Ann Arbor District Library offers free vegetable, herb, flower seeds for Washtenaw County residents

The Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) is well known for making unconventional items like guitars and telescopes available to patrons – but until recently, no items designed to be buried in dirt and never returned.

That all changed with one of AADL's latest initiatives, the AADL Seed Sampler, which has received 1,500 orders of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds since soft-launching in late March. 

Library staff are hoping that even more people will participate in the program, which is designed to promote gardening knowledge and experience throughout Washtenaw County.

"The interest we've received has been wild, and I think that people are having fun with it," says Marisa Huston, an AADL library technician working on the pilot program. "It's a great chance for beginners wanting a new hobby, and also gardening pros who might want to try something new." 

Open to all library patrons and Washtenaw County residents, the program is easy to navigate. On the AADL Seed Sampler page there are several resources with gardening information, a catalog of available seed varieties, and a simple order form. Participants can request up to 10 packets of seeds and choose to pick up their order from the AADL branch of their choice, or they can have their order mailed out to their homes.

Each packet contains only five to 15 seeds, a very deliberate decision on AADL's part. 

"It stood out to us that you'll buy a pack of seeds and you'll get 50 seeds of one variety that you don't necessarily need, especially in an urban environment," says Elizabeth Smith, another library technician working on the program. "We think our small starter packs will be really useful for people who are just learning about seeds, or people who are experienced and want to try different varieties."

Smith adds that she's especially excited about the AADL's partnership with Ann Arbor Seed Company as the library continues to roll out the pilot. 

"We're working with them because they're local and they have heirloom seeds and try to do all- organic and non-GMO when possible," she says. "They're a part of the Green Things Farm Collective and we just really like their mission."

Huston hopes the program will impact county residents' food security.

"This is a way to help people have access to being able to grow their own food," she says. "Maybe people can dip their toe in a small way, like growing tomatoes from their apartment with container gardens." 

AADL staff also plan on adding some related programming in the future. Ideas include planter-making workshops and seed swaps.

"We're just really hopeful about the potential. It's going to be great, especially for people who don't have access to these types of gardening opportunities in their day-to-day lives," Smith says. 

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

Image courtesy of AADL.