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City Heights Seed Library Cultivates Interest In Native Plants

Zubin Eggleston stands in front of the

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Zubin Eggleston stands in front of the "seed library" he built in front of his Azalea Park home on February 15th, 2021.

Zubin Eggleston, a member of Carpenters Local 619, shows off the new addition to his front yard in the Azalea Park neighborhood of City Heights. It’s a squat concrete box, with two wooden doors. Inside are tiny cabinets filled with native seeds.

“My house is right here next to the Manzanita Gathering Place and someone from the neighborhood approached me about possibly putting a seed library on the fence of my property,” Eggleston said. “And I said sure, and I know a halfway decent carpenter that can build it for you as well.”

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

The idea that took shape on Eggleston's fence was to let neighbors in the area come and pick up native seeds. They would then plant those seeds in their own yards, just like taking a book from the library. After their plants blossomed, they would then harvest those seeds and bring them back to the seed library.

Anahi Mendéz was part of a group being trained by the San Diego Audubon Society that came up with the idea for the seed libraries.

“We were trying to figure out what would be something that would engage people with native plants, learn about them, see all the benefits that they could bring to us,” she explained. “So, we came up with the seed library that focused only on natives, so people could take advantage of it and will start doing landscaping projects ... and start learning about natives in their local environments.”

Mendéz and her group then teamed up with San Diego Canyonlands to center their efforts on the city’s canyons.

“City Heights has four urban canyons, and we’re standing in front of Manzanita Canyon, and the canyons are surrounded by homes, and all those homes have gardens,” said Kindra Hixon, San Diego Canyonlands outreach program coordinator.

“However, most of those gardens don’t have native plants, and native plants are important because they provide shelter for our native insects and animals. They provide food, they’re perfectly adapted for our climate, so they are the plants that belong here.”

But native plant seeds are not as popular as other garden staples, so the seed library is helping to bridge that gap for the community.

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The Audubon Society’s Andrew Meyer says that by focusing on areas near canyons, the project will help keep San Diego’s original habitat somewhat intact, and helps some wildlife that call those canyons home visit the neighborhood’s backyards.

“Places around here like Manzanita canyon, our urban canyons in San Diego, are fantastic. They’re full of birds, They’re full of native plants. Anyone who walks through sees all the life going on there,” Meyer said. “The seed library gives our communities a chance to expand the value of those things. It brings Manzanita Canyon out into the communities surrounding the canyons.”

The groups behind the original seed library are already planning for others in San Diego, as the library has already had to be restocked with native seeds.

Eggleston, the union carpenter, hopes that his coworkers will be a part of that, building custom-made seed libraries across the city.


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