Seed balls are basically little balls of compost and seeds covered with a layer of clay. The compost is supposed to supply the needed fertility to get the seeds germinated, the clay holds the ball together until there is enough moisture to germinate the seeds, tillage isn't needed due to the covering of compost and clay, and the seeds are less likely to be eaten by birds or rodents compared to just broadcasting seeds.
Once they're made you can line them all up in a neat row in a garden, or you can just throw them with abandon all over a field. You can put just one type of seed in them or you can put dozens of seeds in one, it'll work either way.
There's a bunch of information online about the exact and proper way to make perfect seed balls and all kinds of finicky things you're supposed to do to make it work (you have to have a certain percentage of compost, you need a special type of clay, it has to dry for these amount of days), but I find that more and more I'm not really a finicky-doing-stuff-sorta-guy anymore.
After planting my test plot of oats and turnips the other day, I had a little bit of seed left over in the drill so after I vacuumed it out, so I decided to try my hand at making some seed balls.
Like I said before, I want make some quick and dirty seed balls without a lot of fuss, so I took the oat and turnip seed mixture I cleaned out of the drill, added some more turnip seed to the mix, threw in about the same amount of dry composted cow manure I had laying in the stock trailer from the last time I hauled some cattle, and mixed it all together.
After I had it mixed together pretty good, I started spraying a little water at a time and mixing until it all started sort of "clumping" together, then I decided to throw a little clay into the mix to help the "clumps" clump even more (it'll make sense to anyone that decides to try their hand at making some seed clumps too).
At this point, it would have been a simple matter for someone to start rolling this mixture into little balls to make a proper seed ball that would get the approval of most of your permaculture buddies (if you happen to have any). I don't know why some of the seed ball making information online makes it seem like such a big deal to make seed balls similar to this.
But I decided to just make seed clumps instead of seed balls, and used a shovel (just rock it slowly to drop clumps as you go) to skillfully spread my seed clumps over about a 300 square foot area of my garden/cover crop test plot area. In a few weeks I'll see if it's worth it to make some proper seed balls in the future since if seed clumps will work then seed balls might work even better.
|Some oat and turnip seed|
|Cow manure and seed mixture|
|Skillfully spreading the clumps with a shovel|
|I spread my seed lumps along the left side, so keep an eye out for some turnips|
If these experimental seed clumps sort of work, I might try making some clover seed balls to throw all over my pastures, or maybe use it to plant some small deer and turkey food plots, or plant a no-till Fukuoka style garden, or make some apple-seed seed balls to plant some trees around the farm.
It might even be possible to just mix some cover crop seed or garden seed into a wheelbarrow full of moist compost and then plant a no-till garden by just spreading the compost.
Of course, before any of those other ideas are tried, I'd like to see if any oats or turnips actually come up in the garden. So, stay tuned for seed clump progress reports.