A great time happens when clay, compost, seeds and water combine (recipe for seed balls). In this case, the gooey mess brought some nature and smiles to students on a windy, sunny, rainy and snowy day in Los Alamos. It was a little too cold to play outside but two trooper middle school teachers, Ms. Baker and Ms. Unger, allowed us along with almost 200 7th graders to make a mess — I mean seed balls — in their class.
Seed balls are a fun, popular and effective way to replenish wild flowers and grasses to an area devastated by fire. After a fire, much vegetation is gone which increases the risk for flash floods and erosion. It is important to get plants with established roots in the ground. Using seed balls to foster the natural growth cycle is way to have fun while gaining an ecology lesson.
After a fire, grasses and wild flowers are among the first to grow due to the increase abundance of sun on the forest ground. The grasses and flowers thrive in the sun, establish their root systems rather quickly (helps to prevent erosion), and provide animals a habitat. As time passes, slower growing plants such as bushes and trees grow, creating a shadier environment and will establish deeper root systems than the flowers and grasses.
Seed balls create the perfect recipe to increase nature’s natural course. The balls have four simple ingredients: clay, compost, seeds and water. The clay acts as the binding agent to keep the compost and seeds together. The compost gives seedlings (seeds shortly after they sprout) the nutrients the plant will need to grow. The combination of the compost and clay will prevent the seed from drying out as well as protecting them from animals and wind. The water allows the clay, compost and seeds to form balls (think about making a sand castle with dry sand).
The seed balls LAYFP makes will be used to create a border of native grasses around our community garden. Our recipe is below
You will need:
1 – 5 gallon bucket
2 parts compost
5 parts clay (you can get clay powder from an art store – we went the cheaper route and used the recycled clay which is a mixture of different types)
1-2 parts water
1-2 parts seeds (It is very important to consult a local ecologist or Extension office on what kind of seeds to use. The wrong seeds can be invasive to an area and create damage that is hard to reverse if at all)
Flat surface for the balls to dry (we used cardboard)
Add the dry ingredients to the bucket and mix. It is easier to mix the ingredients evenly when dried. Add water slowly and mix. You want to add enough water to make the mixture the consistency of playdough. If you add too much water, just add more dry ingredients.
Once you have the correct consistency, roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and allow to dry on a flat surface (cardboard). After the balls are dried, throw them in the area where you want the seeds to grow. Be patient and allow time for nature to take its course. Sprouts can be seen shortly after a good rain.