Activities

Making Seed Balls to Help Birds

With this simple DIY, you can spread the power of native plants far and wide.

Seed Balls from Audubon.org on Vimeo.

Video: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

Seeds may just be one of nature’s coolest wonders. Humans, birds, and a whole host of other wildlife rely on these nutrient-packed incubators for food. From tiny flea-sized spinach seeds to hairy-faced coconuts, seeds come in all shapes and sizes. And, if conditions are right, they eventually grow into the flowers, foliage, and fodder that help make up the natural world. So why wouldn’t you want to spread seed love in your area? Seed balls are one way to do just that. These weapons of mass induction are a fun and easy way to beautify abandoned lots, combat invasive weeds, or spruce up your own garden. Not only will you reap what you sow, but you’ll also improve habitat for bugs, bees, and birds alike.

Ingredients

Clay

  • Clay helps retain moisture as the seeds germinate and provides a protective outer layer from wind, hungry birds, and the harsh midday sun. Soil and seeds can be mixed right into potter’s or artist’s clay without adding water. Dry pebbles, refined clay powder, or unscented clay kitty litter can be found in most hardware stores and are considerably less pricey than artist’s clay. These dry ingredients require the addition of water to bring everything together.

Organic seed-starting soil

  • Seed-starting soil or fine compost provides seedlings with nutrients until their roots manage to break into the earth. We don’t recommend using dirt from your yard, because you may end up collecting weed seeds along with it!

Native wildflower seeds

  • Make sure to choose seeds of plants that are native to your area. (Avoid commercial premade seed mixes, which may include non-native species.) Which seeds should you pick? Use our native plants database to find the best plants for your area, as well as local resources to provide guidance and native seeds. If in doubt, get help from your local Audubon, native plant society, or a reputable native plant nursery to avoid spreading weed seeds or planting invasive species.

  • Ideal growing conditions are often listed on the seed packet or readily available from a native plant retailer, so be sure to plant your seed balls in a location that will give them the best chance of success.

Water

  • If using pebbles, powder, or kitty litter, a little water will go a long way to bind the soil and clay together.

Native seeds, compost, clay, and a little bit of water are all you need to make seed balls. Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

Instructions
Makes 12 seed balls

  1. Mix 1/2 cup fine powdered clay with 1/2 cup of compost
     

  2. Add 1/3 cup of water and stir. If the mixture it too wet, add a little more compost. It it's too dry, add a litte more water. Aim for a "cookie dough" consistency. 
     

  3. Flatten a spoonful of the dough on your palm and add a pinch of native seed mix.
     

  4. Pinch closed and roll into a ball. If you’re planting on a hill, flatten one side of the seed ball so it doesn’t roll away!
     

  5. Place on a cookie sheet or piece of cardboard and allow to dry for at least three hours, or even a few days depending on conditions. You’ll know they’re done when they feel hard and dry to the touch.
     

  6. Find an abandoned planter or a neglected patch in your garden, launch (or gently place), and watch your community transform into an oasis for wildlife, or store in a breathable bag until you're ready to spread the flower power.

You can simply place dry seed balls a few inches apart on a bare patch of soil, or toss them directly into the garden. Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

 

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