How to Make Seed Balls From Recycled Paper

Making seed balls is a great garden project for gardeners of all ages. A seed ball is a small object that packs seeds together with a growing medium for planting. The concept is accredited to Masanobu Fukuoko, a Japanese farmer and philosopher who developed the basic formula of mixing clay with humus or compost, and seeds. The balls can be sown in a “natural farming” method where soil tilling isn’t necessary. The seed balls are thrown or laid on the soil and nature’s rains dissolve them to reveal and germinate the seeds.

Last week I wrote about “seed bombs” and how to make them. Seed bombs are essentially seed balls with a sometimes nefarious purpose. The clay and compost balls are tossed into vacant city lots or barren fields and flowers and grasses sprout depending on the seed in the seed bomb.

For a more aesthetic seed ball, a family gardening project, and a fun gift idea, consider making seed balls from recycled paper. Instead of clay and compost, paper holds the seeds together in the ball.

Paper seed balls

When water is added to paper it can be pulverized to a pulp. Seed is mixed with the paper pulp and turned into seed balls. These seed balls can be formed into many different shapes and made in many different colors.

To make the pulp you’ll need a blender or food processor. I recommend using one that is old and not regularly used for your meals. Inks in the paper will be transferred to the plastic and are hard to clean. I purchased a used food processor from Goodwill for a few dollars. It’s now dedicated to the task of making seed balls.

The paper needs to be torn or shredded before adding to the blender. If you pack in a wad of paper and then add water you’ll probably burn up the motor pretty quickly. Smaller paper pieces work better.

I began with four full sheets (four pages each) of newspaper and ran the newspaper through my paper shredder. I’ve also used shredded bills and junk mail to make seed balls. The shredded paper breaks apart easily in the blender when water is added.

Working in batches, put the torn or shredded paper in the blender and add water. I’ve found that soaking the paper in a tub of water before adding it to the blender helps it break apart easier. Even if it was soaked beforehand you’ll still need to add water to the blender.

Shredded paper in the food processor

We’re talking about a lot of water. The four sheets of newspaper required cups and cups of water. I tried measuring to develop a precise recipe but stopped after the first batch. A couple handfuls of shredded paper required more than two cups of water.

The paper needs to turn into a mushy mash. The blades of the blender or food processor will rip the paper into shreds only when it is overly saturated. If you don’t use enough water you’ll get a clump that just bounces around the blender or stays in one place, not breaking apart. Add more water as the blender is blending until you get the paper thoroughly disintegrated and a mushy pulp develops.

Processed pulp

Remove the pulp and set it in a bowl or put it into a colander to allow some of the water to drip out. Continue blending all your paper and water in small batches until all of it is pulp.

At this point try to remove a good part of the water by pressing or squeezing the pulp with your hands. Discard the water or save it for another batch. With the pulp very damp, but not dripping water, transfer it to your mixing bowl.

Moist pulp

I added 1/4 cup of wildflower seeds to the entire pulpy mass that four sheets of newspaper produced. Using my hands I kneaded it all together like making bread dough. You want the seeds to be fully mixed into the paper pulp.

Adding seeds

When it’s all incorporated, takes small pieces of the mix and press them into molds, into cookie cutters, or form them with your hands into balls. I find that using small cookie cutters give you a greater variety of shapes to choose from. Keep adding the pulp and seed mixture until the mold is filled.

Pressing pulp into the mold

The seed balls will need to dry so removing as much water as you can at this point will accelerate the entire process. Begin by compacting the paper as much as you can to force water out and then soak up the water with paper towels or newspaper. These blotting materials can be turned into more seed balls later on.

Blotting excess water

Gently remove the seed balls from your mold and let them dry for a few days. Removing them allows you to use the mold for the next batch and also give the seed balls exposed surface area for drying. They’ll expand slightly in the process.

By using water tinted with a few drops of food coloring you can get seed balls of any color you like. You can also try shredding colored paper and mixing that with water. Varying the shapes and colors provides wonderful gift opportunities.

Tinted paper seed balls drying

While seed balls made with clay and compost can be thrown on the soil surface and will sprout, seed balls made with recycled paper work best when planted in pots beneath a thin layer of potting soil. The decorative shapes and colors make the planting a fun activity for kids.

Making seed balls with recycled paper works well on many levels. You reuse waste materials while adding fun to planting. It’s not as messy as the clay seed balls can be and the finished products look better. The entire project takes just a few minutes and the paper seed balls can be stored for months before giving away or being planted.

If you’re looking for a fun gardening project, try making recycled paper seed balls.

Thanks to Erin from Gardening in the Lines for some consultation on making seed balls.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] Seed balls – I rather like this idea. (A couple versions – Basics, Shaped ones) […]

    Reply

  2. I make the clay and compost variety, but this post makes me think that kids might like to decorate these paper ones with markers and poster paint before planting, adding to the fun.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Lyn on January 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks for your help and instructions. We make these for wedding favors. Heart shaped silicone soap mold, I used store bought paper clay mix, (can purchase at your local craft store – Hobby Lobby), purchase bulk flower seeds on line at Eden Brothers (Crazy for Cosmos) and tinted them pink, aqua and khaki. Once dried, placed 1 of each color in a CD envelope with window. They were a HUGE hit and so easy to make ahead of time!!! Thanks for the instructions!!!!

    Reply

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