Seed Guardians

Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library members can volunteer to take on a little more responsibility and support us by producing, saving and returning seed to us as a Seed Guardian.

Seed Guardians provide invaluable support to the work of the seed library. Of the 40,000 plus packets of seed distributed to members each year, around 50% are produced by Seed Guardians.

There are currently around 180 active Seed Guardians working hard to produce seed for the Heritage Seed Library, but we always need more! Demand for HSL varieties is high and it is often a challenge to ensure we have enough seed to supply all our members’ requests.

If you are interested in becoming a Seed Guardian, you will be carrying out an essential role in maintaining a sufficient amount of stock as well as safeguarding rare varieties. We provide a number of resources specifically for Seed Guardians.

As a Seed Guardian, you will:

  • Choose your variety
    The HSL Orphans List is sent to Guardians in spring each year. It contains varieties that have reached low levels in our stock and are in need of the care of Guardians to increase their numbers. In the first year most new Seed Guardians select 1-2 varieties from this list to raise specifically for seed production. Following trialling, new varieties to the collection are also included, so Guardians often get to grow these long before they appear in our Catalogue. The varieties that you grow can be tailored to your experience of seed saving. Most of our Orphans List varieties are self-pollinating. This makes seed saving easier as the seeds are guaranteed to be true to type.

  • Grow your variety and record its performance
    To support your work as a Seed Guardian, our Seed Saving Guidelines provide you with all the information you need to grow and save seed effectively. In addition, we are always available to answer any of your queries by email, telephone or letter. Throughout the season we ask that you record the performance of your varieties on Return Forms to be sent to us with your seed. Some Seed Guardians enjoy researching the history of their chosen variety and taking pictures of the crops’ progress. Any extra information that you have is always useful for the HSL records.

  • Prepare your seed and return it to the Heritage Seed Library
    The seed you will collect will need to be cleaned and dried. To help you in this process, the Seed Saving Guidelines are available for you to refer to. It is also important that you check your seeds are free of pests and diseases before sending them to us. Your seeds are then ready to post back to us.

Distribution of seed

The seeds that Guardians return are processed by the Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library team and placed in cold storage, ready to be included in the Seed Catalogue. This catalogue is sent out to our members, who select their favourite varieties and send in their requests to us. Your variety and many others will then be grown by other members of the Seed Library and preserved for future generations to enjoy too.

Meet a seed guardian

Martin Robinson, Staffordshire Semi-retired from professional horticulture, Martin is one of our most active supporters. His fascination with horticulture came from helping his father in the garden and he has now made it his mission to inspire others through his involvement with the "In Bloom" competition, allotment judging and speaking to the University of the Third Age, and local gardening clubs. He joined the Heritage Seed Library six years ago and is also now a Seed Guardian.

In recent years, Martin has grown orphan varieties including tomato ‘Verna Orange’ and pea ‘Gladstone’. If you have recently enjoyed ‘Spanish Big Globe’ tomato you may have Martin to thank for your seeds.

He also helps promote our Heritage Seed Library and often gives talks to gardening groups and horticultural societies about our work.

Becoming a Seed Guardian

If you would like to join our community of Seed Guardians, contact us at Garden Organic using the contact details below:

Garden Organic - Heritage Seed Library
Ryton Gardens
Wolston Lane