Seed Balls: What are they and how do you make them?
Seed balls are a great permaculture technique for spreading seeds in a desired location. These are small balls of clay, compost, and seeds that are dried and are easy to toss. Because they are dried out, the seeds inside do not germinate. They are protected from predators (ants, birds, etc). When the rains come, the clay slowly "melts" away, and the seeds in the compost are ready to germinate and grow. This is an easy project with which even kids can help.
Sprouting Seed Balls
The basic recipe for seed balls is as follows:
1 part seeds (can be a single species or a seed mix that you make)
3 parts compost (ideally fresh, live compost or humus with mycorrhizal fungi soil inoculates)
5 parts powdered clay (ideally red or brown clay from a pond bank or other natural source, but you can buy red clay used to make terra cotta pots).
Water as needed
A Single Seed Ball
Instructions for making seed balls:
1. Add 1 part seed mix in a large bowl
2. Add 3 parts compost and mix thoroughly
3. Optional - add dried red pepper powder or other natural irritant to prevent birds/bugs from eating the seeds if the seed balls only partially melt in a light rain
4. Add 5 parts of powdered clay
5. Begin mixing and slowly add water to a "bread dough" consistency
6. Take a small amount and role it into balls about 1 inch in diameter
7. Let dry (ideally in the sun) for 24-48 hrs, until hard
8. Store for use in a dry location
9. Spread anywhere you want your seeds to grow. They can sit in a field for months!
Dried Seed Balls Ready To Go!
Here is a very good video on making seed balls using a couple of techniques (it is not very well produced, but the information is outstanding).
The Von Bachmayr Drum
For those who want to mass produce seed balls, the use of a Von Bachmayr Drum is a huge timesaver. Here is a link to step-by-step instructions for a Von Bachmayr Seed Ball Drum.
Here is a human powered rolling drum adapted from the Von Bachmayr design.