Gardening with Sam: Make seed balls for easy planting

Gardeners, what I am about to share with you is something that is really great to do if you start your beds by planting seeds.

This gardening activity reminds me of making mud cakes – about 100 years ago, almost. Where did the years go? I can’t remember where I learned this, for certain, but I feel sure it was from my Aunt Ollie.

Clay soil is the bane of many gardeners, but there is at least one good thing you can do with the sticky stuff: make seed balls.

The process is as simple and fun as patting mud into fantasy cakes or rolling modeling clay into snakes.

Making seed balls entails mixing a few easy-to-grow seeds with pinches of soft clay and shaping them into little balls. Seed balls make it easier to plant seeds, especially if you’re sowing small ones that are difficult to see and handle. Coating seeds with clay also protects them from being washed away by rain or eaten by birds. As you know, if you plant in seeds in the garden, you will see birds walking up and down the rows, looking and eating your seeds.

Seed balls keep alive a traditional planting technique. Native Americans packed seeds into bits of clay as a way to store and transport the precious resources for future crops. Modern guerrilla gardeners or gardening activists have popularized seed balls as a handy way to plant seeds on abandoned lots and vacant medians to beautify urban landscapes.

Once snuggled into soil, warmed by the sun and watered by rain or a garden hose, the clay ball gradually melts away, and the seeds sprout in clusters.

Continue watering as needed while seedlings develop. Soil should be damp but not wet.

  1. Shape clay roll. Roll garden fresh clay into penny-size balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
  2. Add seeds. Press 20-30 seeds into each clay ball. Put seeds in a saucer and rolls clay in seeds. Reshape the ball, working the seeds into the clay.
  3. Let dry. Set your seed balls on a rack to dry and harden for several days in a warm, airy place.
  4. Plant ’em. Plant a seed ball by pushing it about halfway into loose soil in a cell pack or the garden. Do not cover the ball.
  5. Seeds sprout. Germinations of the seeds might take a little longer than the usual period noted on the plant’s seed packet.
  6. You might have to thin the plant out by pulling some of them out and planting in pots or in a row in the garden. Plants do best if they have room to grow.

Enjoy your garden or a single pot – either one can give you much pleasure.

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