Home Connections: Making Seed Balls

by Melissa Harding

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Seeds are a hot topic here at Phipps, whether in our seed-based school programs or in our casual camp lessons. We dissect them, explore them in our sensory bins, plant them and use them to craft. In short, if there is a way to turn old seeds into a craft, game or lesson, we have tried it. One of our favorite ways to explore seeds and the topic of germination is to make seed balls. A seed ball is a little ball made of compost, clay and seeds that can be planted anywhere, even in areas with poor soil. Popular with urban gardeners, these little balls can be thrown over fences, planted on the sidewalk and put in the least hospitable places, yet still grow. In a decorative bag, they also make beautiful gifts and favors for special occasions.

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Seed balls grow so well because each ball contains all the elements needed for the seeds inside to germinate; soil and compost in the ball provides nutrients and clay provides a protective coating for the seeds inside. All you need to add is rain! You can use any type of seed in your seed balls, from small carrot seeds to large marigold seeds, and shape your seed balls accordingly. This is a versatile craft that all ages will enjoy.
Here is how we make seed balls at Phipps:

3 parts clay (you can use powdered potter’s clay or pre-mixed children’s art clay from the craft store)
1 part compost or potting soil
1 part seeds
Water to mix

To make: Add water to clay and mix until it becomes a little soft and pliable. (This first part takes a strong arm.) Next, add compost and mix until mixture is a definite brown color and the compost and clay are integrated.  Finally, take a small handful of the mixture and sprinkle some seeds onto it. Mix the seeds into the clay  and form into a ball shape. Make sure the seeds are inside of the clay. Let them dry overnight or several days until the seed balls turn a lighter color.

Making seed ball is more of an art than an exact recipe. We do this activity different ways depending on the age of our students; with smaller children, we premix the compost and soil and allow them to add seeds and mold the mixture into pleasing shapes and with older children, we give them small amounts of all of the ingredients and allow them to create everything themselves.

To use: Toss anywhere that you would like your seeds to grow! It is best to toss before a rain spell or gently water with a hose to help soften the clay. Over time, the clay will break down and the seed will germinate!

Note: Please do not toss in natural areas where the seeds you plant may compete with native plants.

Check out this post on how we conduct an easy seed dissection.

Learn how to create fun seed mosaics out of seeds and homemade dough.

The above photos were taken by Science Education and Research staff.

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