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What are Seed Balls?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Seed balls are compact balls of seeds, compost, and clay which are designed to be scattered to sow the seeds. Rather than raking and conditioning the soil and then carefully distributing seeds, people can simply throw seed balls at set intervals. There are a number of applications for a seed ball, including farming, urban beautification, and gardening, and these useful garden tools are very easy to make.

The design for the seed ball is often credited to Masanobu Fukuoka, an advocate of natural farming. He suggested using seed balls rather than till cultivation, and the trend slowly spread to include a variety of gardeners from all over the world. He claimed that the balls could be sown on a wide variety of soils, including thin and poor soils, because the ball contained enough nutrients to get the plants started, allowing them to establish themselves so that they could adapt to the conditions.

A typical seed ball can include seeds from a variety of plants, mixed with compost and clay. Other inclusions such as humus may be used as well. The ingredients are blended together with a small amount of water and compacted into balls which are allowed to dry in the sun. At this point, the seed balls can be stored until they are needed. When sown, the seeds will slowly sprout in response to moisture and warmth, cracking the seed ball apart and allowing the plants to grow.

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Gardeners can use seed balls to quickly sow seeds in an area where they are more interested in coverage than regimented rows of plants. Wildflower gardening in particular can be accomplished very quickly with a seed ball distribution. The balls can also be used to replace lawns with flowers and other plants, and to fill in gaps in a garden.

Farmers can theoretically use seed balls if they subscribe to natural farming tactics. The seed balls will cause crops to grow erratically, making mechanical cultivation difficult if not impossible, but they can create a more natural appearance.

One of the more interesting applications for seed balls is guerrilla gardening, in which people descend upon vacant or abandoned land and cover it in a garden. Guerrilla gardening is an urban beautification technique driven by volunteers, and “seed bombing,” as distributing seed balls is known, is a great technique for lots which are hard to access, or areas in which more extensive gardening would not be practical or logical. For example, if guerrilla gardeners know that the property owner will tear out plants, they can toss in some seed balls and hope for the best, hoping that the property owner will assume that the resulting plant growth is natural.

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