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food forest from seed balls?  RSS feed

 
jesse tack
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Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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Is it possible to do a food forest from seed balls?
All the trees, shrubs, perennials, ground cover, etc. dropped at the same time? a year apart?
Would you grow a season of mulch first?

The idea being to over seed the area with multiple varieties of each and let them fight it out, nature style. 

Then after the random guilds start to show, the designer fills in the missing links/encourages.


Would you prep the soil in a certain way?
Is this more cost effective than saplings?

just a thought


 
Nathalie Poulin
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I think this is a pretty neat idea. If I had lots of land, I would definitely try this technique. As for right now, I need to control the design process a little more diligently because I have a small-ish backyard.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Why not? Seems a good way to vegetate large areas, though one needs to be careful with seed selection.
 
                            
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i just joined this forum to asked pretty much the same question

also - has anyone had much success in either small or large area seed balling?

i think the above is a great idea - eager to hear reports on this

- i found an organic seed supplier that sells bulk mixed seeds - for both green manuring and wild vege type stuff (the packs seem inspired by Fukuoka) - was thinking it would be good to try seed balling these and see how i go. problem is I live on rental property, back yeard type environment - so eager to bomb it into food forest! haha
 
maikeru sumi-e
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I'm going to try a little bit of this. Mix of forbs, ground cover, small bush/shrubs, and apple and maybe persimmon seeds. Some other trees have to go in as saplings because I can't acquire/find the seeds.

Bobzi, would you please mention the seed supplier?
 
                            
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oh - follow up to question on preping soils - can seed balls work anywhere ?(obviously not on concrete etc!)
 
maikeru sumi-e
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bobzi wrote:
oh - follow up to question on preping soils - can seed balls work anywhere ?(obviously not on concrete etc!)


Fukuoka used seed balls to try to revegetate even desert and stony wasteland areas. If he could, I assume they will work well in many places on many kinds of soils.
 
                            
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thanks for responding...

what about suburban lawns?

i would love to hear if anyone has done it
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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Suburban lawns tend to have lawnmowers, which are unkind to fruit trees in the beginning of their lives. Seedballs will help a plant along just a little bit but will not enable a plant to grow in an environment that is completely incondusive to growth/survival.
 
                            
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ha!
i meant if one were to throw the seedballs on the lawn and let them go - no mowing..
 
                            
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maikeru wrote:
I'm going to try a little bit of this. Mix of forbs, ground cover, small bush/shrubs, and apple and maybe persimmon seeds. Some other trees have to go in as saplings because I can't acquire/find the seeds.

Bobzi, would you please mention the seed supplier?


sorry missed that question:

yeah there are 2 that do it (from what i've found):

- eden seeds
- greenpatch seeds (they have a permaculture mix)

the eden seeds mix look great and they put them together for whatever season you want. and they both sell in various weights. would be great to experiment with seed balls I reckon
 
maikeru sumi-e
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bobzi wrote:
ha!
i meant if one were to throw the seedballs on the lawn and let them go - no mowing..


I think it should work, though don't quote me how well it will work! A lawn with the usual lawn grass is a pretty sterile monoculture. I would probably layer some compost or something on top at least to give the seedballs a little more of a competitive edge. On larger acreage, though, it may be impractical. I'm thinking of landscaping my small backyard too into a permie veggie garden, and it currently has lawn. Some fruit trees, much prized, are already in so I'd need to work them into the design lite. I'm thinking of a cardboard and compost solution before planting.

And thank you for the seed mentions!
 
jesse tack
Posts: 56
Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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yeah bobzi i was thinking suburban lawn too.
perhaps saplings of larger trees should be planted and everything else could be balled. unless you had time and lots of land it might be good to give the trees a head start.

for the small acre homestead, perhaps you could have a seed ball mix for each of your main forms of vegetation: ground cover, perennials, berries, fixers of various sorts, etc. choose those that best support your tree choices.

i also wonder whether you could seed ball a whole community's timber reserves in one year or every five? the town would maintain and thin these reserves but permaculture teams could come in to a town, and in relative short order, establish a regenerative resource base for generations.

but again, what to do about the soil?

dare i say it, till and plant?
prepare it the year before with a green manure and till that the following year to plant?
leave the natural grasses and drop seeds in the spring?

i know not



but also

 
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Tilling can be rough on the soil. But it has some uses. I'm going for no-till, because I don't want to disturb roots, irrigation pipes, or kill off my remaining few earthworms. Used to have so many...now so few. It's amazing how fast and efficiently chemical fertilizers can kill them.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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Most fruit trees are improved cultivars and do not come true from seed, also...
 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Good idea! Can someone compare this to seeding without a ball? I believe a famous "man who planted trees" had a stick, he would make a tiny hole in ground and drop a seed in it. It is convenient because you can take a lot of seed in your pocket or bag, more than seed balls. Also it take some time to make seed balls, it looks to me more than to punch a ground with a stick.

Sometimes you don't have access to some field, like neighbor's pasture  so trowing seed balls over the fence can be like gifting a nature.
 
                            
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yeah - my thoughts have been on soil also. the way seed balls seem to be written is that you just make them, throw them and they regenerate. not actually seeing the results though...

however, isn't the idea of seed balls using 'beneficial' plants to help regenerate and improve?

and yeah, picking some benficial fruit/ nut trees to plant around it to try and get them all working together is the ideal, right?

i'm kind of surprised that there's no one chipping in who's actually done seed balling? seems like such an awesome thing to get into.

if i had acres - i would be chucking them everywhere!

anyway, i reckon no till seed balling using the benefial green manures etc. on lawn and see how it goes - we all could be onto something great here if it works! if not, well, we know that we can't do it. i just noticed that weeds do get through lawns so why not 'edible' plants?

maikeru -  would be interested in your ideas, plans on your seed ball project...

even though i rent, i am going to section off a little experiment area and see how i go....

 
                            
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drug mile -

i suppose the choice is what you would like to do.

the idea of the seed ball is that the seeds are encased to protect them from birds, insects etc but also give them a nice place to stay to get a good head start. also, the prep does not take that long and then you just throw them around - as opposed to just seed by seed with a cain or whatever haha..

but, that man seemed to enjoy that way - i say each to their own.



 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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I think that it is unlikely that you can make seedballs faster than someone can poke a hole in the ground with a stick and drop a seed in.
 
                            
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that wasn't my point

however, mixing the seed ball mix is not that difficult or time consuming (well, perhaps on 100 acres). and what is quicker: throwing seed balls (that house multiple seeds) dozens at a time or digging ONE little hole/seed at a time?

anyway, that's off topic...and, well, this topic is on seed balls..




 
Milan Broz
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Location: Croatia
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I agree bobzi, seed balls looks quite convenient in some situations. For example if there is rain outside for days, and you don't have anything else to do. You can make seed balls in your house, or let children to do it. Later, when weather improves, you just go out and throw them.

Honestly, if I had such a huge land, I would take years to plant everything where I want it, it would be a pleasure for me. But if one wants to reforest hundreds of acres in a couple of days or weeks, seed balls might be an excellent choice, especially if you make them during days when nothing else can be done.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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Sorry, it just seems like that is something that you are edging towards.

I think that part of the magic of a forum is that people will come in and change your topic and edge you towards something better, if you read many threads that is a common theme. Someone has a set of ideas and other people come in and suggest better/different ones.

I suspect that any land you can be on without hassle will be better served with a stick, a seed, and a step than a seed ball. You can still have different varieties battling it out, but you get to avoid the long indoor process of making seed balls and spend more time outside.
 
                            
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yeah - spot on drug mile - would be great to slowly built up and work on your own realm.

i would definitely do both if i had the land - seed balling and 'proper' planting


i am not advocating 100% seed ball livin'

just think it is a great thing for a variety of reasons; regen, available to everyone, cheap etc.. ancient wisdom haha!
 
                            
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yeah, i see what you mean Emerson - but I was in no way edging towards anything but info on seed balls -

as i mentioned - i would do both. i am just interested in anyone who have had results in seed balling and wanting to know a little more. I guess also, at the speedy rate of decline in the world seed balls might be a good solution. I know it gets used quite a bit in south america..but there just does not seem to be a heck of a lot of info so I thought I would check into a forum.

As yet the change in topic to 'put a seed in the ground' does not improve the theme of this thread, in my personal opinion - and as mentioned, seed balling is an aspect NOT an entire process (we mentioned planting fruit trees 'properly'

plus, the footage I have seen on making seed balls has always been outside - that appealed to me. perhaps after some hours planting you can chill to some seed ballin'...haha

and believe me, i would want nothing more than to be on my land hassle free comrade! 


 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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Most seeds are too tiny for this hole+stick-method. Take acorns for example. They are large and have all the energy they need to grow 5cm high stored inside of them. Placing them deep in the ground is okay. Take Birch seeds. They are tiny and have to be on the ground. Seeding them inside a mixture of compost and clay is the better idea here, chances of survival increase in this moisture holding nutrient rich mixture. Planting nut trees or bushes (like hazelnut) with the stick is the way to go. But it is not meant for ALL seeds.
 
                            
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Dunkelheit wrote:
Most seeds are too tiny for this hole+stick-method. Take acorns for example. They are large and have all the energy they need to grow 5cm high stored inside of them. Placing them deep in the ground is okay. Take Birch seeds. They are tiny and have to be on the ground. Seeding them inside a mixture of compost and clay is the better idea here, chances of survival increase in this moisture holding nutrient rich mixture. Planting nut trees or bushes (like hazelnut) with the stick is the way to go. But it is not meant for ALL seeds.


exactly!

EDIT: not as in BURZUM there Dunkelheit?
 
                            
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btw - check this crew out:

http://seedballz.com/html/story.html

they actually sell seed balls!

We then partnered with developmentally disabled workers and created an innovative way to roll and grow clusters of flowers from each round ball. It was a perfect match.

wtf!?
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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What's wrong with employing the disabled? You don't have to be smart to roll a seed ball. I'll bet that it's really good work for them, way better than working at a burger joint. An economic success, bringing a productive means of earning a living together with comparative advantage.

As for seeds that don't get along with the stick, many of them cannot be done in a seed ball either. those you can just broadcast on the ground, where they can get some light.
 
                            
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i agree - just thought that was a weird paragraph


 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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bobzi wrote:
EDIT: not as in BURZUM there Dunkelheit?

I'm afraid not. Dunkelheit is a german word and means darkness. Without darkness you wouldn't be able to recognize light. And recognizing different things as different is the essential part of the learning process.

Okay, okay. I just had to choose a nickname. I admit it!
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Emerson White wrote:
I think that it is unlikely that you can make seedballs faster than someone can poke a hole in the ground with a stick and drop a seed in.


I've thought about this a lot and have made and used them on a small scale in my gardening. This year I will use them more and on a larger scale. Be aware that the type of soil and seedball mix you use can affect the germination and success rate of plantings. As Fukuoka noted, red clay works well.

There are several advantages for seedballs:

1.  They roll around and deposit the seeds in low points and cracks in the land where water tends to collect and helps with germination. The result is similar to imprinting except without the imprinting or imprinter.

2.  Achieves a semi-random and more natural distribution of seeds, which can have advantages for plant growth, spacing, and disease/pest avoidance.

3.  Encases seeds in a protective, nondescript but nurturing environment. They will sprout when conditions are appropriate for them.

4.  Distributes seeds over an area, even a large area, with rapidity, ease, and minimal labor.

It's mentioned by Fukuoka that seedballs are an ancient farming practice from Japan, though it had gradually been forgotten and disappeared. Perhaps it's because farmers had become more specialized and mechanized in farming and population had increased so substantially, making mass labor cheap and accessible. This is still the case in many Asian countries. Seedballs were forgotten in times like these.

Sure, most cultivated fruit trees don't come true from seed, but there are many fruiting plants otherwise that do.

For me, seedballs are something of a directly physical and spiritual way of connecting with gardening. To me, earth and clay are life. A seedball is a microcosm and a symbol of something much more.
 
                            
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good points maikeru

so you've done seed balls in the past? how'd they go?
 
maikeru sumi-e
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bobzi wrote:
good points maikeru

so you've done seed balls in the past? how'd they go?


Yes, they're easy to make. Making them reminds me of cooking or making bread. Used to do a lot of pottery when I was younger, so the feel of clay is very familiar to me.

I've done two kinds. When I used grey clay soil, I had hit-n-miss results. I got certain kinds of seeds to germinate and sprout successfully, but I did have difficulties sprouting some of my favorite veggies--they'd die mysteriously or had difficulties with establishment. White clover, some weedy veggies, etc. all sprouted just fine in the grey clay and formed ground cover in my garden, though clover cover was sparse. White clover doesn't like the heat and dryness here, and it definitely didn't like the 100-105 F summer days we get here. As I recall, things like chives, onions, melon seeds, etc. didn't sprout. I should've substituted a better adapted clover, such as subclover, which does thrive in my area and climate, since I can see how well it does in the lawn. The grey clay soil was highly infertile and was the base soil I started my garden with, so I used what I had plenty of. Not the best idea. Things have changed since then.

2nd time was with red clay and compost. Red clay is much better, much richer in nutrients, and when mixed with compost or some kind of organic matter will soak up water and aerate the ball. It'll be lighter and the compost will inoculate it with good microbes. You'll get much better germination, stronger seedlings, and faster establishment, leading to more success. After I noticed the spotty results, I went back and followed Fukuoka's recipe more closely. It is much better and, IMO, that's the way to go. I used potter's red clay. Just dried and powdered it.

When you're playing with the dry powdered clay, compost, seeds, and water, it'll make you feel a little like a kid again, and I think that's a good thing.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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btw, if plants are competing heavily and fighting each other or dying, it may be incompatible species, overplanting, throwing seedballs too close together, or too many seeds of the same kind in one seed ball. It doesn't help to have like 5-10 melon seeds trying to germinate and share the same little spot from one ball.
 
jesse tack
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Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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love the discussion!

if you were to drop balls in a typical grass yard, would the grass, already established, overtake or interfere with the competing seeds from the ball?

i love that seed company btw, cob and seed balls do allow for elderly and DD participation, and more than that, provide a meaningful experience/service to the community. as well, at-risk youth could experience this sense of agency.

 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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We are not the only agent.  Different grasses are more or less competitive in different settings.  There are more or less niches for new plants depending on setting.  We plant, birds plant, wind plants, plants plant.  We are only one agentof many.  I have had luck with scattering seed on distrubed sites, and have had seed balls totally fail.  If you have the right disturbance and timing, scattering seed is much easier then making seed balls.  I'd say seed in ball is only 1/4 the equation... also there is timing, disturbance and setting.  Between seeds and potted outplantings there are bareroot and root and shoot cuttings as well.  Every species has problably 1 to 4 optimal methods for introduction, and method interacts wtih  disturbance, timing, and setting.  Take good notes.  Anything is possible, many things will fail.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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How did you make your seedballs? There are a lot of different recipes and variation, and sometimes it may be better to use on-site dirt/clay rather red clay. I've not had luck with scattering seeds. Seed predators seem to decimate my seedlings when I do it that way, and I've seen ants and birds taking away my precious little seeds! It may work better on recently disturbed sites or soil, since things like pests, ants, slugs, etc. aren't established yet either. There may be issues of damping off and such as well. Compost helps with that. Some seeds require scarification, others cold stratification, a few light, and some maybe we don't know. Many seeds will germinate given a little soil and a little water. There are good practices and tricks in even something as simple as making seedballs and scattering them. And there are also issues of timing. Scatter seedballs during the summer and seeds may sprout in a rainstorm only to die from high heat, strong sun, and lack of water when they may have established much better in the spring or fall. For quick establishment by seedball, I have a short planting period of March and April. After that the spring rains move on and heat, strong sun, dust storms, etc. become the norm in May+.

Dropping seedballs into the lawn grass will work to an extent, but not all types of plants may flourish due to crowding or competition with the grass. I've noticed grass can be aggressive when trying to smother them with thick mulch, though they're no match for cardboard or stones obviously. Clovers are likely to do well, edible weeds or weedy veggies have a high chance to do well, cucurbits probably due to the vigor and size of the seedlings, and some trees and bushes likely can fight it out with the grass. I always find maples, elms, and other weed tree seedlings coming up in the lawn, but then again, my lawn isn't very thick or lush. It browns during the summer. This'll require testing and experimentation. Don't be sad if not everything sprouts and flourishes at the start. A lot of it is also testing whether the seeds and plants will thrive on the site, soil, and in one's climate, so not everything will thrive and come through.
 
Mark Vander Meer
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I’ve made and used 3 different types/ approaches to the seed ball topic.  The first is seed and clay & compost mixed and dried.  For alder planting on denuded flood plains.  Didn’t work very well.  The second; we collect bear scat with and spread it out on stream restoration sites – mostly on soil disturbed during channel construction, this works very well – seeds already scarified and stratified.  Bears are quick berry pickers and leave nice concentrated deposits.  The third technique involves taking the litter and duff layer from a forest and spreading this on a disturbed mineral substrate – typically we use this when obliterating roads.  This method is a bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul, but worth the risk.  We use an excavator to do this.  The litter and duff horizons host a tremendous seed bank, just waiting for a disturbance.  On road obliteration projects, in a moist area, this is the only technique we use.  We also cover the old roads with tons of slash.  Contact me for details – we have a reveg guide for the Lower Clark Fork region of Montana  available at  http://www.watershedconsulting.com/UP0000000043.pdf

 
Emerson White
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I love the idea of bear scat.
 
Mark Vander Meer
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The bear scat gets me into trouble now and then.  This fall we collected about 6 5-gallon buckets of scat in less than an hour - along a very heavily used trail
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