In nature, seeds get dispersed by wind or rain or they get eaten and then pooped by animals. Seed balls are probably an ancient farming idea. But these seed balls were developed in 1938 by a Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka who called them tsuchi dango, or “earth dumplings.”
Fukuoka threw seed balls onto roadsides and empty lots. He added clover to his mixes because it acts as a living mulch and strengthens the soil.
You can use wildflower seeds or vegetable seeds for your seed balls. Try to choose native plants. You might even find seeds in the library’s seed catalog.
Toss your exploding seed ball into any area you feel needs wildflowers. The seeds will wait patiently for the right spring conditions to help them grow.
Exploding Seed Balls
2 parts natural or potter’s clay
2 parts compost
1 part water
A handful of native wildflower or vegetable seeds
- Set up a big bucket or tub to work in.
- Mix clay with water until it is about the consistency of yogurt. (You can use natural clay found in your yard or terra cotta clay from an art supply shop.)
- Mix in sifted compost, plus more water if needed. Knead the mixture like dough.
- Adjust quantities of water and compost so you can make balls that hold together but aren’t too sticky.
- Scoop up enough to make a ball about the size of a doughnut hole.
- Add a few seeds. Remember that more is not always better. You don’t want seven germinating seeds in one ball, or the seedlings will compete and won’t thrive.
- Roll the earthy dough and seeds into a ball.
- Set the seed balls aside on sheets of newspaper and let them air dry at room temperature for a day or two until the batch is uniformly light in color.
Francie Randolph is the founding director of Sustainable CAPE.