Making Seed Balls for Bees
A diverse diet is so important to honey bees and all pollinators. Planting different types of flowering plants can be a big boost for bee health. One easy way to contribute to a diverse floral environment is to make seed balls.
What are seed balls you may ask? They are small (marble-sized) balls of soil, clay and flower seed. Mixed with some water to the proper consistency and rolled in small pieces, they are sometimes called “seed bombs”
When using seed balls to increase pollinator habitat you can let your creative self run wild. You get to choose which types of seed to use in your seed ball creation.
Of course, always choose flower seed that do well in your region and climate. Seeds of perennial plants will continue to provide food for years to come. But annual flowers offer a big bee buffet for the season as well.
Why Make Seed Balls?
One advantage of using seed balls is that they are easy to sow. Instead of having to remove sod, till soil, mulch and water – you simply toss (or place) a seed ball where you want plants to bloom.
Of course, this would not work well for every type of plant. But this type of gorilla gardening gives you a chance to make an impact on a large area with little effort.
Seed Ball Recipe – What Are They Made Of?
The recipe for making your own seed balls is so easy. It lends well to experimentation but the basic ingredients as simple.
A dry red clay powder is mixed with soil/compost and flower seed. Add enough water to allow the mixture to be rolled into small balls.
When to Plant Seed Balls?
Most people will plant their seed balls in the Spring. After all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed, the flower seed will be ready to germinate and grow.
Bees need to collect pollen throughout the season but especially early in the season. Bees use pollen to raise young baby bees and a diverse source provides better nutrition for the colony.
Of course, you can plant anytime during the growing season. But, if started late in the season you should choose plants that go from seed to flower in a short time. Otherwise, cold will arrive before the plant matures and blooms.
Can You Plant Seed Balls in Fall?
Sure, you can plant in Fall if you live in a mild climate and choose seed that require stratification. Some seed require a period of cold temps before they will germinate and grow.
Are Seed Balls Effective ?
Certainly, your effort in increasing bee habitat will be rewarding with an increase of bloom in your area. Gardening is subject to weather conditions. It is unrealistic to believe that every seed will survive and grow!
But, with good growing conditions and proper seed selection, the pollinators in your area should be enjoying some tasty pollen and nectar this season.
How to Plant Seed Balls?
Some planting instructions may lead you to believe it is as simple as riding down the highway tossing them out the window. Then, viola – a wildflower meadow.
While that could happen under perfect conditions, you may consider taking a bit more of a conservative approach. By simply tossing or dropping your seed balls where you wish to see flowers – there is less chance of the ball breaking apart prematurely.
Let’s get started and make some wildflower seed balls for our bees! Here are the directions step by step.
Making Seed Balls for Bee Habitat
This bee friendly project is so easy to do. It is a great activity for kids. Even small children enjoy participating with adult supervision. It is a bit messy-that’s part of the fun. But clean up is a breeze.
Before you begin – gather your materials. These are my favorite ingredients for creating seed balls for my bee gardens.
- Dry Red Powdered Clay
- Potting soil compost mix or Soil Matrix
- Wildflower Seeds
- large bowl to mix it all up and a little water
Step 1 : Prepare Your Seed Ball Recipe Ingredients
I choose to buy the dry red powdered clay that is ready to use. Over 50 years of dealing with my native red Carolina clay, convinced me that I did not want to try to make my own.
You can order a soil matrix that is prepared and ready to use for seed ball recipes. Or, go to a local home garden center and buy a bag of soil mixed with compost for about $2.
If you do this, you will need to use some type of screen to sift out the larger pieces of bark. I used an old beehive bottom screen. LOL
Step 2: Combining the Ingredients
In a large bowl, combine the soil and red clay powder. This is not rocket science so the measurements do not have to be exact.
I used a plastic drink cup (about 8 fl oz). Wanting more soil than clay – I measured 1 cup of the clay and 2 cups of the soil.
Choose the seed mixture that you prefer. You can choose annual or perennials and there is not real guideline on how many to use. Some of the bee favorites in my yard are wildflowers, zinnia, and cosmos – so I made sure to include these.
For the soil mixture in this recipe – I added about 1/2 pound (of 8 oz net wt) of seed.
Pour in the seed and use your hand to mix all the dry matter together. Then, slowly add small amounts of warm water. Mixing carefully as you go until the whole mess is just sticky enough to hold together.
If you are not pleased with the consistency, don’t fret. You can always add a bit more water or dry matter until you are pleased.
Step: 3 Rolling Out the Seed Balls
Now for the fun part. Use your hands to roll small bits of your seed ball mixture into little balls. The size of a large marble is perfect – or maybe you want to make some that are ping-pong ball sized.
That’s it! All you need to do know is let the flower seed balls dry for a day or two. Then, you can toss or place them wherever you want to increase pollinator habitat!
A great project to teach kids about bees and how we can help all pollinators. Adults like this project too and clean up is rather easy. Of course, if you don’t have time to make your own – you can buy some ready to use!
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