The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to make a seed ball

Digging clayRecipes for seed balls vary, but the idea is to mix clay, compost (sometimes), and seeds to make a globe that has enough structural integrity that it can be tossed onto the ground without crumbling apart.  The compost is optional, but is a good idea if you're going to use your seed ball anywhere other than in rich garden soil.

Most internet sources recommend that you start with storebought, powdered clay, but I couldn't stomach buying something our farm is made of, so I just headed down to the creek Mixing seed ball soilwith a shovel.  The downside of using real clay instead of dried clay is that you'll have to work a bit harder to mix the components, but who doesn't like playing in the mud?

Seed ball mixtures range from 5 parts clay and 1 part compost all the way up to 5 parts clay and 3 parts compost.  I chose a 2:1 clay to compost ratio.  To make just a few seed balls, you can do your mixing by hand in a kitchen bowl, but I chose to whip up my seed ball dough in a wheelbarrow using a shovel, a trake, and my hands.

Adding seeds to a seed ballNext, add your seeds.  I eyeballed this step, but the internet suggests using a third as much volume of seeds as volume of compost.  Mix again until the seeds seem to be well distributed through the soil mixture.

If you're using dried clay, you'll have to add water, but if you're using real clay, the compost/clay mixture will be just the right consistency automatically.  Either way, the goal is be able to roll out balls that hold together, but that don't turn your hands too muddy.

Making seed ballFukuoka pushed his clay mixture through a screen to make seed balls, but I didn't have much luck with quarter inch hardware cloth and instead made balls out of a small handful of material.  The size of your seed ball will depend on your patience level and on what you're planting.  Since I was working with grains, I figured they wouldn't have too much trouble coming up with several grains in a clump (a bit like a Native American corn mound) as long as I spaced the seed balls far enough apart.

Some folks set their seed balls out on cookie sheets to air dry, but I didn't find that step to be necessary.  Then it's finally time for the fun part --- toss your seed balls where you wish!

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This post is part of our Seed Ball lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Since you have both clay and wood available, making ceramics might be an extra source of income for you?
Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jul 3 06:52:15 2011
I really enjoy throwing pots, and one of these days I probably will experiment with our clay. I've heard it can be a long process to make "wild" clay suitable for ceramics, but it would probably be fun. Just for us, though, not to sell --- we're very happy with our current income streams.
Comment by anna Sun Jul 3 09:55:09 2011

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