seed packets
Image by Sandy Repp

A variety of still viable vegetable and flower seeds are available in our free seed cabinets!

Free Seed Cabinets

Each year, staff in our Home Horticulture program write to various seed companies to request donations of seeds that are leftover from the previous year, but still viable. CCE-Tompkins receives many generous seed donations in response to this appeal (including many organic seeds) from vendors that have included Ithaca Agway, Seed Savers Exchange, Fruition Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Burpee, Heirloom Seeds, Seed Saver Exchange, Select Seeds, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, for example. The seeds are distributed to the community through our 2 seed cabinets (see below), by donations to local organizations distributing seeds, and at tabling events, to name a few. 

We ALSO invite gardeners to contribute to the Seed Cabinet for others to share. We have small envelopes here if you do not have your own. Here are the guidelines:


  • Please bring viable, accurately identified seeds, in an envelope, zip top bag, or original seed package, etc. We will have envelopes available to take seeds home in.
  • Please Label your seeds, we recommend copying the label of seed packs, if saved seeds (At a minimum, each variety should have a notecard listing the name, type of plant, season collected, if open pollinated and source of the seed. Labels are even more useful if they also include information about the growing conditions, appearance, and flavor.)
  • Please bring only viable seeds. Below is a list of seeds and how many seasons they are viable:
  • 1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, spinach, Anemone, Aster, Begonia’ Chives, Coneflower, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Larkspur, Nigella, Pansy, Phlox, Salvia, Vinca, Viola
  • 2 years: corn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion, Ageratum, Baby’s breath, Candytuft, Clarkia, Columbine, Coreopsis, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Dusty miller, Four o’clock, Foxglove, Gaillardia, Impatiens, Lisanthus, Lupin, Marigold, Nicotiana, Penstemon, Petunia, Portulaca, Rue, Statice, Strawflower, Tithonia
  • 3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips, rutabagas, Achillea, African daisy, Alyssum, Amaranth, Anise, Bachelor Button, Calendula, Campanula, Caraway, Cosmos, Dianthus, Didiscus, Dill, Fennel, Hollyhock, Lobelia, Marigold, Marjoram, Poppy, Sage, Savory, Scabiosa,Shasta daisy, Snapdragon, Stock, Sweet pea, Sunflower, Thyme, Verbena
  • 4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes, cardoons, Centaurea, Celosia, Lavatera, Morning glory, Nasturtium, Sweet alyssum
  • 5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, muskmelons, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory, Basil Borage Carnation Catnip Chrysanthemum, Cilantro, Hollyhock, Lavendar, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Zinnia
  • How many seeds to bring Those new to seed saving and seed swaps might want some suggestions on how much seed should be exchanged. You want to take at least the minimum number of seed necessary to meet your home garden needs but at the same time you want to leave plenty of seed for other participants to try. Some general suggestions are to share larger quantities of smaller seeds and smaller quantities of larger seeds. For most home gardeners 12-20 tomato or pepper seeds, 20-25 bean or pea seeds, and 25-50 flower or herb seeds should more than suffice.

CCETC Seed Cabinet, 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca, NY

The CCETC Seed Cabinet is located in our Agriculture/Environment office and may be visited weekdays from 8:30am-3:30pm. Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension is located at 615 Willow Avenue in Ithaca (Dey Street exit from Route 13).

Seed packets are organized into categories and alphabetized (flowers, herbs, and vegetables). Everyone is welcome to come and take some seeds for free, but to keep the system fair, please follow these GUIDELINES:


Also, record your name and number of seed packets, along with your email if you are interested in receiving the Garden Post to help staff track the success of, and to request more seeds for the free seed program. Seeds generally are available starting in late January until the supply is gone.

TCPL/MGB Salutations Seed Library, 101 E Green St, Ithaca, NY 14850

In 2021, a Master Gardner Volunteer trainee started the Salutations Seed Library at Tompkins County Public Library. Check it out at:

Seed Saving Resources

CCE-Tompkins maintains a seed library in the Agriculture-Environment office. Free seeds are available for gardeners, along with information on how to save your own seeds, some of which can be returned to the seed library the following year for other gardeners. For more information on saving seeds and a list of organizations that promote seed saving, seed production and plant breeding, visit Cornell University's resource page on all things seedy!


Ask the Growline

Last updated June 14, 2023