Garden Organic is a British charity, aiming to promote organic gardening, farming and food.

It was created in 1954, by Lawrence D. Hills, horticulturist. Originally named the Henri Doubleday Research Association, it changed its name in 2005.

Garden Organic's current patron is the Prince of Wales & its President is Professor Tim Lang.

Based in Coventry, in the Midlands, the organization gathers a network of gardeners passionate about organic gardening.

Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library


As a national charity, Garden Organic brings together thousands of people who share a common belief - that organic growing is essential for a healthy and sustainable world.

Through campaigning, advice, community work and research, the charity’s aim is to get everyone growing ‘the organic way’.

Garden Organic grows itself at the Ryton Organic Gardens (Coventry), where it created the Heritage Seed Library (HSL), managed by Catrina Fenton and a small team of horticulturalists, seed officers and volunteers.

The main objective of a seed library is to collect seeds and disseminate them to a very large public, in order to heighten seed saving initiatives. It differs from a seed bank, which focuses more on collecting and storing special varieties of seeds, to avoid their possible loss. Both have in common the very will to protect and regenerate agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty.

The Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library works tirelessly to conserve the UK's vegetable heritage, protecting its rich organic diversity for future generations.

The library continues to rediscover lost heritage varieties and believes that the best way to conserve varieties is to get people growing and enjoying them again.

Seed libraries mainly offer two different ways of sharing seeds:

  • “Seed swaps”, through members only and/or public gatherings, during which seed savers meet and exchange their treasures;
  • “Seed lending”, through which people can borrow seeds from the library’s collection, grow them, save new seeds and return a packet to the library.

Thanks to these activities, the Heritage Seed Library conserves and shares endangered vegetable varieties that are not widely available.

These varieties have been donated by HSL members, sourced through past HSL projects, or passed by seed companies who were no longer maintaining them.

Seeds from the chosen varieties are harvested from vegetables grown by Garden Organic's HSL team at Ryton Gardens and by "Seed Guardians": HSL members who have decided to take on the extra responsibility of growing seeds for the organization, supplying approximately half of the seeds available for distribution each year


Seed collection


The Heritage Seed Library currently holds approximately 800 open-pollinated varieties of seeds.

The collection made up of mainly European varieties of:

  • Rare landrace varieties, adapted to specific growing conditions;
  • Heirloom varieties, saved over many generations (these are unique to the Heritage Seed Library catalogue)
  • Varieties that have been dropped from popular seed catalogues over the past decade (for a number of reasons: their lack of popularity with customers, their unsuitability for commercial scale production or simply the prohibitive cost of trialling and National Listing).

The 2020 Heritage Seed Library catalog contains 154 vegetables varieties of seeds; beetroots, beans, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, cress, etc.

Fifty-two of these varieties are certified as organic and grown on land, by the Soil Association. The others varieties, grown by Seed Guardians, cannot officially be marked as “organic” but are complying with the organic and sustainable ethic of the organization.

How to get seeds?


Each year the Heritage Seed Library and its volunteers grow seed to replenish the core seed collection. Any additional seed that is produced is made available to its members through an annual seed list.

 

All of the varieties in the collection are not commercially listed which means that the charity cannot, by law, sell individual packets of seed. Instead members support the work of the Heritage Seed Library through a membership fee and can select up to six packets of seed for free between December and February each year.

Around 150 of the 800 varieties are made available and seed is shared in small quantities for home gardeners to ensure as many members have the opportunity to grow and enjoy them (for example, typically a packet of peas will contain 10 seeds).

How to join or support the organisation?


To find out how to join the Heritage Seed Library and access its rare, unique heritage and heirloom vegetable varieties, you can take a look at that webpage, or send an email to membership@gardenorganic.org.uk.

 

Subscribing HSL members receive the seed list annually, from which they can choose six free packets and buy any others they want.

Members enjoy others advantages such as:

- a copy of The Organic Way members' magazine, sent three times a year;

- access to an online members-only area of its website with organic growing factsheets, a forum and a gardening enquiry line;

- 10% off all orders with the award-winning Organic Gardening Catalogue;

- free or discounted entry to a range of partner gardens around the UK including its base, Ryton Organic Gardens in Warwickshire;

- a monthly email newsletter with updates from the charity and news relevant to organic growers.