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When seed balls will work (or fail)

Urban seed ball resultsLike many other oft-mentioned permaculture methods, I have a gut feeling that seed balls work better on paper than in reality.  In my neck of the woods, at least, weeds grow very fast, and a seed ball tossed into an abandoned lot isn't going to make any headway against the blackberry brambles and goldenrod.  Anything except the very lowest maintenance plants are also going to suffer from lack of nutrients. 

That said, I think that seed balls can be successful in very select environments.  If you run across an area in the city where all of the topsoil has been bulldozed away and the ground is bare, seed balls of clover will probably be quite helpful.  And if you've harvested one planting in a low-weed garden environment and want to start another without disturbing the soil, you might also have luck with seed balls.

Seed balls are most appropriate for very low maintenance crops, so you'll be best off Red clover seedballchoosing from these options:

  • Wildflower mixtures are a favorite of urban guerrilla gardeners.
  • Weedy dynamic accumulators are useful in degraded urban environments.
  • Grain and clover mixtures are appropriate for do-nothing grain plantings as long as the ground is pretty much weed-free.

For my first experiment, I chose to focus on the third option.  I haven't had very much experience with seed balls yet, though, so I hope those of you who have experimented more will chime in and tell me about your successes and failures.

The July edition of Weekend Homesteader is a 99 cent introduction to the whys and hows of mulch.

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

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