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Seed ball results

Seed ball results

I tried out some seed balls in one of our pastures in June --- you can read more about my specific experiment here.  Early results were promising, but most of the seedlings that sprouted right away later dried up during our hot summer.  The only plants that survived were:Corn and sunflowers

  • Field corn --- The seed ball did seem to help field corn sprout better than the seeds simply scattered amid a similar amount of dirt on the surface of the soil.  However, a heavy feeder like corn doesn't get enough nutrition from the seed ball to thrive, so I ended up with a few wimpy corn plants that didn't produce anything.
  • Sunflowers --- I had a few come up, but the sunflowers failed to thrive.  They bloomed but didn't produce seeds.
  • Cowpeas --- This is the only crop that thrived in my experiment.  That said, the cowpeas did just as well when scattered on the soil surface as when mixed into seed balls.  Too bad the chickens weren't interested.

The conditions in my pasture were probably similar to or slightly better than those you'd find in a city lot (higher fertility and less shade), so I'd say that my suspicions were correct --- seed balls aren't very helpful for planting edible crops.  Whether they are better than simply scattering seeds for lower maintenance crops is yet to be decided.

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It is nice to actually see results of an experiment. Most of the time when someone blogs about an experiment, they never post their results.

As for your results, that's about what I would have expected. I've always questioned the viability of using seed balls to plant food crops in unused areas.

I would think that something like squash would might be a good one to try. My thinking is that they are very productive. All it has to do is produce a single fruit. It would be able to re-sow itself.

Comment by Fritz Monroe Fri Oct 14 08:50:22 2011

I believe in always reporting negative results --- I figure it can save other people a lot of time.

I like your suggestion of squash, but wonder whether they'd have enough gumption to set fruit without extra compost. I let several volunteer this spring, and the one growing out of a high-carbon compost pile died without doing anything. The one that sprouted up in the rich soil (but moderately heavy shade) under my peach tree produced one tiny fruit. And only the one that sprouted in a richer compost pile in the chicken pasture set real fruit. Growing in poor soil under heavy weeds in an urban lot, I suspect the squash would fail.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 14 15:09:26 2011

I am looking to try cowpeas this year for chickens, turkeys, and ducks. Your birds did not each cow peas? I am thinking creating seed cubes instead of balls for corn, squash, etc. The goal would be to add food to the larger cube to supply what is needed. I am thinking fish and bone meal or other slow release organics. Just need to get the amount a food right to match the cube size. I know in the past fish were planted with corn.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Dec 10 16:40:50 2012

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