Seed balls and guerrilla gardening

Have you ever walked past a vacant lot in an industrial area and thought how much better it would look with a few trees in there? Perhaps there’s patches of dirt around your town just begging for some plants, but the local council doesn’t want to make an effort or can’t provide the resources?

You’re not alone – there’s many people like you who have formed guerrilla gardening groups; often going out under cover of darkness and often without permission to make ugly plots of ground into gardens.

If that type thing appeals to you, there’s quite a few online resources around to help you form your gardening army and plan your planting missions, such as Guerrilla Gardening.

That sort of dedication requires a lot of time and the sometimes covert nature isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; but there are alternatives.

I’ve been wanting to plant native grasses and some trees out on my bush block in some bare areas, but after having propagated 300 native seedlings from seed and planted them all by hand on another property a few years back, I really didn’t think I’d have the time to do that again for a while.

I even considered grabbing a bunch of seed and throwing it around the place and let nature do its thing.

The problem with that approach is the seed wouldn’t last too long given all the hungry birds and ants around the place; or even if the seed avoided those challenges, some of it would be blown away by the wind.

Seed balls

I recently came across what looks to be a fascinating solution to my challenge – seed balls.

Seed balls are a way for distributing and protecting seeds by encasing them in a mixture of clay and compost. Supposedly, some native North American tribes used seed balls.

Basically, you take finely ground terracotta clay, add dry organic compost,  the seeds, then mix. Then you add water to the mixture while stirring; just enough to make the concoction bind together.

The mixture is then rolled into small round balls and left in the sun for a day or two to dry; after which time it’s ready for dispersal.

The ball protects the seed until enough rain falls to break through the mixture to allow the seeds to germinate; spurred on by the compost within the ball.

You can read full instructions, along with images on how to make seed balls here.

What a great idea! Imagine strolling through your town with a bag of these balls, spreading them over barren and unsightly areas, without even needing to break your stride. There’s something very Johnny Appleseed about it.

I’m wondering if mainstream revegetation groups might find this an interesting additional strategy and a way to boost involvement in their activities; as traditional propagation methods are very time consuming and require a great deal of commitment.

Seed balls as WMD’s

Just a note of caution. If you do decide to get into guerrilla gardening in such a way; be sure to research well and use seeds of species native or compatible to your area; as a desirable plant in one location can be a noxious pest in another. You don’t want your seed balls to become WMD’s – Weeds of Mass Destruction.

Go forth and do seed ball battle; wage war on urban and industrial environmental ugliness :).