This no-till planting method is actually an ancient technique that is has been used for centuries to propagate plants without first cultivating the soil. Often referred to as “Clay Dumplings”, these simple seed balls can be made at home and used in areas where tilling the soil isn’t a viable option.
There are several methods and recipes for creating your own seed-balls, but here is a generally recommended ratio:
- 5 parts dry powdered clay
- 3 parts fine sifted compost
- 1 part seed mix
Other ingredients that can be used are: finely shredded paper or cardboard, corn husks (shredded), Rice Hulls
Combine the ingredients in a shallow bucket, such as a rubbermaid tote or dish washing pan. Mix it together thoroughly. If you’re concerned about animals tampering with your seed balls, at this point you can add some cayenne pepper powder to the mix as well. We used 1 oz of Pulverized Cayenne pepper powder per 5 gallon bucket of mixture. The cayenne peppers were from our own garden, dehydrated and tossed in the blender until finely powdered. You could, however, just use purchased cayenne pepper. This is to ensure that the seed balls aren’t gobbled up by local wildlife.
Add a bit of water to the mix, not too much, and start rotating the bucket/pan containing the clay/seed mixture. You’re essentially swirling it in a circle to force the clay to form balls without actually touching them. Add a bit more water and continue to swirl them. Alternatively, you can use your hands to form “balls” which the kids will greatly enjoy.
Dry them thoroughly by spreading them out in the sunshine or you can toss them around the yard to “plant” them right now! If you’d like a more extensive view of how Seed Balls Work as well as additional photo instructions, visit the Permaculture Research Institute here.
How to Plant using Seedballs:
Stand in the general area you wish to plant, gently toss the seedballs throughout the area. They will naturally “take hold” and grown on their own when exposed to the proper conditions, (Warmth, humidity, precipitation, etc).
Some Tips to Remember:
Smaller Seeds work best, larger seeds will cause the seedballs to Split during growth, so if you’re using pea sized seeds, your balls should be golf ball sized.
If you prefer, these seedballs Can be planted, but the point of them is to not have to dig into the soil at all. They will naturally work their way into the earth, just as seeds have done for centuries.