Seed Library

How to Borrow Seeds

  1. Fill out the Lincoln Grows online form or visit your local branch to place an order.
  2. Select up to five packages from the seed collection (one pack/plant variety limit) and your pickup location.
  3. You will be contacted when your seeds are ready to pick up.

How to Donate and Return Seeds

Once you have collected seeds from your easy-to-save crops, set aside some for yourself and some for the library in clearly labeled containers. Please put seeds for the library in seed packages provided by the library. Bring your labeled seeds to the Library, so they can entered into the Seed Library.

Have a question?
Gardener planting seeds

New to Seed Saving?

A plant produces seeds in order to reproduce itself. Just like an egg has to be fertilized to become a new animal, a seed must be pollinated to produce a new plant. Understanding pollination is key to getting seeds to produce the plants you want. Some plants are self-pollinating—the male and female parts are contained within a single flower that fertilizes itself. Other plants, called cross-pollinators, have separate male and female flowers and their pollen has to get from one flower to another in order for the flowers to be fertilized.

The seeds from families of plants that are self-pollinating are labeled “easy” to save. The most widely crossing of the cross- pollinators are labeled “advanced” because it takes effort to keep them from crossing with each other.

For More Information

Here are some handy links to help you get started:

What are Seeds?

Start with seeds that are labeled “easy.” These seeds are great for beginners.

We recommend you start with these:

  • basil
  • beans
  • beets
  • carrots
  • chard
  • eggplant
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • onions
  • parsley
  • peas
  • peppers
  • spinach
  • sunflowers
  • tomatoes

The seeds that are labeled “advanced” require special planning to preserve varietal purity. If certain precautions are not taken with them, then the next grower will not get the same plant. We want to ensure that the seeds that you return to the library are indeed what they claim to be. So please borrow “advanced” seeds only after you have learned about isolating plants to prevent cross-pollination.

Types of Seeds

Cultivars are cultivated varieties that can cross with each other but will not cross with If you learn the family, genus and species of vegetables, you will also learn their basic seed saving needs and risks.

define the basic form of the flower parts of plants. All plants with the same flower (and reproductive) structure are in the same family.

Genera (singular: Genus) define more closely related plants. Crosses between genera are rare but can occur.

define specific botanically recognized plants with similar fruit, flowers, and leaves. Plants within one species will readily cross with each other.


Family: Cucurbitaceae Genus: Cucurbita Species: Cucurbita pepo Cultivars: Acorn squash, Warted gourd Squash and gourd are the same species and can easily cross-pollinate, which might result in an inedible variety. That is why they are labeled “advanced.”

Plant Families

Open-pollinated or heirloom varieties have been grown for so many generations that their physical and genetic qualities are relatively stable. This seed will be “true to type” if saved. In simple terms, you will reap what you sow.

Hybrid seeds. Seeds from those plants will not produce plants like the parent plant. They may produce something somewhat or very different, or they may produce nothing at all.