By Sam Burbach, Education & Programming Coordinator – 03/24/2020
Looking for something fun to do with the kids at home? Now that it is spring, the time is here (or near) to plant seeds in the garden! Some seeds are ready to be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, while some seeds need the ground to be warmed and the danger of frost to be completely past. In anticipation for planting, try making some seed bombs with the kids that they can throw to plant seeds.
Seed bombs are essentially seeds encased in growing media and clay, and then shaped into a ball. Seed bombs have been used in a movement known as guerilla gardening to try to beautify and add important plants for pollinators to areas such as vacant lots. Once the seed bombs are thrown into a suitable growing area, rain will initiate the seeds to germinate and the seed bombs will break down as the seedlings grow.
The first time I made seed bombs it was with Horticulture Club at University of Illinois and we mixed powdered clay, growing media, seeds and water. If you have all of those things on hand, that’s great! Mix about 5 parts of clay, 3 parts of growing media/compost and 1 part of seeds, then slowly add water and mix until you’re able to form the mixture into a small ball. Once you’ve formed all your seed bombs, let them dry completely and store in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to throw plant them.
While that is a great way to make seed bombs, I don’t have any clay laying around the house and now isn’t the time to do unnecessary shopping so onto plan B – recycled paper seed bombs!
Here’s how you can try it at home!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Paper – old newspaper, sale ads (non-glossy), construction paper, paper bags, etc.
- Blender or food processor
- Cookie sheet
Cut or tear the paper into small pieces.
Soak the paper in warm water for about 30 minutes.
Pour out most of the water and place in blender or food processor*, and blend into a pulp.
*See Notes section for more information.
Pour the paper pulp back into a bowl, sprinkle in some seeds and mix.
Take a small scoop of the mix and form it into a ball.
If the mixture is too dry to hold its shape, add a little water and then wring out all extra water from your ball.
Place on a cookie sheet or tray and allow to dry overnight.
Store in a cool dry place until ready to use.
How to Use Your Seed Bombs
Depending on the type of seeds you used, toss the seed bomb into the garden when the weather is appropriate and let nature take care of it. Rain (or your watering can) will initiate germination and break down the paper of the seed bomb so the seedlings can settle into the garden and grow. Not only is this activity fun for kids to make, it’s also fun for them to throw the seed bombs and watch their plants come up!
A Few Notes:
- These seed bombs are meant to be used in a home garden. Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden does not recommend or advocate sowing your seed bombs in natural areas or anywhere that is not your property. If you have a natural area on your property that you want to use seed bombs on, please be sure to use seeds that are native to our area and will not disturb the natural ecosystem.
- I used a Magic Bullet and it really doesn’t like to blend without a sufficient amount of liquid so I had to add more water and then drain at the end. A food processor or full-size blender might work better.
- Don’t have a blender or food processor? Let the paper soak a little longer, then pour out some of the water and start tearing into smaller pieces. Keep placing back into the remaining water to help separate out the pieces and soften again. Tear until you have small chunks of paper that are workable and pour out excess water. This worked with newspaper for me, I didn’t try any other paper.