Gardeners can borrow seeds of nonhybrid, open-pollinated vegetables and flowers at the Benson branch of the Omaha Public Library.
The Benson Branch also offers classes in seed saving so these gardeners can harvest the seeds from their plants and return them to the Library for next year's exchange.
Seeds from open-pollinated, non hybrid, plants will produce the same crop next year. (The packet that the seeds came from will tell you whether the variety is open-pollinated or hybrid.) Hybrids are plants created by a combination of two plants that will most likely not breed true the next year.
Why save seeds? There are seeds money can't buy. Many seeds available in catalogs or at garden stores are hybrids, meaning you have to buy the seeds again each year to grow the same plants. With nonhybrid open-pollinated or self-pollinated varieties, a home gardener can create better cultivars in a back-yard plot.
Want better-tasting vegetables? Save seeds from tasty parents. Want plants that will perform better in your particular microclimate? Save the seed from your hardiest, most prolific plants.
With the library program, gardeners can pick up seeds for free, learn to harvest and save some seeds for next year, return them to the library to share with other gardeners and try out different varieties of plants.
Saving seeds helps to preserve some of the genetic diversity of plants to increase qualities such as drought-tolerance, heat-and-cold-tolerance, and disease resistance. When an old plant variety dies out, we've lost a part of the gene pool from which we might have retrieved valuable traits for breeding into new generations.