We were living on a greenbelt in Texas and we had invited friends over for an outdoor fall picnic. After the meal, we passed out brown paper bags filled with small round balls of clay and had everyone head out into the wild, undeveloped land. “Okay! Toss the balls along the path as we walk through the woods!” We spent the rest of the beautiful, autumn afternoon scattering the clay balls and enjoying the time strolling in nature. What strange ritual had we forced upon our picnic guests? The sowing of seed balls!
Seed balls are small balls comprised of clay, compost, and seeds. The seeds, encased in clay, lay on the open ground protected until they break open with the first heavy rainfall. The seeds then scatter on the ground, nourished by the compost, and ready to take root. This self-contained garden is a beautiful way to revitalize the native landscape and attract pollinators.
In Texas, we were spoiled by walking through the neighborhood to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and purchasing ready-made seed balls. But now that we have moved to the mountains of New Mexico, it is time for us to make our own. Our new property has been abandoned for a few years and the perimeter of the property is in rough shape. A wonderful requirement for our new neighborhood is that the yard must maintain a native landscape and all plants, trees, and grass added to the property must be native. We back up to a national forest and it is important to maintain the integrity of the terrain. This is a perfect opportunity for seed balls!
To make your own seed balls:
-One and a half parts clay (We will be using clay from our own backyard. You could also obtain clay reclaimed from a local potter.)
-Native Seeds (grass or wildflowers—check with your local nursery for seeds native to the area)
Mix clay and compost in a large bowl. (Use your hands!) Add enough water to hold the mixture together.
Add in your native seeds. Distribute evenly.
Shape mixture into balls. Each ball should be penny to golf-ball-sized.
Place the seed balls on cardboard and allow them to dry. (About one week.)
Sow your seed balls. (In Texas we would sow in the fall, before a big rain. Here in New Mexico, we will throw out the seed balls before summer rains.) Make sure your seed balls land on bare ground. You will not need to water them.
Seed balls are a sweet way to garden in the wild and undeveloped areas, add native flowers to a sparse landscape, and provide food for pollinators. Happy sowing! xo