Westerly Sun Column | It’s Time to Start Thinking About Gardens

February 26, 2024

The groundhog predicted an early spring this year, and while I don’t generally put much stock in the prophecies of rodents, I’m hoping there’s merit to this one! Spring means warmer weather, more daylight hours, the return of birds and butterflies, and — of course — time to start our gardens. Before you rush off to the store or nursery, I recommend swinging by the library. We have plenty of seeds, supplies, and other resources to help you get started.

It’s always a bit weird to think about gardening when there’s still snow on the ground, but if you like to start your plants from seed, now is the time to begin. According to the Rhode Island planting calendar, goodies like tomatoes, peppers, and kale should be started indoors within the next couple of weeks, so they’re ready to be transplanted in May or June. At the library, we’re kicking off “seed starting season” by giving out free seed trays (with soil!) from Wednesday, Feb. 28, to Saturday, March 2. These are available in the second-floor Reference area, while supplies last.

While starting vegetables from seed is more economical than buying the plants, it can still cost a pretty penny to purchase all of the initial seeds. Then there’s the fact that most packets come with WAY more seeds than you could ever feasibly use, leading to a lot of wasted seeds. If this rings true for you, then you should absolutely check out our Seed Library, which has been recently stocked thanks to the generosity of the URI Master Gardeners. The Seed Library includes vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, and patrons are invited to borrow up to 10 different seeds each visit. Just open up the packet of seeds you want, take a pinch/however many seeds you intend to use, and transfer those to the small envelopes that we provide. You’re good to go! Unlike most items that you borrow from the library, we don’t expect you to return the seeds you take, but we encourage all users to try their hand at seed-saving at the end of the season. If you have success, we welcome donations of saved seeds, or of opened non-GMO seed packets.

As you can probably imagine, we have a great collection of books related to seed-starting, gardening, landscaping, and more. Books like “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew are great for those who want to make the best use of a small space, as well as the books on container gardening. Guides like “Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees & Butterflies” by Jaret C. Daniels have been popular as well, as more folks are interested in how they can create pollinator-friendly garden spaces. On March 11, we’ve invited the Master Gardeners to give a presentation on bees and pollinators, so I encourage you to check that out as well! There’s so much to see, read, and borrow as you plan out your gardens this spring!

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