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Portland Grows @ PPL

Portland Public Library cardholders in good standing are able to choose up to four (4) packets of seeds per month. The varieties will rotate depending on what is available and received from our partners, but will include beginner seeds that make it super easy to save seeds from: tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peas, and peppers.

Phase I: Summer 2016, Portland Grows @ PPL will begin offering packets of seeds to card holders. Borrowers will receive a flyer of information on how to grow and save seeds, and we’ll offer workshops on gardening, growing tips, seed saving, and more. If you’re interested in contributing to the longevity and self-sustaining cycle of the program, learn how to save your seeds to return to the program in Phase II. Seeds are available in the Reference area on the lower level of the Main Branch for patrons to check out.

To learn more about saving seeds, look for workshops throughout the year here and with our program partners.

You can also look at some of the very helpful videos from Richmond Grows here, and from the Seed Libraries network.

Coming Soon

Phase II: Portland Grows @ PPL will make seed label return slips available, and borrowers can contribute their next generation seeds to the library for others to grow.  Patrons can also self-identify for admittance to the “Portland Master Growers”. To achieve this status, seeds that have been returned will be passed to partner organizations to verify the seeds are wholesome and hearty. Once they grow with success, Master Growers will be permitted to borrow rare and heirloom variety seeds in Phase III.

Phase III: Portland Grows @ PPL will have a process for loaning seeds to new growers, accepting seeds back from all levels of growers, and a way to verify a grower’s experience with seeds. With enough interest from the community, Portland Grows @ PPL will have a full cycle of seed lending available to the community. There will be an array of drawers from beginner to advanced seeds, and we hope to offer a wide variety of plants for people to learn how to grow.


Current Seed Varieties

  • Beardtongue / Penstemon Strictus
    This beautiful perennial grows spikes of bright blue flowers and evergreen foliage. They are a bee-friendly plant, and very easy to grow.

    • Spacing: 16-20”
    • Planting depth: 1/16”
    • Days to germination: 15-30
    • Days to maturity: Late spring
  • Early Frosty Shell Pea
    This variety is easy to grow and easy to save seeds from mature plants. The vines can grow up to 3 feet, and production varies but typically yields a large quantity.  Peas produce more when staked, and installing at planting will avoid disturbing the seedlings. Peas are 25% sucrose by weight, and lose nearly half their sugars within six hours after harvesting at room temperature. Keep cool and shell as soon as possible after picking if you plan to freeze. Peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world!

    • Spacing: 3”
    • Planting depth: 1“
    • Days to germination: 8-10
    • Days to maturity: 60-70
  • Gigante d’Italia Parsley
    This variety produces big flat leaves on sturdy plants. It is the most popular herb in Western cultures, and has a bright tang of Mediterranean origin.

    • Growing tips:
      Sow indoors eight weeks before the last frost, or plant directly in the ground after the last frost, and three months before the first fall frost. Parsley is a slow germinator but will take hold and shoot up once it has time. Parsley prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. You can harvest the large outer leaves and let the smaller inner leaves mature for continuous harvest. With protection from snow, it will come back in the spring, and can be harvested for a month before going to seed.
    • Spacing: 12”
    • Planting depth: ¼ “
    • Days to germination: 21
    • Days to maturity: 85
  • Harris Model Parsnips
    These are a classic parsnip, and growers enjoy them because they do well when the rest of the garden is dormant. Any time the ground is not frozen, you can pull them up, even into the winter! You can also leave them in the ground to flower in the spring, which are very good at attracting native pollinators and garden insects. If you’ve never had a parsnip, consider it like an earthy cousin to the carrot.

    • Spacing: 8”
    • Planting depth: ¼”
    • Days to germination: 13-40
    • Days to maturity: 85-90
  • Meadow Sweet / Filipendula Ulmuria
    This perennial grows white flowers that are edible, along with its leaves. It is a hardy plant and can grow in a variety of conditions from full sun to part shade. Meadowsweet is known by other names, and in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, it is knowns as Meadwort, which was one of the ingredients in a beverage called “save.” It is used to produce aspirin, and has been used in holistic herbal remedies for centuries. The plant attracts wildlife, bees, and feeds birds. The seeds should be sown in the fall in clumps, and

    • Spacing: 1” in clumps
    • Planting depth: 1”
    • Days to germination: 21-90
    • Days to maturity: flowers June to September, seeds ripen August to September
  • Non-heading broccoli / Piracicaba
    This variety of broccoli is preferred by some because of its sweet tender floret. The greens are edible, and it grows well in cool consistent temperatures. Broccoli contains high levels of sulforaphane, which is a substance that helps remove carcinogens from the body. Piracicaba are hardy growers that require warmer temperatures to germinate, but damaged by extreme fluctuations in temperature.

    • Spacing: 24”
    • Planting depth: ½”
    • Days to germination: 6-10
    • Days to maturity: 56
  • Reisetomate Tomato
    This heirloom variety of tomato produces a very unique fruit—it looks like a big bunch of cherry tomatoes fused together. It is also known as the “Traveler tomato”, its roots are from Central America when people would carry it with them on a journey and be able to tear off pieces to eat without a knife. Tomatoes enjoy full sun and need good, soaking waterings. Be sure to support the stems as they grow.

    • Spacing: 24-36”
    • Planting depth: ½
    • Days to germination: 5-10
    • Days to maturity: 85
  • Turkish Rocket Bunias Orientalis
    This plant is a perennial, and very easy to grow. It is broccoli-like with a flavor close to cabbage. In some parts of the world it grows like a weed, but its tasty leaves and edible flowering stems make it a good choice to cultivate. It is drought tolerant, and is a great choice for a beginner grower. If you choose to grow this plant, the seeds are removed from the flower heads, which will also prevent invasive creep.

    • Spacing: 12”
    • Planting depth: ½ “
    • Days to germination: 21
    • Days to maturity: as soon as leaves are produced
  • Winter Marvel Lettuce
    This is a large green butterhead, recommended for fall production. It grows rapidly and bolts readily in summer heat. If you are sowing in spring for an early harvest, the window is very narrow. This is an old European variety.

    • Growing tips:
      Will not germinate when sown in soil temperature over 80˚, and sow every two weeks for a continuous supply. Must be thinned frequently and ruthlessly to a final distance of 1”. This is a hardy variety and can tolerate frost. Best grown in cool weather with lots of moisture, though be careful to prevent bottom rot. You can aid this by not planting lettuce in the same beds more than two years in a row.
    • Spacing: 12”
    • Planting depth: ¼ “
    • Days to germination: 21
    • Days to maturity: 45-85 depending on variety