Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library
Our Heritage Seed Library (HSL) aims to conserve and make available vegetable varieties that are not widely available. The HSL Department maintains a collection, mainly of European varieties. Over the decades many varieties have been dropped from popular seed catalogues. Our collection contains many of these but also some landraces and a large number of family heirloom varieties that have never been in a catalogue. We are not a gene bank and all our collection, once we have enough seed will become available to our members.
Currently we have around 800 accessions of open-pollinated varieties, of which about 200 are in our current Seed Catalogue which is sent free to members each year. Members receive their choice of up to six varieties and there is also an informal Seed Swap section run between members themselves. An extremely important and highly valued contribution to our work is made by volunteer Seed Guardians. Seed Guardians are members who have decided to take on the extra responsibility of growing seed for us. Of the 40,000 plus packets of seed sent out each year, 40-50% is supplied by Guardians. So these people are essential to maintaining a sufficient amount of stock as well as safeguarding rare varieties.
As well as the Catalogue, produced in December, members also receive a quarterly magazine, The Organic Way. This covers a wide range of topics, from historical, to news items and growing tips and a letters page.
We are always actively seeking to increase the amount of accessions we hold and between 1997 and 2000 a project called the Seed Search was carried out. This was funded by the DETR and aimed to seek out and save regional, family, and historic varieties which had been saved over many generations.