Step-by-step: How to make seed balls

seed packets

I spent the morning making seed balls as a promo for Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. The plan is to give them out at various events as little vegetal thank yous. Because the book is all about edibles, I used veggie, herb, and edible flower seeds rather than my usual crimson clover/wildflower mix.

I chose cool-season edibles that can be sown in March and April, since that’s just after many of the events are being held. I also chose things that are relatively easy to grow, don’t require staking, and don’t need loose soil to thrive (since you don’t often cultivate the soil before tossing a seed ball): ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Russian Red’ kales, ‘Red Sails’ and ‘Esmeralda’ lettuces, ‘Sugar Loaf’ endive, arugula, ‘Kincho’ scallions, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, chives, dill, and edible flowers calendula and nasturtium.

combining the seeds

I mixed all the seeds together until I had about one cup’s worth. The recipe I follow uses “parts” so you can adapt it to your needs. This time around, I used one cup to equal one part.

Here’s that seed ball recipe:

5 parts dry red clay
3 parts dry organic compost
1 part seed
1 – 2 parts water

And here’s how it comes together:

Step one: add five parts soil

Step one: measure out three parts of dry compost or soil. This provides a growing medium for your seeds.

seeds-step2

Step two: measure out five parts of dry powdered clay. Once mixed with water, the clay will hold the seed balls together.

Redart clay

Step two continued… I use Red Art clay, which I get from a pottery supply store. It’s cheap, food safe, and feels great to work with.

Step 3: add one part seeds

Step three: Add one part seed. As you can see, I originally included pea seeds in the mix (‘Paladio’ peas; they grow just 18″/45cm tall), but ended up picking them out when I realized they were too large and would cause the seed balls to split when drying. Learn from me: stick to smaller seeds!

Step 4: combine

Step four: Add one to two parts water, and combine. You want the mixture to be moist, but not really wet. You can add water as you go. It’s not an exact science.

Step 5: roll into balls

Step five: Roll the seed ball mix into balls 1-2 in. (2.5-5cm) in diameter. Be prepared to get messy!

Step 6: set aside to dry

Step six: Set aside to dry (I use cookie sheets) for a few days before storing or using.

Seed balls are great for reclaiming derelict areas with thin or poor soil, making them ideal tools for guerrilla gardening. I find them especially useful for tossing into empty or neglected lots. Best thrown just before a rainy spell to ensure germination, I’ve found early spring to be the best time for seed ball success.

Enjoy!



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