Jim Bones wrote:
> I am glad you are making seed balls, however I must inform you that
> adding the compost to the clay and keeping it flooded as a way to store
> it is only making an environment like that at the bottom of a stagnant
> swamp. This creates an anaerobic environment that basically drowns and
> suffocates all the beneficial microbes that could help provide the
> fertility needed by your seeds upon germination. All you are left with
> is mineral nutrients and something like fossil humic acid or humates,
> but without the living creatures that really make soil fertile. It may
> actually inhibit the full growth of your seeds.
Thanks so much for the input! First off, I didn't mean to say that I kept
the wet clay and compost stored together in a bucket--I can see that that
would be a bad idea, and potentially disgusting! What I meant to write (in
the wee morning hours, as I have been spending every possible daylight hour
outside in the gardens this spring!) was that once I got my clay to a
workable texture, I found that I could keep the moisture level stable by
capping the bucket and sitting it in the shade. I don't actually mix in the
compost until I am ready to make up a batch.
The compost I keep stored in a separate bucket--it seems to stay fresh and
sweet and fertile as long as it is kept dry. (I am using worm castings,
btw--does this seem like a good idea? If I want to get into this in a bigger
way, I will either have to up the production on my little worm farm or find
another source of quality organic compost. Suggestions?)
> It is also my experience that trying to stuff seeds into a wet clay
> mixture damages many of the more fragile seeds, especially the long and
> fluffy grass seeds. The ultimate goal is to wrap the seeds in a blanket
> of clay, building it up in protective layers. Mr. Fukuoka uses a cement
> mixer with the blades removed to make batches of seed balls. I use a
> rotating drum to make them on a more or less continuous basis. The
> rolled structure is essentially the same.
Aaah, I see your point! Thus far I have been mostly working with pretty
sturdy seeds--buckwheat, for example, and corn, beans and squash for my
three sisters garden--but I will take the time to do the process more
carefully in order to prevent damage to the smaller fragile seeds I will be
collecting this season.
> I know from personal experience that it can seem like a chore to grind
> the clay down to usable size, but it is the only way other than buying
> powdered clay I have found to get the best results. I have seen Mr.
> Fukuoka use large wooden rolling pins on wooden boards to pulverize his
> clay. I really don't know of a shortcut to doing it correctly.
Beatrice's suggestion of decanting the clay and then laying it out in a thin
layer sounds like the best technique for me at this point--I would love to
advance to the rotating drum method soon, as I would like to be making the
seedballs en masse, eventually. But for doing up small batches, it would be
ideal to just "paint" a piece of plywood or an old tarp with the wet clay
and then use a rock or rolling pin to powder it.
> Years ago Mr. Fukuoka tried to make a lot of seed balls by mixing large
> quantities of clay and seeds in very wet batches and pushing them
> through wire mesh. This had the drawback of over wetting the seeds
> which then soured or fermented and failed to germinate. Keeping the
> whole mix as dry as possible while still being able to work with it is
> the key.
Hehe--already made that mistake! I did have one batch of seedballs get moldy
this winter and figured I must have had the mixture too moist. So I
definitely get the point here!
>As others who have contributed to this site have said, making
> smaller batches by hand, more frequently, is most successful. Please
> continue your work and try other ways of pulverizing the clay. I think
> you will have greater success if you do.
Yes--I think the key here is breaking the process down into easy stages.
Always having a batch of clay decanting, another drying, and a supply of
powdered clay and compost at the ready so that small batches can be mixed up
as seeds become available. I was trying to start this process over the
winter and had no place but my tiny kitchen floor to work, so I am guilty of
taking shortcuts in my eagerness to have seedballs ready for spring
planting. As always, my mistakes lie in trying to outhink myself--the very
lesson Mr. Fukuoka tries to impress on us every step of the way. <<blush>>
As the cycle of seasons progresses, I look forward to establishing a rhythm
with all this.
I am particularly interested in harvesting native seeds in the area--wild
edible and medicinal plants in particular--so the seed harvesting will be an
integral part of the rhythm too...watching and learning when each plant is
ready to harvest, noting its growth habits and so forth.
Again--thanks so much Jim for sharingyour expeience with us--and to you,
Beatrice, for clueing me in one how to simplify the powdering process. I'm
ready to go out and start my next batch of seedballs with renewed insight!
Green blessing to all of you--