Save the Bees, Slingshots and Seed Balls!
What are they? A DIY Recipe and it’s fascinating history.
What are Seed Balls?
Seed balls are made with quick and simple ingredients and are designed to be used without having to be planted. Usually made with clay or paper, the balls can be tossed on the ground or in/on the soil and will germinate on their own when met with water and sunlight. This is a fun activity to do with kiddos, friends, or students (if you are a teacher). Our bees and pollinators need all the help they can get, and this is a great way to contribute.
If you prefer visuals, this video made by Vox, shows a quick and great introduction to seed bombs. I highly recommend you check it out!
Want to do something fun with the seed balls?
You can form as many as you like and either throw them into the woods, a field or garden or put them in a sling shot and launch them. I find that knowing we are going to sling shot or throw them encourages more to be made! Even as an adult launching them off by hand or slingshot is a total blast. You can make games out of this activity as well – who can launch the farthest distance, roll the farthest distance, or throw the highest in the air.
Recipe & How To
This recipe includes clay, although paper can be used as well. You can use Red clay (buy here) made for seed balls or white clay (buy here). The clay helps to keep the seeds and compost protected and dry but also provides the seeds with water when wet. If you don’t have clay lying around and want to make them now, here is a recipe that uses paper.
- 1 Part Clay
- 1 Part Compost, sifted
- 1 Part wildflower seeds
- A flat tub or mixing bowl
Pour Clay, Compost and Seed into the mixing container. Mix evenly.
Add a small amount of water, just enough to make the mixture slightly moist, allowing them to stick and form a ball. A spray mister works well for this. Mix evenly.
Scoop or pinch a palm full of your mixture. Gently press and roll between both hands, working the mixture back and forth until you’ve formed a ball.
Balls can be shaped at any size you wish, although I recommend 1-2 inches. Place formed seed balls in a container or dish and allow to air dry completely. The seeds will stay dormant in the seed ball as long as they are viable.
If you prefer visuals, Here is a great video by Gardening Australia. She shows three different ways to make seed balls. Start at the 2:00 minute mark for the seed balls we are making today.
Seed balls are designed to be thrown in a garden or field. When weather permits (after last frost), choose a sunny location and toss. Rain will reach the little seedlings and start the growth process. Regular watering for the first two weeks is ideal for best results, but some people prefer to toss them and leave it up to nature.
If you want to better control the outcome, you can plant these seed balls in soil (covering the top with a thin layer of soil), place in a location that gets 4-6 hours of sun a day and water daily, enough to keep the soil damp. This can be done in a pot or container in the house in a window if you like.
How did seed balls start?
Ever heard of Guerilla gardening? Guerrilla gardening is the process of growing food or flowers in abandoned or neglected public spaces. Since there is a lack of permission in these scenarios the term Guerilla is used. Guerilla gardening is illegal in most cases.
Why would someone want to plant food or flowers in/on land that does not belong to them? There are a few reasons:
1. People in the community want to add life and color to their surroundings.
2. Some people intend to provide food to their communities, which may be in need or impoverished.
3. Believe it or not, these seed balls can be launched into open land as a form of protest, typically in the case where land use policies or practices are being violated or in legislation despite the voice of the community.
A real-life example are the Green Guerillas. This group was formed by Liz Christy in the early 1970’s. She gathered a group of people who shared an equal interest in both the planet and community gardening with the focus on fighting for both food and environmental justice in her community. Her group launched seeds over the fences of vacant lots, planted sunflower seeds in the center meridians of New York City streets and would place flower boxes on the ledges of abandoned buildings. The Green Guerillas honed in their focus on filling vacant lots to form community gardens. They felt they were reclaiming urban land which would stabilize city blocks and as a result, get people working together to solve problems. This was seen as a form of civil disobedience but led a movement where other groups of people began community gardens which blossomed into a grassroots movement throughout New York City.
This is just one of many groups. I found the motivation behind each group to be fascinating.