Seed library sprouts up for Yukon gardeners

The Energy, Mines and Resources library is where Yukoners can go to get books and reports on resources across the territory.

The Energy, Mines and Resources library is where Yukoners can go to get books and reports on resources across the territory.

Now, alongside those supplies is a filing cabinet covered in bright pictures of vegetables and planets.

It’s home to the new seed library that has taken root on the third floor of the Elijah Smith Building.

As of Wednesday, Yukoners can pick up free seeds for vegetables, flowers and herbs to use in their personal gardens.

“As librarians we’re trying to move away from just lending out books, which is of course important to our mandate, said resource and systems librarian Heather Sweeney.

“But (we’re also) trying to find other ways to reach people through sharing resources.”

Borrowing something from the EMR seed library is not that different from borrowing a book. Any Yukoner with a valid ID can come and get a membership card and free seeds.

Of course, unlike the conventional library, you won’t be able to return the exact seeds you borrow.

The idea is that once something grows, seeds from that harvest will come back to the library.

Sweeney said the library’s gardening section is the most popular, so expanding into a seed library made sense. A green thumb isn’t required – the idea is to get more people to give it a try.

“Seeding is a great way to support our clients that already come in and get some new clients,” she said.

Opening up the filing cabinet evokes memories of old library card catalogues that predated computers.

Rows and rows of envelopes are divided up in alphabetical order by labelled cards.

There are about 40 different seeds you can choose from including different types of radishes, peas, carrots and arugula as well as some flowers and herbs.

They’re all plants that have shown themselves to be hearty in the Yukon’s not-so-friendly environment.

“We’ve been working with (the) agriculture (branch) to find plants that have been planted up here. We know that they’ll yield. They do well in colder climates,” Sweeney said.

The idea for a Yukon seed library sprouted after one of the librarians visited one Outside, Sweeney said.

It turns out they are pretty common.

Some, like the Canadian Seed Library, store rare seeds to preserve them for the future.

Others have a model more like the Yukon. The 14 branches of the Toronto seed library have handed out more than 50,000 seeds to gardeners of all skill levels in the last three years.

The beginnings of the Yukon collection came from local gardeners, a gift from a New York seed library and an online order, Sweeney said.

Yukon gardeners are welcome to drop off seeds of their own to add to the collection.

For those new to gardening in the North, each envelope comes with tips on what to do to give yourself the best shot at a harvest.

But don’t worry: if you strike out there are no late fees.

The EMR library is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Contact Ashley Joannou at