March 19, 2024

Choosing Seeds with the HEPL Seed Library

HEPL Seed Library Flowers

By Julia W., Community Engagement Coordinator

Spring is almost here, and the HEPL Seed Library is officially open! Many of our users have asked how to select the right seeds for their yard, so we’ll look at some things you’ll want to take into consideration.  

Choosing the seeds you’ll plant can be incredibly difficult! Start with your space: 

  • How much light does your yard get? Are there certain times of the day that it receives more light? Look for plants that require the amount of light that your yard receives (Full sun, partial sun/shade, full shade). For example, tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, and shady yards are not the best environment for them. 
  • What is the soil like? Does water sit on top of the ground or does it drain away easily? Plants have different soil and water needs, and you should choose plants that work for your space.  
  • Will you plant the seeds in a container, raised bed, or in the ground? Plants will thrive in different growing spaces. 


Next, consider your gardening goals and how much time you have for gardening: 

  • What are your gardening goals? A gardening goal doesn’t have to be elaborate; it can be something as simple as growing a small herb garden, trying to grow tomatoes for the first time, or adding a few new flowers alongside some old favorites. 
  • How much time do you have to spend gardening? In the HEPL Seed Library, we marked our seeds as Level 1 or Level 2 to help you determine if the difficulty level works for you. Some seeds we marked Level 2, like peppers or strawflowers, need to be planted in a warm space several weeks before they can be planted outdoors, and they need to receive special care during that time. 


If you plan to check out some Seeds from the HEPL Seed Library, research and browse our seed guide. 

How we choose seeds for the Seed Library 

Many people have also asked us how we decide what seeds will go in the Seed Library. We compile a dream list in October and November after we count the previous year’s inventory and review our survey responses. The goal is to select a variety of seeds that offer a broad range of different plants – vegetables, fruit, herbs, native plants, and ornamental flowers – to meet the requests of our users. Each year, we choose some seeds to remove from our roster while trying out some different seeds so there is always something fresh in the HEPL Seed Library. 

We also need to take practical factors into consideration when selecting seeds for our collection.  

  • One of the Seed Library’s goals is that users can save seeds from the plants they grow, so any seeds we include in our collection should not be hybrids. Hybrid plants are cross-pollinated from different varieties, meaning the seeds they produce probably will not be like the parent plant. 
  • Seeds need to be available in bulk, and the cost of purchasing them must result in a suitable number of seed packets for us to share with our users. Many varieties of seeds we want to include in the Seed Library are not available for purchase in bulk or are too expensive. 
  • Many seeds that we receive requests for (roses, strawberries, peonies, etc.) are not commonly grown from seed, and are often hybridized or best propagated from plant cuttings rather than seeds.  


Gardening is incredibly popular and there are fabulous books, videos, blogs, and social media posts that can give you more specific advice based on your area of interest and your specific gardening conditions. You may also want to check out books and other materials from HEPL’s collection. Happy Gardening! 

For even more information and updates, check HEPL’s Bright Ideas email newsletter, visit the Seed Library webpage for a complete list of plants, watch HEPL’s social media, or email us for more information at