Wildflower seed bombs are not a new phenomenon, in fact, they date back hundreds of years and were used in agriculture to plant out in hard to reach outcrops.
In the early 19th century a Japanese microbiologist by the name of Masanobu Fukuoka began reviving the farming techniques of his ancestors using a practice known as Tsuchi Dango. Tsuchi Dango simply translates as ‘Earth Dumpling’ due to the size and shape and material used to scatter seeds.
But in more recent times seed bombs have seen a new lease of life. In the 1970s for example, they were used by the activists’ group the Green Guerillas, and more recently they are being used to help support a worryingly declining bee and butterfly population.
Here at Yard and Garden, we’ve put together a simple step by step guide to demonstrate how easy it is to make your own pollinator seed bombs so that you can help us spread the word (and the wildflower seeds) to showcase the importance of supporting the natural living habitat of pollinating creatures.
What Are Wildflower Seed Bombs
In short, wildflower seed bombs are a mixture of compost, clay powder or paper, water, and seeds rolled or extruded into a ‘throwable’ shape. The purpose of a seed bomb is to act as a missile for spreading seeds!
Masanobu Fukuoka’s philosophy for spreading seeds was based simply on allowing nature to do its work without the intervention of machines or chemicals. He set about re-purposing otherwise deserted land into a vegetated landscape with the use of his ‘earth dumplings’.
Fukuoka went on to dedicate his life to practicing, writing, and lecturing on natural farming techniques and abandoned the more conventional western approach of his fellow scientists that involved the use of pesticides. He wrote several books on the topic and traveled extensively to share his knowledge and to learn from other natural farming advocates.
Later on, in the 1970s’, this method of ‘gardening’ gained somewhat of a cult following when a young New Yorker called Liz Christy started a movement called the Green Guerillas. Their sole purpose was to rejuvenate lost, derelict or unused wasteland in New York City.
The Green Guerillas made a very crude version of the seed bomb which they threw over fences onto wasteland sites to allow seeds to germinate and let nature reclaim the land.
Today seed bombs have seen something of a renaissance and are used for reasons over and above transforming scrub-land. At first glance, it may seem a slightly rebellious or frivolous approach to planting but seed bombs do carry an important message about our ecology.
Seed bombs are super fun and easy to make so it’s a great way to get kids interested in gardening. Scatter them yourself in areas that need a little tlc especially urban and built up areas or gift them to others to spread the word about their importance and significance.
At Yard and Garden we have been busy bees testing out different ways of making seed bombs and we think ours is a winning formula. Our seed bombs are made specifically for productive and ecological reasons. Here’s a taster of what we use them for.
Bee and Butterfly Pollinator Seed Bombs
With a declining bee population it is critical we act to preserve the true kings of pollination. Bees are in rapid decline due to the rise in pesticides in agriculture and the dramatic reduction in ‘Bee Highways’ across the country. Bee Highways are the flight paths that bees follow along hedgerows and plant borders.
With more suburban and urban developments the distance between each Bee Highway is increasing to the point where bees cannot physically fly between them.
Our goal is to re-plant the Bee Highways and join up pollen-rich pieces of land across the country by encouraging the use of wildflower seed bombs and pollinating flowers. This will ensure the bees have a continuous flightpath to feed along. In turn, this will allow the bees to continue to pollinate our food chain and keep us safe from harvest shortages.
Herb Seed Bombs
Herb seed bombs are a fun way of getting some edible plants growing in clusters around your garden or land. Not only do they have wonderful kitchen garden qualities they also contain the seed of flowering species that will attract pollinators into your garden.
Do Seed Bombs Really Work
As time moves on, the approach to Guerilla gardening has also evolved, but still with the objective of transforming dead or uncared-for patches of municipal land into a useful, beautiful or productive piece of nature.
The modern techniques used to form seed bombs and the use of ingredients has also changed. Early seed bombs were made from balloons and glass Christmas baubles filled with soil and seeds. Obviously a total no, no by today’s standards. Today the compost and clay or paper bomb breaks down and blends into the natural landscape once it has been moistened by rain. The seeds stand a better chance of survival because they become covered and take on some of the nutrients of the compost. This can assist in achieving very high levels of germination.
How To Make Seed Bombs
All of the ingredients for our easy to make seed bombs are readily available online or at craft stores or garden centers. In fact, you probably already have some of these items at home. Don’t worry if you don’t have clay powder. We’ve included a video lower down the page on how to make seed bombs with paper. Both processes are simple, great fun and really take very little time. So why make some for yourself?
Seed Bomb Ingredients
- A selection of wildflower or pollinator flower seeds
- Peat-free compost or coco coir
- Craft powdered clay
- Bowl or container for mixing
- Measuring scoop
- Spoon for mixing
- Hexagonal silicone mould (optional)
Here’s all you need to know to make Wildflower seed bombs for bees and butterflies
- Take 5 parts peat-free compost or coco coir, and 2 parts clay powder. Mix these together in a bowl until well combined.
- Add 1 teaspoon of seed mix to the bowl and blend with the comport and clay powder.
- Gradually pour water into the bowl (little by little) and mix until you have a clay-like consistency. Be careful not to get the mix too wet. It should resemble a malleable lump rather than runny cake batter. You need to be able to squash it into the mould or form balls with it.
- Make sure to fully blend the mixture and remove any lumps.
- Press your mixture into your mould to form your seed bombs. If you don’t have a mould you can roll the mix into seed balls by hand. Aim for seed balls no larger than 1 inch.
- Place your wildflower seed bombs in a sunny or warm space to dry out. This takes around 24 hours.
- Once dry, your seed bombs are ready to be scattered onto any unsuspecting wasteland that looks like it needs a little TLC.
- All that’s left to do is be patient, wait for the rain and let nature do the rest.
How To Make Seed Bombs With Paper
If you don’t have clay powder there is an alternative method you can try using old newspaper, wrapping paper, or paper you’d otherwise be discarding. It’s a great way to recycle and the seed bombs are just as effective as using the clay technique. Just be sure that the paper isn’t glossy.
- Take a few sheets of loose fibred paper such as newsprint or craft paper (not glossy)
- Tear the paper into small strips of around 2 inches in size or use a paper shredder
- Place the torn-up paper in a bowl and add water to soften it and create a pulp. Leave it to soak for a few minutes.
- Next, mash the pulpy paper and water mixture or blitz it in a food blender.
- Next, add your seed mix and stir well to combine the seeds so they are evenly dispersed throughout the paper pulp.
- Now strain off any excess water by squeezing the pulp as much as possible. It may be easier to place the pulp mixture inside a cloth and wring it out thoroughly.
- Finally, mould the pulp into a 1-inch ball or press it into silicone mold trays of your choice.
- Leave the damp pulp seed bombs to dry in a warm place. An airing cupboard or a warm heated room is perfect.
The History Of The Seed Bomb
Back in the early 1970s’, a young New Yorker called Liz Christy formed an ecological group named the Green Guerillas. Their primary agenda was to transform derelict and unused pieces of land across New York City not only to enhance the landscape but also to build a better community.
Seeds bombs or ‘seed green-aids’ as they were known back then were the only weapon of choice for the Green Guerilla activists. Their peaceful and well-intended actions saw them scattering seed bombs over fences and barriers and onto unused, dilapidated spaces hoping to spread flower seeds and reclaim the natural ecology of these disused sites. A movement was born.
Who Was Liz Christy
In 1973 when Liz Christy formed the Green Guerillas, her intention was to transform a piece of wasteland in Bowery and Houston. She wanted to return it to its original state before it was torn up and replaced with a concrete jungle. Liz wanted to give it back to nature and bring that nature back to the people of the city.
Her way of thinking gained momentum and support from the local residents and businesses of Bowery and Houston Streets and before long she’d created a buzz. People volunteered their time and businesses donated resources and before long, the Bowery Houston Farm and Garden was born.
The Liz Christy Community Garden
Today the garden has matured into a peaceful oasis bang in the middle of an urban landscape and has become an iconic place in gardening, ecology, and modern culture. It represents community and the human race’s basic instinct to be close to nature. It’s home to a magnificent magnolia tree, a vegetable plot, and hosts a diverse range of wildlife.
It’s free to enter for more information see Liz Christy Community Garden
The Green Guerillas
Today the Green Guerillas has grown into a community of gardeners petitioning to reclaim lost plots of land and transforming them into useful and practical spaces to grow. They have inspired many Community Gardens and indeed created a movement. Today they are a non-profit organization offering support and advice to help communities cultivate the local communal landscape.