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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Seedbombing - Japan's Ancient Farming Technique

Thailand, one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, is using an ancient Japanese farming technique to help it plant tree seeds over a wide swath of its deforested lands.

The technique is called ‘seedbombing’ , and owes its origins to the ancient Japanese practice known as tsuchi dango.

When? I don’t know… everyone just says “ancient” Japan, like we’re supposed to know what the fug that means. Like when? When ninja were kidnapping geisha and selling them to evil samurai while trying to avoid the mischievous nonsense of the kappa and oni?

Kappa are water spirits, but in reality are probably just river salamander, while oni if the Japanese term for ‘devils’.

Anyhow, when in Japan: in ancient times, Japanese farmers would create seed balls known as nendo dango (aka earth dumplings, 粘土 団子), that were a clump of different seeds encased in a ball of clay—volcanic red clay, if ya got it—that could have animal waste or plant detritus added to the balls, which where then taken by the farmer and dropped in an area where growth was required.

Each seed bomb would have everything a seed would need to grow, except water, though I suppose some liquid nutrient could be taken from the clay and waste added… but the point is, the farmer could drop his seedbomb, walk away and wait for the eventual rain to fall to grow the plants.

Anyhow, in the 1970s Fukuoka Masanobu (福岡 正信) authored multiple books on natural farming techniques, as he preferred no tilling, no herbicide/pesticide cultivation, creating the catch-phrase “Do-nothing farming” which is something I have done often enough in my backyard, always getting a decent crop of tomatoes, green and red peppers, chili peppers, corn, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, rhubarb and mint. I won’t even mention the peaches, pears, plums and (p)apples.

Fukuoka liked natural farming, and reintroduced Japanese farmers and more internationally, with the seedball technique.

It hasn't really caught on in a large-scale—I think it was used only a handful of times—but there have been a few instances where seedbombing has been utilized, examples... but mostly it is used by the urban gardener... or even the guerrilla gardener who sometimes builds and release their own seedbombs on local areas they feel are lacking in green.

I have nothing to say about that, except make sure, if you choose to do this, that it's legal.

Here's what you need to make your own seedbomb, a recipe I found over at

  • Clay from your area if available or if clay unavailable in your area you can use crayola air dry clay and is found in Walmart for about $5.00 (used to protect the seeds from insects, birds, etc. that might eat them);
  • Water (For forming clay, do not water seed bomb when finished);
  • Seeds native to your area (Check with your local Nature Conservancy or your state's department of natural resources for which seeds/plants are native to your area)( buy seed mixtures of native flowers and plants. Not only will they grow well, they will not crowd out other plants, disrupt bird and insect populations, or do other environmental damage);
  • Compost or worm castings;
  • Yogurt container top or any large flat surface
For the dried red clay mix 5 parts clay with 1 part compost and 1 part flower seeds, put some careful drops of water into the mixture(make sure not to make it into a goopy sloppy mess!), Knead with hands into a ball, flatten it out and cut to desired size. Now just make into a small ball and let it dry in the sun. Now you have a red clay seed bomb.

Even with the seedbomb, there is still only a 70% success rate... though I suspect that's actually quite good.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I don't know where the image at the very top is originally from. I saw it on multiple websites.

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