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Seed Balls Have It All

Posted: March 8, 2016

Seed balls have been described as a “whole habitat in a tiny clay ball.” Use these to reseed hard to cultivate areas or as a fun way to plant flowers and herbs.
Seed balls are a unique & fun way to plant seeds.

Seed balls are a unique & fun way to plant seeds.

Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, popularized the use of seed balls to sow seeds. The use of seed balls goes back to ancient times in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa and records show that Native Americans used them to reseed barren land.

Today seed balls are used as an easy way to plant seeds naturally in home gardens and landscapes. Recent gardening catalogs are offering seed balls with specific seed mixes to grow plants for butterflies or bees. Seed balls are easy to make at home or as a group project.

Seed balls are seeds mixed with soil humus and clay then shaped into small balls. They are tossed on top of the soil to grow and don’t need to be buried. The clay protects the seeds from drying out in the sun, getting eaten by animals or blowing away in the wind while the soil humus contains nutrients and beneficial soil microbes. 

When enough rain has fallen it will soak the clay ball and the seeds will sprout inside the ball. The seeds are protected and the soil humus provides nutrients. The clay covering holds moisture and helps the seeds to grow. The shelter of the clay gives the seeds a longer time to germinate. Once the clay is completely dissolved they settle into the ground, take root and are open to the sunshine. Seed balls should have enough seed to ensure germination but not so many that the seedlings will be too crowded to grow.

Making seed balls is a fun project for all ages. You can pick the flowers you want to grow and put them in the balls. The flowers can be annuals that bloom just one year or they can be perennials, flowers that come back each year, or they can be a mix of both. Native seed mixes can be used for vacant lots, roadside areas or large meadows. Herbs seeds are good to add among your garden plants. 

While it’s fun to toss or throw the balls, they shouldn’t be tossed in others’ gardens or thrown at people, animals or objects. If the seed balls are used to plant along roadsides, vacant lots or other areas, be sure to get permission and use native plant seeds.

On Saturday, April 16 from 9:00 - Noon, the Franklin County Master Gardeners are having a Family Friendly workshop for Flower Seed Balls. Parents, grandparents and children aged 8 and older will learn about flowers that support butterflies and pollinators. Activities include creating a flower book and making seed balls, about one dozen each. The seed ball recipe will be provided to take home. 

A separate afternoon workshop from 1:00-3:00 p.m. will be for adults only. Call 717-263-9226 for more information or to register.