Have you had an experience like this: You're walking with your dog and you see an abandoned lot or overlooked corner of a park and you think, "Wouldn't it be great if there were flowers here?" I had such an experience recently when my dog lingered at an unsightly patch of earth in the middle of a cul-de-sac. As my dog went about her business, my imagination went wild thinking of cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias growing among the scrub grass. It was at that moment that I turned into a guerrilla gardener. I went home and, for the first time in my life, made a bomb--a seed bomb, that is.
What's a seed bomb?
A seed bomb is a mixture of rich soil, seeds, and clay that is shaped into a small ball. Once dry, these bombs can be easily distributed to areas that needs a little "flower power." Some guerrilla gardeners toss them into abandoned fields or alleys, others use them to grow flowers in their own gardens.
Once in place, the seed bomb will be watered by Mother Nature. This water will help the clay in the seed bomb to dissolve. Eventually the seeds will take root and flowers will grow to brighten up a spot that was dull.
For the purposes of this post, I focus on flower seed bombs, but there's no reason why you couldn't use vegetable seeds as well. Just consider where you're "planting" your seed bomb and whether or not it is easily accessible at harvest time.
You, too, can make a seed bomb and become a guerrilla gardener. You probably already have the supplies on hand, and if not, they're easy and inexpensive to get.
rich soil and compost mixture
seeds (In order to avoid invasive species, be sure to purchase seeds that are native to your area. Your local cooperative extension will be helpful in identifying native species. Also, consider the conditions the seeds will be growing in. Marigold or poppy seeds are good for areas that are sunny. Foxgloves are shade friendly flowers, and cosmos grow well in most conditions.)
Note: How much of each supply you need depends on how many seed bombs you intend to make.
3 Super Easy Steps:
1. Soak the seeds overnight. This will soften their outer shells and help them to germinate faster. In an ideal world, you will soak them in compost tea, but if you don't have any, then water will work fine. If there are seeds floating, discard them.
2. Combine the soil-compost mixture with clay and seeds and shape into a golf ball sized ball.
Note: There are a seemingly infinite number of ways to make the soil-clay-seed mixture. See some variations listed below.
3. Dry seed bomb for 24 hours before you start your guerrilla gardening.
Variations on Step 2:
Combine one part seed with three parts compost-soil and five parts clay and combine until it is a cookie dough consistency. Add water if it is too dry.
As clay is a primary ingredient in kitty litter, some guerrilla seed bombers use kitty litter in place of clay.
Instead of mixing the seeds into the clay-soil mixture, mix the clay and soil together and form into a golf ball sized ball. Then poke your finger into the ball to make a hole. Place seeds in the hole and then gently cover the hole with a bit of clay.
Combine five parts sawdust, one part seed, and mix with a biodegradable food safe glue. You want the mixture to be not too wet but moist enough to form a ball.
Common sense goes a long way.
When it's time to let your seed bomb fly do so with (at least) an ounce of common sense. For example, don't seed bomb private property. Seed bombing a fallow field can be fun but be certain that it isn't farm land.
No, seed bombing isn't fool proof.
Perhaps one more ingredient should be added to the list of supplies: optimism. There are a number of reasons why a seed bomb may not be successful: lack of rain, poor seed quality, poor soil quality where it is expected to grow. Some guerrilla gardening skeptics even worry about over-seeding and the seeds strangling each other as they grow. (This particular concern isn't keeping me up at night.) Thankfully, none of the supplies required to make a seed bomb is very expensive. So, if the seed bomb isn't successful, at least you haven't lost a lot of cash.
Did you know?
Seed bombs were first used in the 1930s by Japanese farmer-microbiologist-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. He created tsuchi dango (earth dumplings) to distribute seed in his farm. Fukuoka is known for other advances in sustainable farming. IMHO, it is well worth checking out this web site to learn more about his One Straw Revolution.
Making seed bombs is a great way to get kids involved with gardening. With a little help, even a toddler can help to make a seed bomb. Imagine the fun a kid could have on a neighborhood walk throwing seed bombs!
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photo of seed bomb via Shutterstock