October 7, 2020

Seed Bombs

I've been a fan of Masanobu Fukuoka ever since I read The One-Straw Revolution five years ago. I've blogged about modifying his grain planting method for seeding my pastures. Another of his ideas is coating seed with clay before planting. I've thought this would be an excellent way to hide the seed from birds. And goats! But I never quite understood how I'd do it. Then I watched this video on how to make seed balls and seed bombs. Last month, I finally made some for seeding several small bare soil areas in the pasture. So, here's my first attempt.

Mix of pasture seeds.

Because it's for winter pasture, my seed mix contained cool weather grasses, legumes, and forbs: crimson clover, arrowleaf clover, hairy vetch, purple top turnip, annual ryegrass, wheat, oats, winter peas, rape, radish, white clover, perennial rye, timothy, brome, echinacea, chicory, and oregano.

Here's what I needed to make them.

Seeds, compost, and clay.

The mixture calls for equal parts of each.
How do you like my southern red clay?

And enough water to dampen.

Mixing and testing if it can be shaped.

Formed and pressed into balls (bombs).

My yield was roughly 4 pounds worth.

These could be dried and saved for later or planted immediately. I went out and dropped them onto various bare spots as soon as I was done because the forecast was for rain.

Seed bomb on a bare bit of soil.

The clay protects the seeds and gives them soil to get started in. The compost feeds them. Here they are several weeks later.

Has anyone else tried this? It would be a great activity to do with kids! Like mud pies but better! Kids would have fun planting them too.

Seed Bombs © October 2020 by Leigh 


Mama Pea said...

Fascinating! Loved your pictures. I had assumed you would throw the balls on the bare spots (like a bomb) and they would shatter and spread a bit. (But what did I know?!) We have a LOT of clay here, too, but ours is just an ugly brown rather than your designer red! ;o)

daisy g said...

I actually made these and sold them at the farmer's market years ago when I was selling my daisy totes. They are a lot of fun to do and a great way to get kids interested in gardening. Who doesn't like to make mud pies? ;0D

wyomingheart said...

What an awesome post, Leigh! We also have red clay soil, but not nearly as rich red as yours. Our clay is more yellow orange. This looks like a great project to do before winter. We are trying to bring pastures back from years of gmo grown crops, but also we have two dried up ponds. We want to make one pond a wildlife forage spot, and the other a honey bee flower garden. This looks like the ticket, because I could pitch them from the bank, without walking down in the muck! Thank you... this is going to be fun!

Ed said...

I used to read a blog where the writer experimented with seed bombs and had a very good success rate with them. He hasn't written in many years but I was able to go back and find his post on the subject.


Leigh said...

Mama Pea, "designer red," LOL I love that. Most folks think of that red clay as indicating poor soil, which it pretty much does. I called them "bombs" because the video maker called his little ones seed balls, and the larger ones seed bombs. Some of my seed was pretty large, hence the name.

I don't think they have to shatter. Mine were still wet so I just plopped them down on bare spots. Very fun to see them start to grow. :)

Daisy, that's a really good idea, to sell them I mean. I imagine a lot of folks would love to have them ready made, maybe wild flower mixes or something like that. Definitely a good kid activity.

Wyomingheart, you have a worthy goal, even if it will be a huge task. Seed bombs would definitely be useful for that. You can customize them according to what you want them to grow. :)

Ed, thanks for the link! So far, folks (including myself) who try them are happy with the results. I'd like to utilize this more in the future.

tpals said...

Great idea! I appreciate your going back and getting a picture of how they've sprouted.

Mike Yukon said...

Very interesting and practical, thanks.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Leigh, I too love the idea of seed bombing an area. We mist have read the 'one straw revolution' about the same time. I was known for seed bombing areas with wild flowers back then.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

That is a lot of iron, Leigh. A little more than at home.

What an excellent application of seed balls. I have not tried them but may give them a go round this year with the clover.

Leigh said...

tpals, I was thrilled to find them sprouting so well. I will definitely be doing more of these in the future. :)

Mike, you're welcome!

Jo, wildflower seed bombs would be great fun. Good idea!

TB, indeed. Yet our local Lowes stocks up on fertilizer with extra iron added(!) Makes me think somebody doesn't know that much about our soil!

Clover would make excellent seed balls. BTW, how did your clover do this year?

Goatldi said...

What an awesome method. Unfortunately I am currently having a shortage of short children unless you include the cat and I don’t think that’s gonna work LOL

But it certainly won’t stop me from trying probably in the spring because I’m just trying to get my feet in the ground still so to speak and I’m trying to second planting of garlic from last year that’s in a different place and so forth and so on and It looks like I’m having some success so I don’t want to upset my apple cart. The other problem with me is unfortunately now that I am where I am I do not have a luxury of having clay on my property I did have a ton of it in Shasta county. About the same color as yours that which is lovely. So I’m gonna have to find a source for the clay and when I do I’ll be in business.

Your post is most informative and most encouraging and I applaud your efforts!

Rosalea said...

Interesting. Wouldn't the water in the mix start the seeds germinating even if you wanted to dry the balls for later?

Leigh said...

Rosalea, good question. If they are allowed to dry after making, they can be saved. If I'd had some sun I might have done that. But we had clouds with a forecast for rain, so I spread them around because I didn't think I'd have a chance to get them dry enough.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, somehow blogger didn't let me know about your comment! I agree, no clay presents a bit of a problem! The clay I used was still a little sandy, but it held together. You could still experiment with the soil you have. The other thing is that they don't necessarily have to be balls. I've seen some where clumps of seed are coated, and that seems to work very well too. I'm definitely hoping to try that way too because I hope it will decrease seed consumption before they get a chance to sprout!

Rain said...

Oh that's really cool Leigh! What a great idea. I'm going to try that in the spring!

Leigh said...

Rain, I think making them would be a fun winter activity. :)

Woolly Bits said...

I am always tempted to throw some into the sterile neighbouring gardens, where gravel rules;) but it would be a waste, because they'd pull them out (or spray:() as soon as a green leaf is visible:(
have you tried dyeing with your red clay?

Leigh said...

Bettina, I never thought about dyeing with the red clay! I'll have to give it a try.

So many bare areas in the world that need something growing. It amazes me that some people like it that way.

JustGail said...

I've heard of these used for milkweed and other wildflower seeds, but have never made them. A few years ago, RAGBRAI riders were given milkweed seed balls to scatter as they rode. I have to wonder how many got tossed in the same area.

Glen Filthie said...

Absolutely fascinating...

Leigh said...

JustGail, ah, for Monarch butterflies. Do they have a lot of milkweed in Iowa?

Glen, I don't know about that, but it's fun!

JustGail said...

Leigh - not nearly as much milkweed as when I was a kid. Too many pastures plowed to beans and corn or turned into manicured lawn homes, and too much weed killer on the roadside ditches. One of these days I'll remember to pick some, cook it up (don't eat raw!!) and see if it really does taste better than asparagus. Only problem is I'd feel bad taking food from the monarch caterpillars!

Leigh said...

JustGail, under those circumstances, I'd feel the same way! Sounds like more guerilla seed bombing of milkweed is what's needed. :)