Seed bombs are the cute and colorful trend sweeping gardening world and Etsy alike. In case you're not familiar, seed bombs are brightly colored balls are made of compacted clay or dirt, mixed with wildflower seeds, and a bit of compost. Even better, you can make your own seed bombs rather easily and join in on the fun!
Benefits and Uses of Wildflower Seed Bombs
The easiest and best benefit of seed bombs is that you don't have to traditionally "plant" them, meaning no digging or tilling as you'd normally do. Wildflowers are a class of plants that are known for their hardiness, so their seeds can stand up to the elements and even a little physical abuse without losing their ability to grow. By tossing a seed bomb into an area of soil or dirt, you'll allow the natural presence of sun, time, and rain to break it up and spread the seeds in a concentrated way that ensures the flowers will bloom but won't crowd the seeds in an overly close way. The ease of simply leaving a seed bomb in a spread out area makes them very appealing.
The benefits of wildflower seeds are also numerous. Many areas that otherwise would have bare ground or unsightly weedy grasses can become wildflower havens for butterflies, honeybees, and animals. Since wildflowers aren't usually edible, they can be planted in many places that may have mildly contaminated soil that wouldn't be appropriate for veggies or fruits. They beautify an area while encouraging wildlife and providing more oxygen to the air.
You can use seed bombs on any area of ground, but many people like to use them to make empty lots prettier. The origin of the term "seed bomb" stems from the trend of "guerrilla gardening" or covertly planting seeds in areas where it may not be strictly legal, in an effort to benefit the surroundings. Everything from a crack in the sidewalk to an unsightly flower bed with untended plants that have dried up can be a place to set (or toss!) a seed bomb. Making seed bombs and distributing them in areas that aren't often landscaped can be a really fun activity for a few friends or for your kids over the summer. It's often harmless and a whimsical way to beautify the dingy corners of your community.
Making Your Own Wildflower Seed Bombs
First, select your seeds. If you want to use specific wildflowers, make sure they need similar amounts of shade and that they grow at the same time of year. You can also pick up a generic wildflower seed mix that is optimized for your zone and which will work well together. For instance, my area falls within climate zone 5 so I'd choose varieties that I know will thrive there, like yarrow or cape marigold.
These two substances will form the bulk of the seed bomb: Potter's clay helps the bomb maintain its shape, while the compost gives nutrients for the seeds as they begin to sprout. For the best results, use peat-free compost as it has naturally higher nutrient content which is important since your seeds aren't going to be submerged at low depths and it will help your plants get established faster. This is useful if you 'bomb' an open area like a parking lot or sidewalk where your seeds might not have a lot of time to sit undisturbed, plus using compost without peat helps conserve our very important peatlands for when we absolutely need them.
Create a mix that is about two thirds compost and and one third clay, then add your seeds. Keep some ingredients to the side in case you need to modify the mixture later on for density, texture, or appearance. Depending on the intended size of your seed bombs, divide up your seed stock so you can have 10 seeds minimum per bomb with a maximum of 30 seeds. Including less seeds means you may see only a few sprouts, and blending in too many can cause the competing seedlings to choke each other out.
To add color to your bombs, mix in some dyed paper pulp with your compost. Be sure use materials that are naturally biodegradable as to not harm the environment or the effectiveness of your compost.
Once you've mixed the dry ingredients, add just a little water. Mix in increasing amounts of water until you have a mixture that can form and hold a ball shape. Place them outside on the deck or in a sunny window where they'll get plenty of sun to bake. This usually takes between 2 and 4 hours, but will vary based on your local conditions and how wet the clay mixture got.
Your bombs are ready to go! If you want, consider putting them in a cute metal pail or a pretty cellophane bag to tie with a ribbon and create a gift. Family and friends will appreciate the effort you went to make a homemade gift, and their empty flower beds will soon be brimming!
Once your seed bombs are ready, consider how to use them, and make sure to label any that you give away. When given as gifts, these can be treated just like a regular set of seeds, planted into a big pot and placed in a sunny spot. However, they are also great candidates for being thrown into areas that are untended, unruly, or without vegetation. Obviously, there are a few places where seed bombs are inappropriate or ineffective: private property and anywhere that someone else is landscaping are usually poor choices. Scope out good options: a public park that has become decrepit due to lack of resources for taking care of it is a good option, since the worst the seed bombs can do is add flowers that might be taken out if maintenance does come to work on the park.