labeled, in a dedicated shelf in the fridge.
    Another tip–always clean your seeds, especially if you’re storing them indoors.
    Our garden club had a seed swap one fall, and I cut corners by picking the pods off of my old fashioned single hollyhocks, stuffed them in a grocery bag, and left them in the unheated garage until the meeting. During the business meeting, small insects hiding in the pods started to wake up in the warmth and crawl out of the bag. Needless to say, it was a little disruptive when I realized where they were coming from, and no one wanted hollyhock seeds…

  21. I love tree peonies and have tried to grow them from seed produced by the three original plants I have had in my garden for many years. I have been most
    successful when I bury the seed directly below the plant itself – it grows strongest in it’s own home.

  22. For a particular species, cull the plants that you don’t want contributing to the future gene pool as soon as you can. For example, I grow nigella (love-in-a-mist), an annual with intensely blue blooms. Or at least most of them are blue. I get a few white blooms each year, and I pull those plants out as soon as I see them, hopefully before they have pollinated any of the other plants.

  23. I started collecting seeds this summer. I help my friend with her landscape business and as we cleaned out garden beds, I made sure if here were seeds, I saved them! Can’t wait to plant them in the next month or so

  24. I started saving seeds in earnest this year. I help a landscaper friend and when ever we are cleaning up a garden and I’m asked to pull out plants with seeds, I keep them. Can’t wait to plant them this year!!

  25. I actually haven’t saved seeds before. I have been wanting to try it out since I moved into my house this past summer. I’ve started a blog about my new gardening adventures and I’m sure I’ll have some suggestions when I get there. My best advice as of right now is do a bit of research about it now so you’re ready when the time comes!

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