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Any Experience Planting Seedballs in Cities or the Countryside?

 
pollinator
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Inspired by Fukuoka here in Lithuania, we're looking at projects and considering ways to get European funding towards something with seedballs at the core. We want to start by guerilla planting with wildflower seedballs and I'm wondering if anyone has experience planting in cities and/or in the countryside with seedballs, in particular growing wildflowers. I like the idea of lots of tiny seedballs or Guerrilla Droppings to cover a larger area instead of the large seed balls I tend to see everywhere.

There's an article at seed-balls.com with some info on wildflower seedballs and what to consider, though I'm curious if anyone has first hand experience. What worked well? What didn't work? What would you try differently next time?

My goal is to ultimately find a way to use seedballs or something similar to address the growing topics of food and energy scarcity and how they could be used large-scale to address unsustainable agricultural growing methods, and/or how to make forests/parks economically viable as a middle road from which biodiversity and the environment can benefit as well.
 
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I don't see any reason why something like that shouldn't work. Throw them out somewhere between November-January, a few will get eaten, the animals will break them up & scatter them around. Hopefully, things grow.

I haven't done quite that. I've mostly been planting & scattering wild seed & bulbs around the area I live. I generally use a stick to dig with & try not to touch the seeds if I can help it. Seems to work out for the most part, so far.
 
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To my knowledge, a seedball has the advantage that you can throw it over some distance into an unaccessible lot (as a guerrilla act).

But if you want to plant something with official funding I would go for a "real" seed mix.
Normally you will have to prepare the ground accordingly, so just throwing some seeds is mostly not enough. If you want certain plants to sprout and grow inspite of the rivaling super-weeds it takes some effort.
In any case, those weeds that are strong enough will normally pop up without our help and make for a valuable habitat, although it might not look as cheerful as those seed-mixes (one of the reasons why I don't really "get" seed bombs - leave nature alone, she will come up with something great, or go really big and make a valuable habitat with more effort).

Can you team up with your local council to identify some lots and prepare a plan for their restoration?
Or where you looking for a business idea for seed bombs?

I am really happy that we will get two pollinator meadows in our community over the next weeks. The communal maintenance and green team will be trained by a certified landscape gardener how to prepare the soil, how to sow and how to do maintenance in the first two years (when it is most likely that common non-desired weeds take over). It is a a kind of lighthouse project where all the local district teams (17 communities) will be trained on-site.
A lot of nudging from our side (the local friends of the earth chapter) made it happen in our town instead of any other of those 17.

 
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I tried seed balls for the first time last year.  It may be that other people will have better luck, but none of mine worked.
 
Maruf Miliunas
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Thanks for the insight Anita. I'm aware that deliberate preparation is going to be more effective than seed bombing where weeds are prevalent. In the capital of Vilnius, there are a lot of projects going on that leave patches where nothing is growing. I'm interested in planting wildflowers that can grow like weeds, hence the appeal of seedballs is that any of the seeds most adapted to the location will sprout and dominate. I think we will start with guerrilla gardening because in the beginning while we don't have much experience, we want to see what will work.

Outside of the city, there are some meadows adjacent to my land in the countryside where nature is growing at a very slow rate, I think due to plants like hawkweed which carpet the ground, hogging the sun and doing little to improve the soil with their very low biomass. I hypothesize some form of seed balls could be effective as I have directly sown clover, vetch, and mustard on my land. I scattered almost 100kg of seeds and they grow well between the hawkweed, however, many dried up, due to being surface sown.

@D So your saying you're seeing the most success directly planting the bulbs and seeds directly in the soil instead of surface sowing?

@Trace what was your process? What were your seedballs made of, all clay or with compost, what seeds did you use, where did you use them? The fact that it didn't work for you doesn't say anything without knowing the context.

 
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I made and planted seed-balls last autumn. You can see some of how I made them here. I didn't have a well-defined goal other than getting some wheat to grow in a polyculture. I just laid them atop planting bed to see what would happen. The two pictures below show them as they began germinating, but they've been under a layer of snow since early November, so it'll be interesting to see what still lives when spring rolls around.

Then, for Christmas, my daughter and I made seed balls for both sets of her grandparents as a gift. I ordered a wildflower mix native to the state where they live and we mixed them in with some wild seeds that we saved. The instructions I gave to them was to try to get the balls in contact with earth, not just lying atop sod, but otherwise didn't really tell them much. It'll be fun to hear back from them what comes up. We saved some of those back for two purposes: my daughter is sneaking them into corners of plantings all over her college campus and I'll sprinkle them here and there on our property where I've also planted a native nectary mix.

And I'm thinking about planting upland rice as the center of a polyculture like the wheat experiment on some newly cleared, but untilled land. I hope the compost and clay give them a fighting chance against the native seedbank.

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pollinator
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You're not going to get official money for gorilla gardening as it is illegal. But you quite possibly can get it to sow flowers etc on unused pieces of publicly owned land. I doubt you will manage to get money to do it in a way that won't give the best results, We can already get subsidies from the EU to sow flower seeds (if you are registered for agricultural subsidies) so you will need to show why your method is better.

Some areas do NOT want the soil improving, wildflower meadows, chalk downland, heathland, sand dunes. these are all very specific habitats with unique plants and animals and they all have as a basis very poor soil. If one improves that soil then you ruin the habitat and kill the plants and animals that depend on it.
 
Anita Martin
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Skandi Rogers wrote:
Some areas do NOT want the soil improving, wildflower meadows, chalk downland, heathland, sand dunes. these are all very specific habitats with unique plants and animals and they all have as a basis very poor soil. If one improves that soil then you ruin the habitat and kill the plants and animals that depend on it.


Skandi, you are raising a very important point here.
Many people see nature with the eye of the gardener or farmer: Soil needs to be really fertile, the ground has to be covered, the plants have to be covered in flowers.

But there are habitats which thrive on much "poorer" soils and which are heavily endangered due to massive over-fertilization of soils, aquifers and air-borne nitrogen.
The beauty and diversity of those habitats are not so direct, you have to look much closer but they are in fact richer in species than the very fertile soils.

Another misconception is that insects need nectar above all. Nectar is only part of their food in some phases of their life, but for many insects a far more important part is leaves (and pollen). There are plants that do not have showy blossoms but that are indispensable for feeding e.g. the caterpillars of specialized butterflies.
A good native seed mix should take those facts into consideration.
 
Maruf Miliunas
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Christopher. Skandi, you bring up a good point I wouldn't have thought of regarding poorer soil ecosystems, and furthermore that this year will be devoted to experimenting, without any thought to funding, as it's clearly too early.

From what I understand, there's a whole slew of variables regarding the seed ball effectivity, as I understand it boils down to:
  • Which seeds to sow on what type of land
  • The time of year the seed balls are scattered
  • Random, unpredictable weather phenomena like drought, flood, etc…

  • Am I missing something?
     
    D Tucholske
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    No, definitely surface sow seeds. I don't think many wildflower species would grow if you bury the seeds. But, it seems like that may work pretty well, yes. I didn't do many of the flowers correctly last year, so we'll have to see if I did a better job this time. Next year is going to be mostly wildflowers.

    Something else I used to do as a kid was picking wildflowers from the sides of the road & meadows & throwing them down on the side of the house to rot. In the spring, for years, we would have a tons of wildflowers come up in that spot. Though it wasn't well maintained as a garden &, after, maybe, five years, it stopped working. I assume they just used up the available nutrients in the soil, there.
     
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