[permaculture] Seedballs in bulk: concept sketch

neshura neshura at gmail.com
Fri Feb 12 10:37:14 EST 2010

Hey everyone -- just wanted to throw out a quick idea sketch of how to
hack fireworks hobbyist techniques to produce seedballs in very large
quantities when you don't have access to manual labor (i.e. 25 friends
and family) or a big clay pit

I've seen quite a few citations or suggestions to use a concrete mixer
to make seedballs, but they weren't very specific, more like "It
should work".
It wasn't til I saw someone working with a star roller that I thought,
"Now THERE is a seedball technique with most of the kinks worked
out!". A 15 second clip of a homemade star roller on youtube should
illustrate this enough for anyone to go "AHA!" -

CONCEPT: Adapt a star roller to tumble seed balls instead of fireworks

HARDWARE: 5 gallon bucket and a motor, or access to a friend with a
star roller, or a small concrete mixer with blades removed, along with
the other accoutrements of seedball making (drying screens, etc)

SOFTWARE: Powder clay, fine humus (dry), small seeds, water, and an
organic circular core (Cocoa Puffs, Kix, or other circular cereal)

Best place to see a star roller in action is the fireworks episode of
"Dirty Jobs" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_XXUEDPVBY Pt 3 shows
the rollers in action). A seedball is just the organic version of a
black powder star core. Essentially, you *should* be able to use the
exact same technique. The Cocoa Puffs tumble in the roller, with a
scoop of fine clay. Mist with water until you see the clay start
accreting as a thin layer on the cores. As the balls get larger, add
small seeds, fine humus, and more clay, and continue to mist just
enough to keep the balls growing in size. Finish with a thin coating
of pure clay to protect the seed ball, then spread out to dry on a

The above isn't directions per se, just a description of the process.
If you really wanted to do this, you would go study up on the
fireworks technique itself and try to use their proportions, mixing
rates, and measurements, which I think is the real value of this
exercise -- seedballs don't need to be precisely measured, but
fireworks do, and so the directions are necessarily extremely

 As someone who regularly fails on projects where the directions
mostly consist of hand-waving and adjectives like "approximately", I
am a person who appreciates a little extra precision (I would love to
have a library consisting entirely of "...For Dummies" books).

Are the clay and humus powdery enough to accrete evenly?
What's the largest size seed you could use that would still stick reliably?
How long would it take to make 250 1" seedballs with this method? 10,000?
Which is the bigger limiting factor, materials cost, or drying time/space?
Does using Cocoa Puffs (chocolaty tools of corporate overlords)
outweigh the positive intentions of reseeding a vacant lot or
relocalizing an abandoned construction site?

Obviously this technique is a bit biased to help the city guerrilla
gardener who has only a 7th story apartment balcony at their disposal,
but I thought it a very interesting thought experiment! Comments

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