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Making Seed Balls for Bees
One easy way to contribute to a diverse floral environment for bees is to learn how to make seed balls. A varied diet is very important to honey bees and other pollinators. Being a bee friendly gardener involves planting different types of flowering plants for bees . In this way, as the bees gather nectar and pollen from different flowers they are eating a healthier diet.
What are Seed Balls?
Seed balls are small (marble-sized) pieces 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.
In my book, “Flowers for Your Honeybee Garden”, I talk about the advantages of both annuals and perennials.
Seeds of perennial plants will continue to provide food for years to come. But, annual flowers offer a big bee buffet for the current season.
Our goal is to have a time of continuous bloom during the warm months of the year. This is a good reason to make a mixture of seed for your project.
Why DIY Seed Balls are a Good Idea
One advantage of using this method of flower planting 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-or every time of soil. In the more “clayish” parts of my yard, I would actually bury the seed ball.
But, this type of gorilla gardening gives you a chance to make an impact on a large area with little effort. It’s as simple as tossing them out onto fertile soil.
Not every one will flourish but they are inexpensive to make so you can go a little wild without spending a ton of money.
Seed Ball Recipe – What Are They Made Of?
This recipe for making your own seed balls is so easy. It lends well to experimentation but the basic ingredients are 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 clumps – meatball size.
The first time I made them, I used a bit too much clay and not enough soil . This caused them to be too dry so before making a ton of them – I suggest you experiment.
- Dry Red Powdered Clay
- Potting soil compost mix or Soil Matrix
- Wildflower Seeds
- large bowl to mix it all up and a little water
- nitrile gloves – to prevent clay stains on your hands
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.
For the soil component -you can order a soil matrix that is prepared and ready to use. Or, go to a local home garden center and buy a bag of soil mixed with compost for about $3-4.
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
Steps for Creating 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.
Time needed: 2 hours.
Create Wildflower Seed Bombs using powdered red clay to increase bee habitat in your area.
- Sifting your Soil
If you buy special soil matrix you can skip this step. But if you are using “soil” from a garden center, remove any large pieces of bark, sticks etc.
We want the soil to be soft and rather fine in texture.
- Combine Soil and Red Clay Powder
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.
- Adding Wildflower Seed to Mix
Choose the seed mixture that you prefer. You can choose annual or perennials and there is no 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.
- Rolling Up the Flower Seed Balls
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!
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 does happen under perfect conditions, you may consider taking a bit more of a conservative approach.
By simply tossing or dropping them where you wish to see flowers – there is less chance of the ball breaking apart prematurely.
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.
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. Of course, perennials planted this year can feed bees next Spring.
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.
Can You Plant Seed Balls in Fall?
Sure, you can plant them in Fall if you live in a mild climate . Choose seed that require stratification during cold temps. Some seed require a period of cold temps before they will germinate and grow.
Are Wildflower Seed Balls Good for Bees?
Yes, making wildflower seed balls with plants adapted to your region can be very good for bees.
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.
Create a Seed Ball Gift Kit
What a wonderful gift idea for anyone who loves bees and gardening. Purchase the clay, soil and seeds needed and make a seed ball gift kit – complete with a large bowl to mix things up in.
- Dry Red Clay
- Potting Soil or soil matrix listed above
- Wildflower Seed Mix
- Large plastic bowl from Dollar Tree etc
Final Thoughts on DIY Wildflower Seed Balls
This is 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!