Regular Heavy Petal readers know that I’m really into seedballs, those muddy little balls of floral love.
The first sowing I did this year was disturbed by construction, so I recently launched a second attack. The teeny results are beginning to show themselves in these photos.
For a more advanced idea of what seedballs can do, I point you toward one of the Vancouver GGG’s (that’s Guerilla Gardening Group’s) seedbomb projects, a median in a busy on-ramp:
There was barely 2″ (5cm) in which to “plant” the seedballs, and yet, what lovely results!
The last two photos are borrowed from Al. You can see more of his GGG photos here.
Since Maryam asked so nicely, I thought I’d explain a bit more about seed balls (also known as “seed bombs,” among a multitude of other names).
Seed balls, simply put, are a method for distributing seeds by encasing them in a mixture of clay and compost. This protects the seeds by preventing them from drying out in the sun, getting eaten by birds, or from blowing away.
Seed balls are scattered directly on the ground, not planted. Self-sufficiency and sustainability website Path To Freedom says seed balls are useful for seeding dry, thin and compacted soils and for reclaiming derelict ground (which is why they are often used in guerilla gardening). Seed balls are particularly useful in dry and arid areas where rainfall is highly unpredictable. I like ’em because they’re easy to chuck over fences into empty lots.
You can “sow” your seed balls on a sunny day – and just leave them. When sufficient rain has permeated the clay, the seeds inside sprout and are aided by the nutrients and beneficial soil microbes surrounding them. I put one (shown above) in my garden so I can track its progress and show my readers that – yes! – seed balls do actually work.
In fact, the seed ball method has been working for centuries. I’ve read that some North American First Nations’ tribes used seed balls. More recently natural farming pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka has experimented with them. And in New York City, seed bombs were used in 1973’s revitalization of the Bowery neighbourhood and the development of the city’s first community garden.
So there you have it. The Heavy Petal version of seed ball history. Now go play outside!
Seedballs: microcosms of the living world.
This past weekend, Al from my guerilla gardening group led a seedball-making workshop. I loved it; it was so satisfying just to get my hands muddy and spend a couple hours in a zen-like trance rolling seedballs… I highly recommend the process!
Here’s the recipe:
5 parts dry red clay*
3 parts dry organic compost
1 part seed**
1 – 2 parts water
We used a 16oz. plastic cup as a measure, which made enough for approximately 300 seedballs. After mixing together all the dry ingredients, we added enough water to form a mix that held together without crumbling but wasn’t so wet that it wouldn’t roll into balls. Pinching off small bits of the lovely mud, we rolled penny-sized balls and set them in trays. They will sit on my windowsill for three or four days until completely dry.
*Dry red clay: Yes, this is the stuff that potters use. Commonly it comes pre-mixed, which you don’t want. You want the dry powder so it can be easily mixed. I’ve tried using grey clay from a riverbank – it doesn’t work so well. In Greater Vancouver there is something called Red Art Clay which is available at Greenbarn Potters Supply Ltd., 9548 – 192nd Street in Surrey (604-888-3411). Try asking at your local art supply store.
**Seeds: Workshop organizer Al provided crimson clover, white dutch clover and wild flower seeds, while the rest of the participants donated appropriate seeds – I put in California poppy, nasturtium and cilantro. Al also suggested using the edible, perennial and drought-tolerant plants listed at Plants for a Future.
Here we are, rolling away.
One of these kids is doing their own thing.
More on seedballs:
Path to Freedom