Seed grenades (also known as seed balls, bolitas de arcillas, tsuchi-dango, and saatbomben) were first used centuries ago. By packing seeds into a just-sturdy- enough vessel, which might also contain some fertilizer, then scattering these balls on the ground, farmers ensured that their precious seeds were protected from birds, insects, sun, and wind until rainfall caused them to germinate. Ingenious!
In the 1970s, seed balls were rediscovered and popularized by Japanese “Do-Nothing Farming” pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka. Around the same time, guerrilla gardening pioneer Liz Christy began throwing wildflower “seed grenades” into fenced- off vacant lots around her New York neighborhood. What Fukuoka and Christy had in common was a determination to make inhospitable soil bloom.
If you’re too impatient to tend a garden, or you don’t have a patch of dirt to call your own, this experiment provides a perfect excuse for you get into the guerrilla gardening act. If you live in a part of the US with very mild winters you can make and toss now. If you’re waiting for the snow to start flying, you’ll have to wait until spring.
Here’s one of our favorite seed grenades. You can find more on pages 280-281 of UNBORED.
Clay Seed Grenades
- Seeds of three distinct species of wildflowers native to your area
- 1 lb. or so of organic compost
- Air-dry clay (for example, the kind sold by Crayola)
- Mixing bowl
1. Mix a small amount of clay with compost and just enough water to form a mix that holds together without crumbling.
2. Pinch off a small amount of the mixture, stick a few of the first variety of wildflower seeds into it, and roll it into a ball. Roll the ball in more compost.
3. Make a dozen or so of these clay seed grenades, then leave them to dry on a windowsill or counter.
Here’s a video of a slight variation that we really like. (We didn’t make this video. We just really like it!) Feel free to experiment with different types of seed grenades and send us your results.