DIY Seed Balls

Clay seed balls were first created as a way of preserving seeds for the upcoming season's crops. Seeds were mixed with humus or compost, rolled into clay, and formed into balls. This ancient process was re-invented and advanced by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher born early in the beginning of the 20th century. Today these seed balls receive note in the news as a tool used by "guerrilla gardeners" trying to reclaim abandoned inner-city areas as green spaces.

supplies to make seed balls

Seed ball supplies: red terra-cotta clay, seeds, bowl, watering can,
and composted manure.

To make your own seed balls, first gather your supplies. You will need red terra-cotta clay, easily found at art supply stores, composted manure, a mixing bowl, water, and seeds. We used a mixture of wildflower seeds.

While this project can be undertaken solo, having a couple people on hand is both helpful and more fun!

A note on seed selection: pay special attention to the seeds you select. Be sure you are choosing seeds that are not considered to be invasive plants. The IFAS Assessment is always a great place to look to see if a plant has the potential to be invasive.

Some people choose to mix the seeds and manure together and then work in the clay. We found mixing the clay and manure together first, and then adding the seeds worked quite well. Mixing in the seeds last allowed us to ensure that each seed ball had an even concentration of seeds.

combining the manure and clay

Mixing the composted manure and clay.

Begin by mixing together equal parts manure and clay. You will need to wet the mixture to soften the clay, so that it is easier to work with. Start with small amounts of clay; as you work water into the clay it will expand and loosen up. We found ourselves having to add quite a bit of manure to our clay to get the desired one to one ratio. Once you have a nice rich mixture of manure and clay, it's time to add your seeds. We found the best way to do this was to make a little nest, add seeds to the center, and then roll the mixture into a ball.

Leave your seed balls somewhere to dry, which could take between one and three days. These little seed balls can be packaged with a pair of gloves and a trowel or a lovely watering can to make a fun gardening gift.

Putting seeds into the clay and manure mixture

Make a little "nest" for the seeds.

More at Flickr

You can see the full tutorial in photographs in our Flickr album.