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Tropical Gardening Helpline: Sourcing seed for your new garden

October 23, 2017 - 9:44pm

Sunny asks: I’m putting in a new garden and was hoping to find a source for small amounts of seeds rather than having to buy lots of different seed packets and only using a few seeds from each pack before they expire.

Tropical Gardener answer: The good news for you is that the Kailua-Kona Public Library now has a Community Seed Library supported by the Friends of the Library in Kona (FOLK). They are offering small packets of free seeds in a wooden card catalog near the front door. CSL volunteers collect, buy and package seeds weekly for the library. The catalog has lots of seed packets, as well as drawers for donated seeds and for cash donations to fund seed purchases.

The even better news is that the CSL will be holding a seed exchange as part of its second anniversary celebration. This is a chance to meet with local gardeners who bring seeds or cuttings to exchange and/or share with others in attendance. Hopefully folks will bring propagation material from an assortment of herbs, veggies, flowers and fruit that they have been growing. All in the community are invited to participate.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 28 inside the library with a panel of seed savers who will discuss important aspects of saving seeds. Nancy Redfeather will share her reasons for and experiences with seed saving. Jill Wagner will talk about storing and out planting saved seeds. Diana Duff will offer information on seed saving and seed testing for beginning seed savers. After the short presentations, the panel will answer audience questions about saving seeds.

By 11 a.m., the event will move outside onto the lanai for the seed exchange. The purpose of the exchange is for gardeners to share seeds or cuttings from some of their favorite plants with others in the community. Current seed savers are encouraged to attend with seeds or cuttings. The event offers a perfect opportunity for new seed savers to get plants started so that they can save seeds for the Seed Library and future seed exchanges.

Attendees may bring seeds, preferably in some kind of packaging, with some growing information included.

In an attempt to limit the spread of invasive pests or diseases only insect and disease free cuttings may be offered and no plants in soil can be exchanged.

In addition to the free seeds brought by community seed savers, the Community Seed Library will have its own packaged seeds at the exchange and seed library volunteers will be available to offer growing and seed-saving advice.

Toward noon, as the exchange winds down, FOLK is sponsoring an anniversary celebration for the Community Seed Library. Water and iced tea, as well as some local fruit and treats, will be offered to celebrants.

The event promises to be fun as well as rewarding and educational. Attendees will go home with new seeds and plants as well as lots of information on seed saving.

For those who would like to bring seeds, be sure to harvest them from your healthiest and tastiest plants, dry them well and bring them in packages or containers.

Several online sources can help you with basic seed saving. Seed Savers Exchange has a good how-to at Rodale offers a beginner’s guide to saving seeds at Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply has a short video that covers the basics at

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

Tuesday: “World Food Day,” 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the KTA Super Stores in the Keauhou Shopping Center. Local farmers will offer tasting and samples of their value added products. The Kohala Center will offer plant starts, as well. Farmers and value added producers, who would like to participate, contact Nicole at or call 887-6411.

Friday: “Agricultural Theft Community Meeting,” 1 p.m. at the UH Kona Cooperative Extension Service office at 79-7381 Mamalahoa Highway in Kainaliu. State Sen. Mike Gabbard, Rep. Richard Creagan, Department of Agriculture Chairperson Scott Enright with local growers and police will discuss ways to solve the ag theft problem. Info: Contact UH Extension Service at 322-4892.

“Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden,” 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Meet at the Garden Visitor Center across from theManago Hotel inCaptain Cook. Volunteers will be able to help with garden maintenance and are invited to bring a brownbag lunch. Waterand snacks provided. Info: Call Peter at 323-3318.

“Little Fire Ant ID Event,” 7:30 a.m. at King Kamehameha’s Kona Hotel beach front. Sponsored by Set peanut butter covered sticks in suspected LFA areas for one hour. If ants arrive, bag them with stick and freeze. Bring frozen specimens for positive ID and advice. For more information watch the youtube at or contact Carolyn Dillan at

Farmer Direct Markets

Wednesday: “Sunset Farmers Market,” 2-6 p.m. in the HPM parking lot, 74-5511 Luhia St., in Kailua-Kona

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plant Advice Lines


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

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

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