It's been a year since the Pima County Public Library opened seed libraries, and there have been interesting "returns" and donations, says librarian Justine Hernandez.

• A borrower brought back hundreds of sunflower seeds, spending the time to package and label them.

• Someone anonymously donated some marijuana seeds, which the library doesn't stock. They were turned over to the police.

• Another borrower dropped off a seed-laden bottle gourd. "We didn't have the heart to crack it open," Hernandez says. "We take it around with us as our little mascot."

Until recently, the library didn't keep track of what seeds were "returned" as opposed to donated by companies and individuals.

That recording system is now in place, and it's apparent some people are making good on their "borrowing" promise.

"It was really heartening seeing things being returned," Hernandez says.

Folks with library cards can check out packets of seeds from the library's collection of some 240 varieties of fruits, vegetables and ornamentals.

The borrower is to harvest the seeds from the plants grown from the packet and turn them into the library. In this way, the stock is replenished.

Around 500 to 600 packets are borrowed almost every month, Hernandez says.

One person who's borrowed and returned seeds is Jay Tracy, a teacher of the hearing-impaired in the Tucson Unified School District.

Tracy, who also writes the blog The Scientific Gardener (, planted tepary beans last summer. "They did great here," he says of his garden on the far east side.

Unfortunately, the plants developed a virus that then spread to his other bean varieties.

He did harvest the seeds and "returned" them to the library with a note about his experience.

Tracy says he'd like the seed library to include this kind of information as a good gardening resource.

"Just because people bring back seed doesn't mean they liked the variety," he says. He'd want to know why.

Tracy uses the library to try out interesting plants or for specific varieties he'd like to put into his garden. Right now he's trying bull's blood red beet, red creole onion and cucumber.

He likes the idea that after a few years the library will be filled with seeds of plants that have thrived in Tucson.

"It's a great idea to acclimate the varieties we have," he says, "especially if people have been growing for a while and they save seeds year after year."

where they're located

• Dusenberry-River, 5605 E. River Road.

• Flowing Wells, 1730 W. Wetmore Road.

• Himmel Park, 1035 N. Treat Ave.

• Joel D. Valdez Main, 101 N. Stone Ave.

• Martha Cooper, 1377 N. Catalina Ave.

• Quincie Douglas, 1585 E. 36th St.

• Salazar-Ajo, 33 Plaza, Ajo.

• Seeds also can be reserved at online. Search for "seed library."

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at