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Seed Bombs Add Biodiversity

Posted January 16th, 2018 by Caron Wenzel in

As a permaculture instructor and eco-restoration practitioner, one of the most entertaining things I participate in is making seed bombs or seed balls. After years of helping scout troops and science classes it is still fun to make and distribute them.

Making seed balls is actually an ancient farming practice that helped prevent seed from being consumed by rodents and birds after it was broadcasted. It was brought to modern awareness by a Japanese agronomist and organic farmer Masanobu Fukuoka. He authored a book One Straw Revolution that in the 1970’s and described the theory and practice of using seed bombs among other organic farming:

“A difficulty with Fukuoka’s non-plowing, direct-seeding method planting is that exposed seeds become prey to birds and animals. By casting the seeds amidst a standing crop and covering them with straw, the birds can be kept at bay, but moles, crickets, slugs, and mice present another problem. For many years Fukuoka thwarted foraging insects and rodents by pelletizing his seeds, that is, by encasing them in clay. Pelletizing seeds also keeps them from rotting if the season is unusually wet. However, by keeping a natural balance in the animal kingdom Fukuoka now seldom needs to coat his seeds, thus eliminating another task.”

Larry Korn
Source: The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

As permaculture is all about creative innovation in sustainable gardening and restoration methods, seed balls/bombs have become a popular technique in natural gardening and farming circles and permaculture.

Work experience and research has shown me the many ways and situations to use seed balls.

  • The Fukuoka method is to roll seed and powdered clay with seed, clay and water in a box or cement type mixer for large amounts needed for fields.
  • For vegetable and flower seed in limited quantities batch mix 1/3 clay, 1/3 compost, 1/3 seed and water. Hand roll or use a small ice cream scoop.
  • My recipe for wildflower seed balls is designed to add biodiversity to pollinator strips and restorations. Mix 1/3 clay, 1/3 compost, 1/3 seed and a good mycorrhizal inoculant to the mix. This can be done pelletized dry clay method or wet clay in “brownie batter” batches.
  • Clays are variable. A good, inexpensive red or white craft clay without weed seeds will work. Dirty clay with possible chemical contamination needs to be avoided.
  • Mix all ingredients, Make the balls, and set them out to dry in a cool dry place. They will be ready in 3 days to a week.
  • Sow seed balls when they are dry in an approximate time for the seeds in the ball. Perennials in the Fall, Annual flowers in Spring, as an example.

Caron Wenzel is an Environmental Educator, writer, and owner of Blazing Star Inc., a 27-year-old native plant seed nursery, soil amendment and environmental consulting business.  Visit her website at Blazing-Star.com.

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