The San Mateo Public Library’s Seed Library offers free vegetable, herb, and California native flower seeds to San Mateo and Hillsborough residents. Visit the seed cabinet on Main Library’s 2nd floor to choose some seeds to plant in your garden or containers! Limit of one packet per seed type per visit, and five packets total per visit at the Main Library. Mini-seed libraries are available at the Marina and Hillsdale branches on a seasonal basis (limit 3 packets per visit). Seed types, growing tips, and lending guidelines are below—select tabs below to view information.
Interested in donating seeds from your garden to share in the seed library? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planting from seed is a fulfilling adventure! Through the seed library, we hope to:
- Spark interest in learning how to garden and grow food. Anyone can do it!
- Foster an appreciation and enjoyment of nature, from soil organisms to plants to bees and birds.
- Encourage food self-sufficiency, both personally (growing your own food) as well as in community (harvesting and giving back organically-grown seeds to the seed library to further a sustainable cycle).
- Help preserve biodiversity, and increase populations of native pollinators (birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and insects) by planting native flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen, and refuge.
- Increase equity in our community—access to free seeds increases food security and food justice.
- Improve health—growing food in healthy soil can provide more nutrient-rich food than commercial farming.
- Respond to climate change—there’s nothing more local than harvesting from your own yard or balcony.
- Provide education on growing food, healthy soil, saving seeds, and related topics.
- Foster a sense of community among San Mateo’s “urban farmers”.
Welcome to the San Mateo Public Library’s Seed Library!
Seeds are free and available to residents of San Mateo or Hillsborough. No library card is required.
How much seed do I need?
Each packet contains enough seeds to grow a crop of that vegetable, herb, or flower for a season.
Help us provide seeds for everyone by following these guidelines:
- 1 packet maximum per type of seed per household per visit
- 5 packets of seeds total per household per visit
What kind of seeds do you offer?
Vegetable and herb seeds are organic, non-hybrid, non-GMO. Many are heirloom. Some flower seeds are organic; all flowers provide food and refuge for pollinators and most are drought-tolerant California natives. Our seeds come from Eden Brothers, Johnny’s Seeds, Botanical Interests, and Larner Seeds. A separate drawer of community-donated seeds shares seeds harvested from local home gardens.
How do I plant these seeds?
Basic growing instructions are provided on the Growing Tips tab. Many seeds can be planted directly in the soil outdoors but some should be started indoors then transplanted (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, for example). For more information on a specific type of seed, consult the seed company’s website, and the SF/San Mateo Master Gardeners’ website—which has a wealth of growing tips and techniques. Librarians can help you find books on growing vegetables, too.
Do you accept seed donations?
Vegetable, herb, and flowering plant (especially California natives) seeds are welcome. We ask that your plants/seeds meet the following guidelines:
- Heirloom or open pollinated seeds. No hybrid seeds (noted as “hybrid” or with the letter “F” on commercial seed packets).
- No seeds harvested from grocery store produce.
- Grown by organic means (no pesticides, fungicides, “Miracle Gro”, etc.)
- Clean and dry seeds, please.
If you agree with these guidelines, we’d love to share your seeds with the community through the seed library, and will handle packaging your donations. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Vegetable and herb seeds are organic, non-hybrid, non-GMO. Many are heirloom. Some flower seeds are organic; all flowers provide food and refuge for pollinators and most are drought-tolerant California natives. This is a full list of seeds that the seed library offers. Please note that on-hand stock is limited to what can be grown in the current season, and therefore less variety of seeds are available during fall and winter.
Bean, Blue Lake
Beet, Detroit Dark Red
Bok Choy, Baby
Carrot, Danvers 126
Cucumber, Cool Customer
Eggplant, Long purple
Kale, Toscano (dinosaur)
Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson
Lettuce, Gourmet Salad Blend
Onions, Sweet Spanish Utah
Pea, Sugar Snap
Squash, Butternut, Waltham
Squash, Black Beauty zucchini
Squash, Golden zucchini
Squash, Summer scalloped zucchini
Tomatillos, de Milpa
Tomato, Chocolate Cherry
Tomato, Red and Yellow Pear
Parsley, Flat Leaf
Thyme, German Winter
California Natives and other pollinator flowers
Clarkia: Farewell to Spring*
Clarkia: Mountain Garland*
Golden State Native bunchgrass mix*
Pollinator conservation flower mix*
Bachelor Buttons, Tall Blue Boy
Cosmos, wild, Sensation Mix
Sage, Blaze of Fire
Basic growing instructions for seeds are provided at the links below. For further information, consult the seed company websites noted on the growing tips documents.
Visit the Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Counties website for month-by-month planting calendars, composting and soil preparation information, and much more.
For particular questions about your plants, pests, or other garden advice, you can call or email Master Gardeners.