Manuela Denes, Essex County Library community services coordinator (left) and Caitlin Luno-Gilligan library donor (right) in Essex, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2020. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)

Local librarians want gardeners to start thinking about spring, in the dead of winter.

“It’s not something that people are traditionally used to a library providing,” says Leamington gardener Caitlin Luno-Gilligan who is donating hundreds of seed packets to the library.

“You are essentially borrowing seeds, and then at the end of the season, you’re giving them back for more people to borrow,” she said. “It’s just a good give and take for the community.”

“We kicked it off last year, and then unfortunately a day later we had to shut our branches down so we happily mailed out over 1400 seed packets, saw that there was an interest, and decided we’re doing it again,” says Manuela Denes, community services manager for the Essex County Library.

“During COVID so many people have started going back to the basics, growing things, eating what they’re growing, baking,” she says.

So much so, Denes says seed companies are running five to six weeks behind on orders that typically only take a week or two to arrive.

Starting in March, pending that delivery of more seeds and pandemic restrictions, Denes says library users can borrow seeds from local branches.

“Absolutely free the only cost is your time and getting your hands dirty,” she says.

And Denes says its easy: buy soil and put it into an empty egg carton, drop the seeds in, “spritz it with water” and the seeds will start to grow.

They can stay, Denes says, in the carton until it’s time for them to be planted into a garden or flower bed.

“There are certain plants you want to get started early, onions and peppers we’d like to get going around February,” she says.