Suzanne De Young and her Little Free Seed Library

Suzanne De Young: Little Free Seed Library

Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.

Suzanne De Young kicked off spring 2021 by creating a Little Free Seed Library. Her yard is already a gardener’s paradise, but she shared that love by offering up literally thousands of seeds to her neighbors. Planting season is nearly done and the seeds are almost gone, but you can find her Little Free Seed Library at the corner of Butler and Ottawa—at least until Memorial Day Weekend.

“It has warmed my heart to see parents and children stop and look through the seeds.”

Suzanne De Young

Meet Suzanne De Young

De Young worked as a librarian and teacher for 35 years in northern Minnesota, but she’s now retired and has lived in West St. Paul for five years. She has two dogs, two cats, and three grown children.

Gardening is obviously a major interest, but De Young also enjoys reading, quilting, and “just enjoying a calm, peaceful life.”

Little Free Seed Library

Let’s Talk Seeds With Suzanne De Young

We spotted De Young in her yard one day and connected to learn more about her Little Free Seed Library.

What prompted you to create a Little Free Seed Library?

I planted lots of flowers and had so many seeds that I thought it would be a good idea to share them. Also, I had been to the Petaluma, Calif., seed bank and could see the value of sharing seeds.

Easy to do, and it doesn’t cost anything.

How many seeds did you “seed” your library with? What kind of preparation was required to share all those seeds?

All the seeds had to be sorted and dried. I bought small envelopes, labeled them, and put the dried seeds in them. I had hundreds of envelopes filled with seeds. This was done in the fall, and since it was during the pandemic I had lots of time. (I am hoping I can find others to help with this project in the future). 

I found the old mailboxes on Marketplace and then I painted them. The containers inside holding the envelopes were from cookies.

What has the reaction been so far? 

Almost all the seeds are gone. I’ve had many people stop and talk to me about the project and I think it has been a way to bring the neighborhood together. It has warmed my heart to see parents and children stop and look through the seeds. Hopefully, an exposure to plants and seeds for children will help encourage them to think about life and our planet.

Do you remember any specific interactions you’ve had with people because of the seed library?

I have met many neighbors because of the Little Free Seed Library. A dozen people have asked about it and wanted specific information about germination of the seeds and how big the plants would get. I also had some pruned dogwood branches in a container of water with instructions about how to plant them—several people talked to me about this.  One gentleman from Cherokee Avenue stopped and talked and then gave me some heirloom lettuce seeds. I hope the idea of saving seeds from plants you grow will be something more people will think about.

The Little Free Seed Library has been a destination for the past month. Virtually all the seed packets are gone and I will be putting it away over Memorial Day weekend.

What do your neighbors think about it? 

I have had positive reactions and remarks from my neighbors. I am hoping they can see how doing something so simple as collecting seeds can stimulate conversation about plants and wider environmental issues.

What gardening advice do you have for people who pick up seeds? 

Gardening is seeing life. Plant the seed, water it, and watch it grow. It is a fun activity that doesn’t cost anything except for some time.

Your entire yard is a beautiful garden, why do you enjoy gardening so much?

Gardening is a very calming activity. When I put my hands in the soil, I feel one with the Earth. You might say, it’s very grounding! I am in my happy place when I am in the garden.

We just had No Mow May, which the city officially endorsed this year. Do you have suggestions or tips for other ways we can be more environmentally friendly with our yards and lawns?

I was very thrilled about No Mow May. Even though some people still mowed, many have left their lawns to grow. I have seen more clover in lawns than ever before. I have left areas of my lawn and boulevard to grow clover. Clover enriches the soil and provides pollinators early flowers. This is why dandelions and creeping charlie are also important. Our society needs to rethink lawns. They are our country’s biggest crop and it does nothing to help our planet, especially if chemicals are used on them. (I could go on and on about this).

What do you love about West St. Paul?

West St. Paul is a very friendly, beautiful community. Where I live—close to shopping, the Mississippi River, downtown St. Paul, and the airport—is the ideal place for me.

Thanks to Suzanne De Young for sharing her love of gardening with us.

More:

  • For more seed libraries, both the Farmington branch of the Dakota County library and the Riverview branch of the St. Paul library have had seed banks (check with the libraries to see if they’re still open after COVID-19).
  • To connect with other gardeners, check out the West St. Paul Green Thumbs.

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