Seed balls have been the hot topic for discussion in the Indian gardening community lately, and for all the right reasons. In India, we’re already in the midst of welcoming the monsoon season. Any gardening enthusiast knows that the monsoon season is perhaps the best season for growing new plants, part of the reason being that you have all the necessary conditions for a sapling to freely grow – the moisture in the atmosphere, the soil, everything is just close to perfect during monsoon. What makes this process easier? Seed balls.
Why Seed balls?
Seed balls are perfect for growing plants because they are easy to place, plant, and take care of. They even provide for spending quality time with your family, as this is a really fun activity your family can be a part of. It also takes very little effort on your part, so in this article by Elitech Drip, let’s take a look at what seed balls are, and how you can grow and take care of them to bring life to your gardens this monsoon.
What are Seed Balls?
Seed Balls – also known as seed bombs – are literally just balls of seeds wrapped up in a mixture of soil, clay, and growth nutrients. This mixture is coupled with various additives, including compost, to serve as microbial inoculants. Cotton fibres and even liquefied papers are mixed with these seed balls to protect them, and strengthen them during the sowing process (more on this in a bit).
Seed balls aren’t new technology, however. They’ve been in the gardening community for years. Read about its origins below.
History and Origins
The technique of throwing seed balls to revitalize a landscape is quite ancient. It is one of the most effective ways to beautify a vacant, neglected or abused piece of land. The practice seems to have originated from Japan (although some groups claim it to be Greece-origin). The seed ball technique was developed by Masanobu Fukuoka and he crafted it as perfectly as you could imagine, ensuring that the seedlings come out only when there are favourable conditions for growth. Although originating from Japan, but as with all successful practices, news spread about these amazing little balls of life, and now seed balls are available throughout the world.
How To Make Seed Balls?
To make seed balls you will need a few ingredients. Make sure to keep these ready before you start preparing, because making seed balls in bulk is a lot easier than making them in intervals.
- 2 parts potting soil
- 5 parts pottery clay mix
- Seeds of plants that you want to grow (Try to maintain a consistency as to not upset the growth of plants by coupling different plants in the same landscape)
- A large container
- A large box.
Now that you have those ready, let’s get down to business. First, you will have to mix the soil, clay and 1-part water in the container. Make sure that there aren’t any sorts of lumps when you mix the clay and the soil, and then add water to the mixture to increase its consistency.
Now place them in some kind of moulding for a few minutes. Add seeds to the mixture and then keep kneading it until the seeds are well settled inside the mixture. Add more water if you feel like the mixture is drying up.Next, take a small quantity of the clay mixture and turn it into a ball. Make sure they aren’t crumbly. If they are, add more water to the mixture, as mentioned in the above step.
Pro Tip: Don’t make the seed balls too big, or too small. A rough size of around one inch should serve an excellent model.Let the seed balls dry for about one or two days in a shady and dry place. It is best if kept on a cardboard box away from pests. Avoid plastic bags as they can suck out the moisture from the balls.
Finally, take the seed balls out to the gardening area, place them gently on the chosen area, keeping an even spacing between them. And that’s it, you’re done. You never have to water or bury your seed balls. They grow on their own, using atmosphere and natural soil as their shields. This is why it is best to grow them during the monsoon.
Many characteristics that influence the growth of these seed balls some of which are the seed size, seed availability, the ability of the seed to germinate on the surface, the seeds ability to withstand temperature, light tolerance, seed stability, speed of development of the seed and its ability to withstand the climatic changes also to withstand prolonged dry periods.
Are There Any Alternatives?
The development of seed balls has made quite a difference to the gardening community, since it paves way for more enthusiasts to take part in gardening, and it has become really easy to reseed natural areas – thus paving the way for us to make up for all the deforestation caused.
Are there alternatives to seed balls? Sure. In fact, many consider Broadcast seeding much more viable and fast. Broadcast seeding is basically where you scatter seeds over a large area mechanically. It is fast, but considering how many seeds get blown away, or dry out before even making it into the soil, you could hardly call it an effective method. Not to mention that the seeds serve as an open invitation to birds and are easily picked up.
By simply taking seeds and wrapping them into balls of mud and compost, you avert almost all of these problems. When covered in compost, you’re preventing the seeds from getting dried up or even getting carried away by wind or rain. They are also unattainable to small birds.
Aerial Seeding is also often seen as an alternative to seed balls. Seed bombing through the air was first introduced in Kenya, flying an aeroplane or a helicopter or even drones over a landscape to plant seeds on the wide area. This is also a process of direct seeding to increase the vegetation in the lands. Though the process is not economical, it is used in places where there is a vast landscape to be planted with seeds.
But aerial seeding has a very low yield. Roughly 25 to 50% more seeds are wasted, when compared to Seed ball planting. This method was first carried out in the 1930s as many wildfires took place everywhere. To develop and restore the wildlife these methods were implemented. However, with a more economy-driven mindset, today’s plantation techniques need a change in direction, and this is where seed balls come in.
Recently a corporate company has developed seed balls that prevent any sort of animal from consuming it. This helps in planting seeds without the need for continuous monitoring. A drone is put in place to locate areas of destroyed landscapes, and disperse these seed balls, creating scope for restoration.
We’ve mentioned this before, but seed balls are one of the best ways to increase and promote greener environments and landscapes. You have complete freedom to plant any kind of seed into a ball, and you can rest assured it will bloom into a great plant. Carbon footprint is also greatly reduced, which is why seed ball planting activities are gaining hugue momentum in Indian NGOs.
Note: Research says that seed balls have an 80 per cent extra growth rate in success when compared to methods like regular seedlings, and are proven to be better with nutrient provisioning among many other things.
Things To Watch Out For
Take proper care while placing seed balls of different varieties close to each other. Some may have a better growth rate, causing them to branch out and occupy nearby provinces, squeezing out the space to grow for the other seedlings, and nearly choking them out.
Seedlings placed over a large area need to have some space for native, non-native, and even cultivars to grow. These can pop out from time to time, so having enough space for them to grow is also something to keep in mind.
Although watering your seed ball is not essential, if you’re not planting your seed balls in the monsoon, make sure that the soil is moist. This will help the seed ball take in required nutrients from the surrounding environment, and grow without requiring additional support.