As many Texans climb into bed tomorrow night and the sun moves directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at precisely 11:30 PM Central Standard Time, we’ll turn the corner on the shortest day and longest night of 2011. It’s the Winter Solstice. From here until mid June, the days will get longer.
Let there be seed balls for the Solstice! Chile pepper discourages insects and birds. –Seedball slideshow photos by Hugh Daschbach and Monika Maeckle
Spring marches our way–something to celebrate. Some folks will bake Christmas cookies. Others will craft tamales. And some of us will combine soil, clay, water and seed–with a generous dash of chile pepper–to make seedballs.
What are seedballs?
Introduced in the 70s, seedballs are a form of “guerilla gardening” whereby seeds, soil and clay are mixed together into tidy germination bombs that are said to have an 80% higher success rate than simply broadcasting seeds onto soil. Adding red potters’ clay to the mix protects the seeds from being blown away by wind or consumed by insects or birds. Generally, seedballs don’t require watering and you should NOT bury or plant them. Simply toss them in a vacant lot, your front yard, or a wildscape situation like a ranch or roadside. Wait for the rain to melt away the clay casing, and nature will do the rest.
Seedball recipes vary as much as those for Christmas cookies. Some seedball aficionados recommend a 3:2:1 ratio of soil, clay and seed, adding nutrient rich ingredients like worm casings or other natural fortifiers. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center encourages a concotion that includes sifting, humus with good bacteria intact, your local soil, and sand. I’ve had great success using three parts local or potting soil, 1-2- parts red potter’sclay powder (purchased from a pottery supply) and 1 part seeds. The clay binds the ingredients and keeps the balls intact. Add water until you get a workable dough that allows you to roll spoonful of seedball mix into a ball that doesn’t stick.
Put them on newspaper to set up and then add my secret ingredient: red chile pepper. The pepper discourages insects and birds from denigrating or eating the seeds, giving them a higher chance at germinating. If you find that your seedball dough is too watery, just wait. The soil soaks up the excess liquid with time.
3 parts local soil or potting soil
1 – 2 parts red potter’s clay powder, also known as “terracotta powder” at pottery supply stores
1 part native wildflower seeds
Water, as needed.
Newspaper and cookie sheets for drying seedballs
Stainless steal bowls or pots for mixing
1. Assemble ingredients.
2. Mix soil, clay and wildflower seeds together in bowl. Mix well.
3. Add water to attain dough-like consistency, much like tart or pie dough
4. Pinch off or use spoon to grab gumball-sized amounts of the mix. Roll between your palms to get round form. Drop onto newspaper covered cookie sheet to dry.
5. Sprinkle generously with red chile pepper. Let set for 24 hours.
6. Toss and wait. Nature will do the rest.
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Once the seedballs set up, usually after 24 hours, store them in paper bags for later use or toss them right away. Remember to use only native seeds for wildscaping situations. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Texas Butterfly Ranch Seedball Recipe