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Maricopa Native Seed Library: Planting Seed Balls (for AZNPS)

Instructions for Planting your Seed Balls

This page describes how to plant seed balls, and came out of a recent collaboration between the Maricopa Native Seed Library and the Arizona Native Plant Society to plant seed balls at residences across the Valley.

Picture of some of the seeds used in the seed ballsPicture of seed balls

 

STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR PLANTING SITE

  • You can plant your seed balls wherever you might sow seeds. This can be in gravel, natural desert soil, or even an improved garden bed. 
  • Make sure to choose a site that is not in full shade. Full sun or partial shade are okay.
  • Your site may receive supplemental water such as hand watering, sprinklers, a drip system, etc. Or you can plant them in an area that does not receive supplemental water. Seed balls planted in an area with supplemental water may germinate more quickly, while seed balls not receiving supplemental water won’t germinate until there are rains. It is okay either way!
  • Both seed balls should be planted in the same conditions and near each other, but give them some space from each other (about 3-6 feet) so that any plants that come up will have more room to grow.

STEP 2: PLANT 

Picture of planted seed ball

  • Please plant your seed balls within two weeks of receiving them, no later than July 24th.
  • To plant, simply place the balls (whole) on the site you’ve chosen, making sure they make contact with the ground. That’s it! Do not break apart the seed balls. Do not bury the seed balls or cover them with soil. 
  • To reduce the risk of accidental trampling or disposal, we recommend letting other members of your household know about this seed ball experiment. Or better yet, have them be part of the experience!
     
  • Do not apply any herbicides (i.e. weedkillers) to seed ball study site. If you are using a landscaping service let them know about the seed balls and ask them not to apply herbicide to the area.

STEP 3: TAKE A PICTURE OF THE PLANTING SITE (if possible)

  • If you are able to take a picture of the planting site once the seed balls are planted, please send that to us at seedlibrary@scottsdalecc.edu. Doing so will help you remember exactly where you planted your seed balls. It will also give us a little more insight into your planting site.

STEP 4: ADD DATA TO THE ONLINE FORM

  • Soon you will receive an email from us with a link to a short survey about your planting experience. Please complete that after you have planted your seed balls.

STEP 5: WATCH FOR SEEDLINGS 

  • Keep an eye out for anything happening with your seed balls. If you see any seedlings, feel free to send us pictures and we can try to identify them. We will also follow up with you by the end of August to see how things are going!
  • Reminder: You are not required to water the seed balls.
     
  • Please note: As the seed balls get wet from monsoon rains or supplemental watering, it is likely that they will disintegrate. That is a good thing! Over time, the seeds will become incorporated into the soil and be given an opportunity to germinate when water is available.

 

ABOUT THE SEED BALL MIXTURE

The seed balls were made using a recipe developed by Dr. Elise Gornish at University of Arizona, using the ratio of seeds:manure:clay of 1:3:5. To make approximately 64 seed balls the following quantities were used: 

  • Approximately .6 cup of seeds (or 1/2 tsp of seeds per seed ball)
  • Approximately 1.8 cups of manure (deodorized manure was used)
  • Approximately 3 cups of clay (Lincoln 60 fire clay obtained from Marjon ceramics was used)

First the manure/clay mixture was made and then 1/2 tsp of seeds were hand mixed into each ball to ensure that all participants/study sites would receive seeds from all of the 13 target species. The thirteen species and their quantities per seed ball are as follows:

Acourtia wrightii (pinch)
Adenophyllum porophylloides (2 seeds) 
Aristida purpurea (2 seeds)
Bebbia juncea (2 seeds)
Bouteloua curtipendula (2 seeds)
Conoclinium greggii (pinch)
Erigeron divergens (pinch)
Machaeranthera tanacetifolia (3 seeds)
Mentzelia multiflora  (3 seeds)
Salvia columbariae (pinch)
Thymophylla pentachaeta (pinch)
Trixis californica (2 seeds)
Verbesina encelioides (2 seeds)

Note: if you are a member of the public seeking seed balls from the library, please see here for the seed mixtures available now

Feel free to contact us at any time with questions at seedlibrary@scottsdalecc.edu or aznpsphoenix@gmail.com  

 

 

A joint project of the Phoenix Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society and the Maricopa Native Seed Library

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Printable version of instructions