NS/S Seed Library

NS/S established Arizona’s first seed lending library within the NS/S Retail Store in early 2012. This open-source community seed exchange is designed to facilitate the free distribution of locally adapted seeds and increase regional seed sovereignty.

Seed libraries are an exciting new trend in the local food and seed movement where users can freely check out seeds, just like with books at a public library. After planting the seeds and enjoying the fruits of your labor, just leave a plant or two in the ground to go to seed. The resulting seed can the be harvested and returned, helping the library to grow abundant with seeds that are increasingly adapted to local conditions.

Since its much-heralded opening, the NS/S Seed Library has grown to become an important resource for Tucson’s seed savers and gardeners. The library receives regular daily visitors and is steadily expanding with exciting new additions all the time. Like the seeds it contains, we intend for the NS/S Seed Library to adapt over time to meet the needs of our local growers. Come pay a visit to our retail store and see what delightful, locally-adapted varieties await you in the drawers of your very own community seed collection!

Read about the growing seed library movement in this article by NS/S staff.

NS/S Retail Store Location
3061 N. Campbell Avenue
Tucson AZ 85719

Native American Free Seed Program

Native Seeds/SEARCH offers free membership and limited quantities of free seeds from our collection to Native peoples living in the Greater Southwest region.

Please note that our Free Seed policy has recently changed. Read below for details.

When Ordering Seeds

A Native American does not have to be a Native Seeds/SEARCH member to receive free seeds. Please check our online store or downloadable catalog to help with your seed selection. Please, only one order form per household. Call us if you need assistance or to place your order: 520-622-0830 x113. Shipping charges must be paid on all orders.

For Native Americans living in the Greater Southwest region or belonging to tribes within the Southwest Region

In order to meet higher demand for seeds by Native American families and requests for bulk seed orders, Native Seeds/SEARCH provides 10 free seed packets (no more than 3 seed packets per any one seed variety) in a calendar year (January through December), to individuals or families who are new recipients. Additional seed packets can be purchased at half price. Group exceptions may be considered. Please contact us and we will do our best to meet your needs.

Community Seed Grants

Supporting educational, food security, and community development projects in the Greater Southwest through targeted donations of seeds.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is pleased to offer small donations of our seeds to eligible organizations in the Greater Southwest region. These Community Seed Grants are designed to support the work of educators and those working to enhance the nutritional, social, economic, or environmental health of underprivileged groups in the region, while simultaneously keeping locally-adapted crop varieties alive and in active use in farms and gardens. See below for requirements and instructions for applying to this donation program.

Who Is Eligible?

Seed Grant eligibility is restricted solely to organizations operating in the Native Seeds/SEARCH region of focus: the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Our seeds are not only best adapted to this region, but they are most meaningful to the people who have inhabited, or whose descendants continue to inhabit, this region. Donations are open to organizations working on educational, food security, or community development projects. Priority is given to projects that will clearly benefit underprivileged groups. Seed Grants are not available to individuals. (Note that Native American individuals living in the Greater Southwest or belonging to tribes in the region are automatically eligible for free seeds under our Native American Free Seed Program, though Native American organizations should apply for seed donations through this Community Seed Grants program.)

Examples of successful seed grants include school gardens, demonstration gardens for seed libraries, community therapy or rehabilitation gardens, senior center gardens, and other community oriented gardens.

Gardening in the Desert

A healthy agriculture can only take place within nature and in co-operation with its processes, not in spite of it and not by ‘conquering’ it.

– Wendell Berry, from A Continuous Harmony

Successful gardening depends on utilizing what nature has provided. While there are basic tenets that hold regardless of the environment in which you’re gardening, certain approaches and techniques are unique to different environments. What it takes to garden successfully in Seattle differs from Boston, which differs from Tucson. If you’re familiar with gardening in humid climates, you will quickly discover `that many of those practices no longer work well in the desert.

Seed Saving Instructions

At one time, seed saving was a necessity. Gardeners and farmers carefully selected and stored the best seeds from their harvests, ensuring they had seed for planting in subsequent years. The knowledge of pollination, purity, harvesting and storage of seeds was all part of survival and learned within the family and community.

The rise of commercially available seed resulted in a trend away from seed saving. Farmers and gardeners simply purchased new seed every year. Growing concern regarding the loss of commercially available seed offerings however, led to a grass-roots movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s dedicated to seed saving.

Today, recognition of the importance of crop genetic diversity is exemplified by the many local, regional and national efforts devoted to conserving the heirloom, traditional varieties that were once so prevalent. For both home gardeners and seed bank operators, the fundamentals are the same in terms of saving seed and maintaining purity. What follows are some basics to get you started saving seeds.