I feel weird when I see that half-tone graphic of Che Guevara on t-shirts, mugs, and underwear—one of socialism’s most beloved heros plastered all over the artifacts of global capitalism, cheap, mass-produced crap. A cruel irony…
I feel the same way about several seed ball (aka seed bomb) products that have popped up lately.
Here we have one of the quintessential tools of the urban guerilla gardener and permaculturist, wrapped up in unnecessary packaging (albeit cute packaging). The irony here is how little resource it takes to make seedballs, and how easy it is.
Several seedball tutorials on the web make it sound like you have to go out and buy particular types of clay and certain composts, and that’s silly. If you live in a place where there is clay soil, and you have access to seeds, you’re all set to go. Here’s a flexible recipe to get you started:
5 Parts Clay* (dry is easiest for stirring, but wet is OK too)
1 Part Seeds**
Water (As Needed)
That’s it…everything else (compost, mycorrhizal innoculant, worm castings, etc.) is bonus. There’s a wide margin of error in the ratio, but when in doubt, go lighter on the seeds, as seedlings can easily overcrowd each other when dozens are coming up in a single square inch.
And watch them grow!
Besides the fact that you can throw them a helluva lot farther than a handful of seeds, the main advantage is that the seeds are protected from rodents and birds until conditions are right for them to germinate. In my bio-region, for example, we usually don’t get much measurable precipitation during the summer, so seeds in seedballs thrown in June are protected for a full two months before the rains really come back in late August.
The process usually involves some trial and error, but success rates are usually high. Be sure to keep a bag of seedballs with you when you bike. It’s great to see the results of a drive-by seeding months later when you least expect it!
*To tell whether a soil is high enough in clay content to work for seedballs, take a small hand-full of it and try to roll it into a snake between your palms. If it rolls out smoothly without cracking, it’s good. If it cracks or otherwise disintegrates, keep searching.
**You choice of seeds should be mission-specific. For example, if you plan to go out throwing seedballs on abandoned urban lots, which generally have depleted, compacted soil, select plants that will help break up and build the soil, like taprooted species (e.g. radishes, mallows, and carrots) and nitrogen fixers (e.g. clover, vetch, peas). In regenerating clear-cuts, you’d want to include seeds of local native species, ideally gathered close-by. What you don’t want to do is unintentionally unleash the seeds of pernicious invasives. Before you go throwing seeds all over the place, find out what goes rampant in your area.
p.s. I’m not mad at these people for making and selling seedballs. But while I respect the creativity in the grenade-shaped mould and the packaging, I don’t think they offer much value beyond being a cute novelty that would make a fun birthday gift.
[photo credit: kabloom09 on Etsy]