(NaturalNews) Farming can be a lot of work, and for the budding backyard gardener, the thought of having to till the ground with a plow or other large, expensive tools just to get the soil going might seem daunting. But there is a much simpler way to sow seed and produce quality yields that involves far less work, and at the same time preserves and enriches soil health.
The technique is known as "seedballs," or "clay dumplings," and a Japanese farmer and philosopher by the name of Masanobu Fukuoka is credited with having come up with it. The way it works is seeds are coated with clay, soil and other debris, producing little clumps that can be scattered on existing soil without having to plow it.
In Fukuoka's view, constantly upending soil, especially on large-scale farming operations, is highly destructive and unsustainable in the long term. Conventional farming methods also rely on external applications of fertilizers, pesticides and various other chemicals, none of which are necessary when using seedballs.
"The architecture of seedballs is pretty basic: seeds are combined with clay (preferably red volcanic clays) and organic material like compost, worm casting or well-decomposed manure," explains Permaculture News about the process. "A portion of fibers such as paper mash, finely cut straw, cotton or wool can also be added to give the seedballs greater tensile strength."
Anyone can use seedballs at virtually no added cost
The great thing about seedballs is that they cost virtually nothing to produce. Besides the cost of the seed itself, one only needs clay, compost and a willingness to get their hands a little bit dirty in order to make them. And depending upon where you live, accessing the necessary clay may be as simple as gathering it from the loose soil in your yard.
Seedballs work especially well in urban areas where tillage is not an option. But according to Permaculture News, the technique can also be applied to larger areas where traditional farming methods are more difficult, such as on steep slopes, woodlands and rocky areas. Seedballs can also be used to restore degraded landscapes back into productivity.
How to make seedballs
To get started, Permaculture News recommends combining five parts dry powdered clay with three parts fine sifted compost, and one part seed mix. Detailed instructions on preparing and sifting both the clay mixture and the manure compost can be found here: PermacultureNews.org.
First, mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large, flat tray or turkey broiler pan -- something flat at the bottom that you can easily agitate by hand. Next, begin squirting water into the mix and rotate the container around in a circular motion as you do this, so the seeds will begin to collect the other materials and form little balls.
Continue adding water until all the clumps have formed and there is no more dry clay and compost at the bottom of the bin. If you plan to spread your seedballs at a later date, be sure to dry them out first, or roll them in direct sunlight so they will dry on their own. Further instructions are available at Permaculture News.
"Imagine a world where governments, instead of dropping destructive (and very expensive) bombs on people around the world, would instead fill their planes with place-appropriate seedballs, and drop those instead," wrote one Permaculture News commenter about the concept.
"Creating abundance would be far cheaper than creating misery -- and would go a long way to engender peace, gratitude, and cooperation. Plus, it could help save our climate, and give opportunity for the birth of localised cottage industries."
Heavy Petal has also developed a seedball recipe that you can try here: HeavyPetal.ca.