Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guerrillas in the Midst: Earth Week Seed Balls

Guerrilla Gardening. Sounds a bit odd. I picture a housewife from the '50's (read June Cleaver) sporting greasepaint on her face and a camo apron, stealthily slinking through her petunias, spade raised at attention. Beware aphids, everywhere!

In the real world, guerrilla gardening refers to a growing movement of urban hipsters (read Zooey Deschanel) who surreptitiously green up nasty vacant lots and other bare places in their concrete jungles. Often moving under cover of darkness, they clean up trash, pull weeds and plant flowers. Some places sport high, razor wire topped chain link. Alas! But wait, the guerrilla gardeners have developed a work-around. Undaunted, GGs (soooo tired of typing guerrilla gardeners. Drat-did it again!) have come up with recipes for little seed-filled missiles to toss nonchalantly over fences. Wherever they land blooms after a few rains. This does, of course, assume no scary junkyard dog runs off with them.

 So, back to me. I know, I know, so needy! I don't live in an urban environment. I live in the 'burbs. Not far enough out that I can have chickens but far enough that I've had a wild turkey in my yard. And yes, the bird, not the booze.

Anyway, you would think out here that everything is verdant, lush and landscaped. That beauty abounds and flowers flourish.

I say nay, nay.

There are still ugly strips of weedy neglect, frontage road wastelands, parking lot medians that need a little something extra. So there is room for improvement, even out here. Plus, who doesn't like to see an unexpected burst of flowers?

We decided to fix that by making our own seed balls.

One of the girls' pals was in my elementary school garden club last year. She shares our affinity for growing things and so we invited her to join our Secret Society of the Green Thumb. Okay, we aren’t really called that but it sounded cooler that way.

In honor of Earth Day, and the eventuality of spring, we gathered to mix up a batch of these little flower grenades.

After poring over many recipes, I came up with a hybrid that seemed to be the best fit for us. Here is how we made our seed balls, er bombs, er grenades…

 Clay: We used Crayola air-dry. It was too chilly this morning to dig up native clay, but if we do this again, that's the route I will take. Some recipes call for powdered or dry clay, but breathing in the silica particles if the powder gets in the air is dangerous so I wouldn't use that method with kids. Buy it at Hobby Lobby or Wal-Mart.

 Organic compost: Some folks don’t have any hang-ups about the compost being organic or not. I use organic gardening products in our home garden because we eat out of it so I had organic. You can get some at Lowe’s or Wal-Mart.

 Seeds: I think you should always use native species when doing this with flower seeds. That way you don’t do more harm than good. We chose native Texas wildflower seeds from Lowe’s.

 Water: Self-explanatory.

Butter knives for portioning.

That’s it.

Now for the fun part. My friend Amber and I gathered our three youngest girls (the older two joined when middle school let out) together on our driveway. I spread a plastic tablecloth on the ground for a smooth, non-porous surface and assembled all the ingredients.

After a quick tutorial (to follow) the girls took off. Cranking out missiles like pros.

I kept up with jotting down quotes until my fingers were too caked with clay to handle the phone. I lost track of who said what, but here are the highlights.

First, cut off a chunk of clay and flatten it into a pancake-not paper thin but not ¼” thick.

 “Ooh, it’s like we are making a pizza,” one of them instantly said.

Next, sprinkle a layer of seeds on the clay.

 “This is like granola,” another said. “It can be a dessert pizza!”

“Like we added granola to white chocolate dough.”

“Or it could be sugar-cookie dough crust,” suggested their pal.

Now add a generous layer of compost.

sorry, fuzzy pic.
“Now add the chocolate to the top.”

Then drizzle a little water into the mix. Not enough to goop it up, just to dampen the compost.

 “Now you drizzle on the chocolate syrup.”

I told them to use the knives to cut the “pizzas” into quarters.

“What is quarters?” asked the youngest.

“Cut it in half and then in half again.”

“Oh, in fourths!”


“So this is like a math, gardening, cooking show,” said the youngest.

Scraping the dough up carefully, ball up each pie piece, containing the soil and seeds in the center of each ball.  Then roll the balls in more compost until they are coated. “I lost my Earth Truffle,” said the youngest as she dredged one in compost. “Oh, whew, I found it!”

 The compost will feed the seeds as they grow and the clay will hold it all together and keep birds from eating the seeds too soon.

Of course, as we reached this step and the balls started accumulating, they started discussing what else they looked like.

 “Ummmm, it looks like a big rabbit came by here with a stomachache,” said one of the girls. (Aren’t girls soooo much more delicate than boys?) They all dissolved into gales of giggles.

And then, just when I thought I had lost them to potty humor, the middle child said, “I'm gonna teach my kids how to do this.”

Melting Mommy!

On that note, we wrapped it all up. We now have a good stash of truffles. I’ll post back about how we dispersed them. The hubby has a really great idea involving a golf club and a vacant lot…we’ll see!

P.S. The youngest wants me to remind you that even if they look like truffles you can’t eat them!

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