Seeds of change and beauty at Little Free Libraries


Over the past few summers, you may have noticed an increase in blooming wildflower gardens in our neighborhoods. Have you wondered where people get some of the seeds they need to make those gardens grow? Local residents Dawn Lamm, Courtney Tchida and Stephanie Hankerson know the answer: it’s MN SEED!
In mid-2020, MN SEED – a collaboration of the Como Community Seed Library, garden educator Stepahnie Hankerson, and the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, with help from Frogtown Green – was born. The collaboration has grown through a network of more than a dozen “little free seed libraries” and programming to become a beloved supplier of locally-grown and freely distributed native seeds. MN SEED has been funded since 2021 by the Capitol Region Watershed District. Last month, MN SEED received the Watershed Community Outreach Program of the Year award from the Watershed District.
Lamm, the founder of the Como Community Seed Library, says that MN SEED emerged from the needs of our neighborhoods, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. “Stephanie, Courtney and I had a conversation and it came around to us asking: ‘How do we deal with possible seed shortages in coming years?’ We felt it was important that people have the ability to grow their own food with the uncertainty happening.”
Together, the women worked with partners to stock distribution boxes in Midway, Frogtown and Como with a succession of seed packets, neatly labeled and appropriately timed for successive planting. The libraries also included winter sowing kits and informational materials to help recipients learn more about gardening. The distribution was a huge success, with more than 9,000 seed packets snapped up by eager gardeners-to-be.
In succeeding years, MN SEED has offered programming such as seed events and gardening workshops to promote the creation of habitats for native pollinators. They have continued to focus on distribution through the seed libraries and other means.
The seeds that end up in these libraries come from the neighborhoods and have gone through a long process to be ready for planting. In 2022, seed packets in the little free seed libraries were sourced from Monarch City, a large pollinator garden at West Minnehaha Recreation Center maintained by Frogtown Green, as well as from residential pollinator/vegetable gardens.
Seeds were gathered from the plants in late summer and fall of last year. This year, MN SEED volunteers came together to clean and package the seeds, manually separating the seed from the seed-pod or chaff. Once the seeds were cleaned, they were put into small envelopes and labeled. The packaged and labeled seeds will be available in several little free seed libraries around Midway and Frogtown. Some “winter sowing” kits will also be included to help with the next step the seeds take before they can be planted.
“Winter sowing is a process that starts growing seeds in recycled plastics,” explains Stephanie Hankerson. “It’s different from indoor starting and snow seeding. You’re creating a mini-greenhouse, using recyclable containers, such as milk jugs or salad containers that are four inches or taller.”
Hankerson explains the process this way: “You add some drainage holes, put the soil in, then the seeds. After that you label everything and make sure you add water to it. Then you put it outside to let it go through stratification, which is the freezing and thawing process that opens the seeds.”
Residents of Hamline-Midway, Frogtown, Como and Rondo will be able to pick up their seeds and winter sowing kits in February, and can find more specific dates and locations for workshops on the MN SEED website, listed below. Frogtown’s Little Free Libraries are located at 160 Charles Avenue, 843 Van Buren Avenue, and at the Lily Pad, 625 Dale Street; other locations are yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, just like the gardens it supports, MN SEED continues to grow. Lamm says that in the next year, the group will offer K-12 programming at schools and additional rec centers.
To sign up to access seed swaps, webinars, in-person workshops and tips from local pros throughout the year for free through MN SEED, visit; call the Minnesota State Horticultural Society; or contact Courtney Tchida at 651-643-3601.
Frogtown Green is an environmental initiative working to make Frogtown the greenest neighborhood in St Paul. Mae Macfarlane is an AmeriCorps member assigned to Frogtown Green.


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