Seed Library

collage of four images including seed library logo graphic, metal pail holding cucumbers, young plants in soil, and cross section of ground showing five growth stages of a sprouting seed

Just in time for spring, we started some seeds at the library using a container we made with our laser cutter. Learn how seeds grow through our time-lapse video of beans, radishes, and carrots.

All seeds are sourced from William Dam Seeds Ltd.

Basil (Sweet Basil)
Large green leaves with mild flavour. Ht. 45cm/18”

O. basilicum. Basil can be started and grown indoors and out. It thrives in rich, moist, well-drained soil with full sun. Start indoors in sterilized seeding medium. Sow 2-3 seeds per plug and transplant as a clump. Can also be started outdoors after last frost when soil is warm. Seed shallow and keep soil moist. Thin seedlings to correct plant spacing.

How to grow:

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Sowing method: Indoors or direct seed
  • Germinates in: 5-7 days
  • Optimal Soil Temp: 20-24C/68-75F
  • Seeding depth: 3mm/⅛”
  • Plant spacing: 30cm/12”
  • Light requirement: Full sun
  • Frost tolerance: None

Bush Beans (Delinel)
An early variety of 6-7” slender pods. Can be picked young for a filet. Black seeded. Typically ready to harvest in 45 days.

An integral crop to the development of agriculture, today beans are grown on every continent except Antarctica. The common bean Phaseolus vulgaris was first domesticated in both South and Central America. Green and wax beans are picked young and immature. They have a crisp and juicy texture and can be prepared and preserved in a variety of ways. Beans are an excellent source of vitamins A & C and dietary fibre.

How to grow:

  • Direct seeding depth: 2cm/¾”
  • Direct seed spacing: 5/10cm/2-4”
  • Row spacing: 36cm/3”
  • Germinates in 7-10 days at soil temperature 18-26C; Beans need warm soil. Do not soak your seeds before planting.
  • Do not fertilize beans or add manure the year of sowing; excessive fertilizing produces large plants with little pod set.
  • To prevent the spread of fungus, rusts, and virus, avoid cultivating or walking through bean plants when plants are wet or in the early morning.

Carrots (Flakee Autumn King)
Improved strain. Large, stump rooted carrot. Excellent for storage. High yielding. Typically ready to harvest in 75 days.

An indispensable vegetable in the garden. Carrots are easy to grow and provide vegetables from late spring to early winter. Use raw, cooked, or juiced. Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene and vitamin A.

How to grow:

  • Prefers a loose, fertile sandy loam seedbed pH 6.0-7.0
  • Seed outdoors ½” apart and ½” deep in rows 12-24” apart; thin out to a final spacing 1-2” between plants
  • Germinates in 6-15 days at soil temperature of 16-25C/60-70F; keep soil moist until growth is seen
  • Carrot rust fly: plant carrots early to mid-summer to miss its cycle; Wireworm: use a 3-year rotation and do not use soil that had grass on it the year before; Carrot Caterpillar: spray with BTK

Cauliflower (Amazing)
Uniform, main season, non-hybrid variety that produces tight white curds. Typically ready to harvest in 75 days.

Cauliflower is a cool season vegetable; easiest to grow in late summer or fall. Its success often depends on slow steady growth that is difficult to achieve in mid-summer. Cauliflower does best in humus-rich, moist soil.

How to grow:

  • Will tolerate a broad range of soils but prefers sandy loam pH 6.5-7.0.
  • Seed indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside.
  • Germinates in 7 days at a soil temperature of 21-25C/70-77F.
  • After germination grow on at air temperature of 16C/60F.
  • Space transplants 16-18” apart in rows 18-36” apart.
  • Keep a regular watering schedule so plants do not wilt in the heat.
  • To prevent disease: employ broad crop rotation and proper sanitation; protect young plants from insect pests with row cover.
  • For blanched white heads, tie wrapper leaves together forming a dome when head is beginning to form; pick when head has completely formed.

Cucumber (Marketmore 76)

Best open-pollinated for market use. Dark green slicing cucumber. Typically ready to harvest in 65 days.

For many years cucumbers have been a main item in many home gardens. They are high in purified water, containing numerous minerals, particularly magnesium and phosphorus, and vitamins A & C.

How to grow:

  • Prefers well-drained, light textured soils, but will grow in almost every type of soil pH 6.8-7.0.
  • Requires even moisture especially when fruits are forming.
  • Sow indoors 3-4 weeks prior to transplanting.
  • Cucumbers can be direct seeded when soil temperature is 24-27C/75-81F, however, sowing indoors allows for greater control of variable temperature and moisture.
  • Germinates in 5-7 days at soil temperature of 24-27C/75-81F; if soil is cool, seeds will not germinate.
  • Space transplants 12-24” apart in rows 5-6” apart.
  • Insect pest control: use row covers or insect netting; Best disease control: use resistant cultivars and crop rotation.
  • Do not direct seed Parthenocarpic varieties; consistent temperature must be maintained.

Kale (Westlandse)
The original Dutch variety used for Boerenkool. Curled, medium leaves with great taste. Typically ready to harvest in 60 days.

Grown for its greens, kale can be used in stir fries, to dress up salads, as a garnish, or mashed with potatoes and sausage (German and Dutch delicacy). It is rich in vitamin C and other minerals. Frost improves flavour.

How to grow:

  • Will tolerate a broad range of soils but prefers sandy loam pH 6.5-7.0.
  • Seed indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside.
  • Germinates in 7 days at a soil temperature of 24-27C/75-80F.
  • After germination grow on at air temperature of 16C/60F.
  • Space transplants 16-18” apart in rows 18-36” apart.
  • Keep a regular watering schedule so plants do not wilt in the heat.
  • To prevent disease: employ broad crop rotation and proper sanitation; protect young plants from insect pests with row cover.
  • For continuous picking: harvest leaves just below the growth point.

Lettuce (Parris Island)
Dark green romaine with creamy white hearts. Popular for baby leaf production. Typically ready to harvest in 66-70 days.

Lettuce is generally a cool season plant, but with new varieties, you can successfully grow lettuce in the heat of the summer. It is one of the easiest greens/vegetables to grow. By using the different types of lettuce, you can have fresh salads year-round.

How to grow:

  • Grows well in most soil; for early crops use lighter soil pH 6.5-7.0.
  • Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside or sow outdoors when soil can be worked.
  • For full size plants space transplants 8-10” apart in rows 12-18” apart.
  • For baby leaf production, sow 60 seeds per ft. ⅛” deep in rows 4-6” apart.
  • Germinates in 7 days at soil temperature of 16-20C/60-70F; lettuce speed can enter thermal dormancy at 25C/75F.
  • For winter culture, use leaf types or short day lettuce; normal heading types will not form heads.

Peppers (California Wonder)
Standard open-pollinated pepper. Medium 4” fruits with thick fleshy walls. Typically ready to harvest in 76 days.

Peppers come in many colours, shapes, degrees of heat and flavour profiles. They add taste and texture to many dishes. When fully mature, peppers provide high amounts of vitamins A & C.

How to grow:

  • Grows well in well-drained good garden soil pH 6.5-7.2.
  • Start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost date.
  • Germinates in 7-10 days at soil temperature of 25-30C/75-85F.
  • Space transplants 12-18” in rows 18-36” apart.
  • Transplant outdoors after danger of frost is gone and night time temperatures are above 10C/50F; cool night temperatures will delay growth and fruit set.
  • Control insect pests with row covers; peppers do not require insect pollination.

Radish (Cherry Belle)
One of the most popular radish varieties. Excels in early spring & fall culture. Typically ready to harvest in 26 days.

Quick growing with tasty roots; adds zest to a salad. Popular for children to grow. Traditionally a spring and fall crop. Newer varieties can be planted all season.

How to grow:

  • Grows in most garden soils.
  • Sow seeds outdoors ½” apart and ¼” deep in rows 16-32” apart; thin to 1.5” apart.
  • Germinates in 5-7 days at soil temperature of 10-18C/50-65F.

Spinach (Bloomsdale Dark Green)
Popular open pollinated variety. Heavy yields of dark, heavy savoyed leaves. Typically ready to harvest in 50 days.

Loaded with iron and vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutritious green vegetables in the garden. Spinach can be eaten raw in a salad, cooked like Swiss Chard, or frozen.

How to grow:

  • Spinach likes moist, fertile soil. Supply medium amounts of nitrogen to produce dark green leaves.
  • There are different varieties for spring and fall culture than for summer culture.
  • Sow outdoors 25 seeds per ft, ¼” deep, in rows 12-18” apart; thin out to 4-6” between plants.
  • Germinates in 5-7 days at soil temperature of 15C/65F.
  • To prevent leaf miner, use row cover or sow in late summer (to miss cycle).

Sugar Snap Peas (Cascadia)
Very sweet, round, plump 8cm/3” pods that withstand heat. Disease resistant. Typically ready to harvest in 68 days.

Peas are a relatively easy crop to grow with few diseases or bug problems. Fresh peas contain moderate levels of vitamin A and C, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Produces full sized fleshy pods of which both the pod and peas are edible.

How to grow:

  • Prefers well-drained loams with good amounts of organic matter pH 6.0-7.0.
  • Plant seeds 1” deep in rows 30” apart; thin to a final spacing of 2”.
  • Germinates in 5-7 days at a soil temperature of 10C/60F.
  • Relatively free from pests; most problems come with hot weather.

Tomatoes (Heinz 1439)
Mid-sized, firm, globular, red fruits that grow to about 150-170 g. Determinate. Typically ready to harvest in 75 days.

Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.

How to grow:

  • Prefers deep, well-drained, fertile loam, but will grow on most types of soil free from a hardpan pH 6.0-6.5.
  • Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost.
  • Germinates in 5-10 days at soil temperature of 21-24C/70-75F.
  • Space transplants 24” apart in rows 4-6” apart; use wider row spacing when you do not stake or prune.
  • To prevent disease: employ broad crop rotation and proper sanitation, mulch to reduce water splashing, and stake plant to improve air circulation.

Read about how our Seed Library usually works below.

Borrow seeds to grow your own healthy food and contribute to a sustainable community—it’s 1-2-3 easy with your Burlington Public Library card. Our seed collection is located at our Central branch. Here's how our seed library works:

  1. Browse & Borrow... select what plants you’d like to grow – then checkout the seed packages
  2. Sow & Grow... plant, tend, and enjoy your crop
  3. Reap & Return... if you are able, harvest new seeds and return them to the library, packaged to be borrowed by local gardeners next growing season. Returning seeds is not a requirement for borrowing seeds. Seeds returned from successful plants will grow our collection and help cultivate seed stocks best suited to our local climate.

Q: What is BPL Seed Library's "Grab & Grow Seed Giveaway"?

Grab & Grow is a free community seed initiative that provides an opportunity for local residents to grow their own healthy, affordable food. Residents can pick up a Grab & Grow envelope from their local branch starting April 1, while supplies last. Tucked inside the envelope are five seed packages of assorted greens, herbs, and vegetables plus a seed labelling activity sheet for younger gardeners. Sorry—there are no substitutions for the five varieties of seeds inside each envelope. Quantities are limited to one Grab & Grow package per household. Anyone is welcome to take a Grab & Grow envelope in good faith to use the seeds or share them with neighbours and friends.

Q: What seeds do you have?

We order a selection of vegetable seeds you would traditionally see in a home garden, as well as herbs. We attempt to order a few varieties in each category. All seeds are non-hybrid and organic where possible. Our seed suppliers are William Dam Seeds in Flamborough and Seed Savers Exchange.

Q: How many seeds can I check out?

You are now part of a community of gardeners and we ask that you respect that the Seed Library is a shared public resource. Grab & Grow seed giveaway: one envelope per household.

Q: Are the seeds at BPL Grows Seed Library all organic?

The start-up collection of seeds in the library were heirloom varieties (saved and passed down for generations) and bought from a vendor that is certified organic by an independent certifier, Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. BPL Grows Seed Library encourages seed donors to practice organic growing methods and to be honest when providing information on their seed donations. However, there is no guarantee that the seeds donated by community members are organic. As long as you use organic growing methods, your vegetables will be essentially organic, just unable to be certified by an independent certifier until you have been growing them organically for a minimum of 3 years.

Q: Are seeds available year round?

The seed library will have materials available throughout the year, though not all seeds can be planted year round. More information about when to plant various seeds can be found in our seed library catalogue.

Q: What do I do if I can’t find the kind of seed I’m looking for?

If there is something that you would like to see next growing season, let us know. Or, if you choose to purchase heirloom seeds instead this year, you can choose to save those seeds and donate some to the library to help us grow next year. Under Related links below, you'll find a great listing from Seeds of Diversity where you can find heirloom seeds.

Q: How do I properly save seeds after harvest?

The methods for saving seeds will depend on the variety of plant. Some seeds are quite easy to save. The seeds in this collection have little risk of cross-pollination, so when you plant seeds next year you’ll get the same fruits or vegetables that you got last year. These seeds also require fewer steps to successfully save seeds. Some seeds, like those in the squash and pumpkin family, require a bit more work to successfully save. These seeds easily cross-pollinate and need plenty of space between plants; they also may need to be hand-pollinated.

We encourage home gardeners to save seeds from the "easy" plants: tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peas, and peppers. (Some extra know-how needed for peppers.) Please do not save seeds from plants in the "medium" or "advanced" drawer until you have more experience seed saving.

Q: Do I have to "return" seeds?

In the past, we encouraged you to try your best to save your seeds and return some to the library. Seed saving is new to many of us and everyone has varying levels of knowledge and experience. However, this year we are unable to fulfill that service. Please do not return any seeds to the library in 2022.

Q: May I donate my own seeds?

No, not at this time.

Q: Is there supporting information for the seed library?

BPL Grows Seed Library provides access to information to support our gardeners in growing their own food. As well as information sheets on basic gardening and seed saving, the library may offer workshops of interest to gardeners throughout the year. Burlington Public Library also has a wide variety of resources of interest to gardeners.

Q: Who do I contact for more information?

For more information, please call Patrick at 905.639.3611 ext 1216.

BPL Grows Seed Library was initially funded with the generous support of Burlington Community Foundation Grant and BurlingtonGreen in 2015.

STAFF BOOKLISTS on gardening & growing topics

Browse our Seed Saving collection

Burlington Spring seed starting dates (pdf) from Burlington Community Gardens

Canadian Seed Catalogue - Seeds of Diversity Canada

Basic Seed Saving - Seeds of Diversity Canada

Seed Saving Basics by K.Ruby Blume - Institute of Urban Homesteading

How to Save Seeds: Easy - self-pollinated seeds

How to Save Seeds: Medium - wind or insect pollinated seeds

How to Save Seeds: Advanced - overwintering seeds

William Dam Seeds