Tropical Gardening Helpline: 3-19-17


Mary Lou asks: I am interested in starting my summer garden but only have room for a few plants. Is there a way to buy seeds in small amounts rather than waste seeds and money on a full packet of each plant I want to grow?


Mary Lou asks: I am interested in starting my summer garden but only have room for a few plants. Is there a way to buy seeds in small amounts rather than waste seeds and money on a full packet of each plant I want to grow?

Tropical Gardener answer: Some seed sellers do sell “sample packs.” They often sell packets with less than 100 seeds and often sell for less than $2. Google “sample packs of vegetable seeds” and take a look.

The Community Seed Library at the Kailua-Kona library is an even better alternative. Most packets contain 25 seeds or less and all of the packets are free. The seeds are stored in a wooden card catalog just to the right of the front door. You can look through the drawers where the seed packets are arranged and hopefully find seeds of vegetables, herbs or fruit that you’d like to grow.

The free seed library was established by the Friends of the Library of Kona (FOLK) to promote gardening as well as to encourage seed saving. All of the seeds in the library are either heirloom or open-pollinated so they will produce seeds that can be saved and shared by returning some to the Community Seed Library.

Though seed saving methods vary somewhat depending on the plant, the basic technique is similar for most species. Once the plant flowers, it will produce fruit in the form of a vegetable, a berry, or a seed pod of some kind. Look for the best plant for each species and let some fruit from that plant ripen fully or even dry on the mother plant.

Though getting seeds dry is crucial to saving them, it can be challenging. Some fruit like papayas or tomatoes can be picked when fully ripe and the seeds can be removed, cleaned and dried indoors. Lettuce and bean seeds should dry on the plant, if possible. After harvest, seeds should be cleaned then dried before being stored. Storing the seeds in a cool dry area, even in the refrigerator, is best.

Once you are sure your seeds are fully dry, bring them into the Community Seed Library to share with other gardeners. The bottom drawer in the seed catalog has some handmade seed envelopes. Be sure to put the full name of the plant and some information about growing it on the envelope then leave it in the bottom drawer for volunteers to file. Leave contact information in the drawer or fill out a form for the notebook on the catalog if you want to be put on the CSL members list.

The seed library started about a year and a half ago making seeds available to gardeners so they could grow more food. F.O.L.K. also sponsors monthly presentations on gardening offering information on a variety of gardening techniques. In mid to late summer, they will be offering a talk on saving seeds from this season’s harvest.

If you want more information about events offered by the Community Seed Library or others taking place at the Kailua-Kona library go to All the presentations are free unless otherwise noted.

Go get some seeds, grow a bountiful garden and save seeds to bring back in exchange. Happy gardening!

Email plant questions to for answers by Certified Master Gardeners.Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living in a dryland forest north of Kailua-Kona.

Gardening Events

Monday: “Fruits of the Vine – Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers” from 7 to 9 p.m. at West Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers office 81-6393 Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua. White wooden building on makai side across from the Department of Transportation yard. Ken Love and Brian Lievens will talk about tropical fruit producing vines. Park in front or on the north side. For more information contact Brian Lievens President West Hawaii Chapter at 895-8753 or

Friday: “Hands-on Fruit Fly Management Workshop” from 1:20 to 3:30 at UH Cooperative Extension Service across from the Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu at 79-7381 Mamalahoa Highway. Dr. Roger Vargas and Steven Souder of USDA will teach fruit fly ID and management and introduce new management tools. Registration is required. Go to to RSVP or contact Gina at 808-322-4892 by 4:30 p.m. on March 22. Class is limited to 30 participants.

Saturday: “Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden” from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the Garden Visitor Center across from the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. Volunteers will be able to help with garden maintenance and are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Water and snacks provided. Call Peter at 323-3318 for more information.

Farmer Direct Markets

Wednesday: “Sunset Farmers Market,” 2 p.m. to sunset at the north makai corner of the Kmart parking lot

Wednesday and Friday: “Hooulu Farmers Market,” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa

Friday: “Pure Kona Market,” 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

Saturday: “Keauhou Farmers Market,” 8 a.m. to noon at Keauhou Shopping Center

“Kamuela Farmer’s Market,” 7 a.m. to noon at Pukalani Stables

Sunday: “Pure Kona Green Market.” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

Tuesday through Saturday: “U-Pick greens and produce,” 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tropical Edibles Nursery, Captain Cook.

Plant Advice Lines



Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH-CES in Kainaliu, 322-4892

Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH CES at Komohana in Hilo, 981-5199 or