Dream Seed Farms

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Adventures in Seed Balling

Behold, the mighty Seed Ball.

Ok, ok...one of many mighty seed balls...
Seed balls are pretty easy to make once the materials are sourced. They are great for no-till farming and also guerrilla gardening in urban settings. Basically, you throw the balls, surreptitiously or rather conspicuously, wherever you would like some plants to grow. This is preferable to tilling or plowing as it kills soil life and wrecks your back too. You can mix in veggie, fruit, herb, grain, flower and even tree seeds, although native species should be mandatory to avoid introducing exotic and invasive species that might irreversibly harm the local flora and fauna.

The seed balls I made today are destined for a garden plot one of the islanders has offered us to cultivate. It is a bit farther from our house than our first garden, and in all likelihood I won't pass by it all that often. So, I mixed in some things that don't need much care like veggies, flowers, herbs, beans and grains; some tall, some root veggies, some sprawling ground cover; all delicious!

To start, I combined the following:

1 Part Seeds
3 Parts Dry Sifted Top Soil
Mixed and added:
5 Parts Powdered Clay
Mixed and added:
2 Parts Rain Water
Rolled and...
VoilĂ !
The actual process of mixing and rolling took about three hours since it was just me and my two hands. With about a half hour to sunset I rustled up the last half of the mix by shaking the bowl and noticed the tiny clumps got bigger as I swirled the bowl around. I worked up a sweat tumbling the ever-growing seed balls around the bowl for the next fifteen or so minutes. I would stop and pull out the ideal sized globes and shake the rest up some more. The balls need to dry for a day or two, then they are ready for tossing.

I researched other techniques and found some folks employing buckets or barrels hooked up to a motor and even cement mixers to crank out heaps of seeds. Maybe in the future a setup like that would be more efficient, but for now, I can use what is at hand. No cement mixers have washed up on shore yet, so I just used the mesh trays, bowls and drift wood I found previously on the beach.

As for the ingredients, the seeds were gifted, bought and gleaned form others' fields, the rain from our roof, the soil and clay were from the hole I excavated for the rain barrel near our compost bin. I collected them separately and left them to dry on trays.

Soil. The poor man's compost!
Clay as hard as a rock...
...until I crushed it with my bare hands...and a stick
There are close to thirty different seeds in the mix I threw together, including veggies and fruit like: corn, daikon radish, welsh onion, cabbage, watermelon, cantaloupe, hokkaido pumpkin, edamame, nira (garlic chives), okra, arugula, chili pepper, green pepper, tomato, peanut, random brassica seeds from a farm in Nagano, and one solitary garbanzo bean from our balcony garden in Denver; herbs and flowers like: lavender, sunflower, green and purple shiso (beefsteak plant or perilla), chamomile, marigold, morning glory and salvia; and seed grains like: quinoa and two kinds of millet.

I do not know if any of the seeds will take root. The season, soil conditions, rain and sunshine will all play a role in determining what actually grows where. I hope to broadcast the seed balls over our friend's garden before the weekend, as we are heading off-island for a wedding. Once the rain soaks the balls and they melt away, the seeds will germinate and what will grow will grow. Delicious sprouts should start popping up soon since we are in the midst of our rainy season now.

The biggest ones have a crunchy peanut center!
I think we have more than enough for the little garden plot down the road. I hope to share some with our Permaculture classmates, other friends and Michie's mom, a certified Vegetable Sommelier, avid green thumb and contributor of more than once variety of the seeds I used.

I would also like to toss some around Ishinomaki City after we reach the port this weekend. The tsunami destroyed the entire coastal area and swept away the greenery along with houses and cars. Maybe if people see something green with bright blossoms blowing in the wind it will remind them of better things to come. It would be great if we could get something like the following set up here, but for free:

Finally, if you have the time and want to get more in depth info on seed balls check out this video:

Happy seed balling!!!

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