Rio Rancho Public Libraries Circulation Clerk Vallen Kim displays one of the gardening kits available for checkout at Loma Colorado Main and Esther Bone Memorial libraries. Photo courtesy of the City of Rio Rancho.

Libraries may specialize in reading material to cultivate the mind, but Rio Rancho public libraries will start helping people cultivate their gardens later this month.
On Feb. 22, the seed exchange library, which has been offered in the past, will return and gardening tool kit three-week checkouts will begin for the first time. Patrons must be at 18 or older to check out gardening tools.
The programs will be available at Loma Colorado Main and Esther Bone Memorial libraries.
Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners will provide free virtual informational programs via the libraries starting this spring.
Rio Rancho librarians Josh Brynildsen and Jodi Miller applied for and received a grant from the American Library Association’s “Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change” pilot program on behalf of the city’s Library and Information Services Department in order to fund the seed exchange and tool kits.
“The seed library is probably one of the most requested things that patrons have asked to be brought back, and receiving this grant allowed us to do that and put a procedure in place to continue its presence as a permanent installation,” Brynildsen and Miller said in a joint email.
They developed the tool checkout to support first-time gardeners and people who don’t want to spend money on the tools.
“Good gardening tools are expensive, and especially during these hard times, we wanted to find a small way to give back to the community with the grant we received,” they wrote.
A gardening starter kit giveaway kicks off Feb. 22. Anyone can get a free kit with a watering can, seeds and a gardening tool while supplies last.
With the seed exchange, patrons won’t have a limit on how many seeds they can get, but they’re expected to donate seeds back, if possible.
“The seed library is maintained on an honor-system basis, so if patrons don’t manage to produce seeds to exchange, that is OK, too,” Brynildsen and Miller said.
The seed library will have mainly flower and vegetable seeds at first, but the variety will expand as people contribute seeds, they said.
As for the tool kits, the libraries will have four of them, each with a rounded cultivator, square sharp cultivator, transplanter and trowel. The librarians said they’ll likely add more kits as the program progresses.
Sam Thompson, a Master Gardener for 13 years, said the libraries asked her group for help with gardening education. In late February, she expects to offer a pre-recorded class and a live question-and-answer session on seed-starting.
“February is a great month to start your warm-season vegetables: tomatoes and peppers and things like that,” she said.
Later presentations include picking the right varieties of tomatoes to grow, Thompson’s specialty, as well as protecting plants from disease and insects.
She recommended monitoring library announcements and the local Master Gardeners website, sandovalmastergardeners.org, for more information.
For other help in the yard and garden, people can email the Master Gardeners helpline at emailhelpline@sandovalmastergardeners.org or send the proverbial “snail mail” to Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners, PO Box 400, Bernalillo, NM 87004.