throw a ball- replant the earth!

Seed Balls

Grade: any

Duration: 45 minutes

Objective: to learn a fast method to distribute seeds into “barren landscapes.”

Overview/Introduction: Seed balls are the fastest way to introduce a variety of new species to home and neighborhood gardens, or to disperse and reestablish native species in environmentally degraded or barren sites in cities or elsewhere. Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka uses homemade “seed balls” to plant polycultures on large sections of land. The clay pellets are about ½ inch diameter and contain anywhere from three to one hundred varieties of seeds. The clay forms a protective shell to keep birds and insects from eating the seeds before they sprout. Fukuoka believes we should sow seed balls everywhere, letting plants decide where to thrive and where to give way to other species.

Materials:

  • Seed mix: This may contain all the seeds for a complete habitat or just a few varieties for a specific combination of crops. Use from three to a hundred different varieties, depending on your goals. DO not use exotic seeds UNLESS desired and on your own property.
  • Living compost: Do not use sterilized compost. You need the living organisms (fungi, bacteria) to help inoculate the soil. Choose the best stuff from the core of the finished pile. Worm castings are great for both content and plasticity. Naturally-found topsoil from your region is great, too. Should be dry and sifted.
  • Clay: A few pounds is plenty. Red clay has more mineral nutrients (iron oxide, manganese) than most grey or white clay and is preferable. But use what your region has available! Should be dry and sifted.

Vocabulary:

  • polyculture- different types plants living together. In agriculture, it is planting multiple crops in the same place to mimic the diversity of a natural ecosystem
  • clay- one of the mineral components of soil; the others being sand and silt. Individual clay particles are the smallest of the three, usually. Clay plays an important role in the physical and chemical structure of the soil of which it is a part.
  • regenerate- In biology, it is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organs,organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage

Procedure:

  1. Mix one part seed mix, three parts compost, and five parts clay. Stir it around  with your hands and make sure all the clumps are broken up.
  2. When the mixture is grainy and crumbly, add one to two parts water, a little at a time, until you get about the same consistency as cookie dough.
  3. Pinch off a small (half-inch) piece of the “dough” and roll it between your palms until you feel the ball tighten us as the seeds, compost, and clay lock together.
  4. Toss the balls onto a tarp and store in a sheltered area for 24 hours until dry. Now you can store the seed balls in a cool, dry, dark place for up to several weeks- but it is best to use them as soon as possible, because many seeds will begin to sprout immediately. If possible, make and “toss” during the rainy season.

Assessment:

  • What role does the clay play in the seed balls? The compost?
  • Where would be the best place to sow your seed balls?
  • When?

Extensions:

  • collect native seeds in your region and discuss where some degenerated areas are to sow


 

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