how to start seeds + make seed bombs!

Hello! I hope this finds you well and getting geared up for some gardening time this weekend.  Things here in the Ladybug world are in a bit of a kerfuffle (scientific term) - we had a neighbor dump debris on top of one of our new veggie garden beds and contaminate the soil with sawdust.  It was not malicious - he thought he was doing us a favor - and we had to explain that the chemicals from pressure treated wood are not something we want to amend the soil with. But to make lemonade out of lemons I've decided to give strawbale gardening a try...


Images from Erica Mulherin

I spent a good chunk of today sourcing some straw, and I'll get going on building and conditioning the garden once the rain stops.  I'm looking forward to seeing how these work for me - I have some really poor soil in areas of my garden, but I want lots of fresh veggies!  I'll keep you guys posted as to my progress!

Now it is time for me to let you know one of my deep dark secrets....I am the world's worst seed starter.  Yes, yes, I know how much money I could save by starting seeds, and I can imagine how fulfilling the process must be, but not for me.  I prefer to direct sow seeds into the ground - morning glory, parsley, cosmos, sunflowers, nasturtiums...all of these I grow from seed.  And I put on a grand facade of being happy to buy my seedlings from local organic growers, and I am, of course, but for once I would like to successfully start my tomatoes from seed. This year, however, was not the year.  Spring hit us early and my business needed me more than my seeds did.  So I started late and have, so far, had zero germination.  I have friends with wonderful luck with seeds, and I follow their advice, but I think I need to simply come to terms with the fact that I have a seed black thumb!!

However, what would an organic gardening blog be without seed starting advice, even late in the season.  And what would I be without lots of resources to share with you!  First of all I suggest you ask around in your circle of friends.  See if you can group together to buy and start seeds - sometimes you end up with way more seedlings than one garden can deal with and it is nice to share the bounty.

Below is the basic idea of seed starting:

seed starting

Seed starting images from Fine Gardening, cow pots from CowPots

Here are some great places to visit for more in depth information on seed starting:

Fine Gardening Magazine - they have several articles and videos about seed starting

Vegetable Gardener -  a new find for me...I'm having fun checking out their tips and ideas

A Way to Garden - Margaret Roach is one of my favorite people and a wonderfully generous gardener.

Organic Gardening - Great resource, with a nice slide show showing the thinning out of seeds

Cornell University - Cornell is a constant resource in my gardening life...from apple tree advice to seed varieties and visit them & see for yourself

Do you have any seed starting tips or hints to share?  Did you overcome your fears of seed starting and now it is old news?  Share with me your secrets, dear readers! It is not too late for me to start some mid season veggies and I promise I will take any advice you can give!!

And now, for the requisite bit of Brit in our weekly chat.  This is becoming a habit I will have to break, before it truly becomes "a thing" I'll  have to keep up with every week...if only Black Adder gardened...then I would never run out of Brit content to post....

Last week I promised you a project...and so in the spirit of seed starting, I would like to introduce you to Guerrilla Gardening and seed bombs.  I'm an active guerrilla gardener - and while I don't make seed bombs often anymore, I have recently been re-inspired and have ordered the ingredients to make a whole bunch of them this weekend.

I use native seeds, and this year I will be focusing on native milkweeds to feed the monarch butterflies.

The primary thing to remember when making seed bombs is the ratio of five parts clay to one part seed and one part compost. Mix these together in a large bowl, slowly and carefully add water to combine them, then start to shape the mixture into balls. After about a day of drying they are ready to be thrown into abandoned lots or larger areas of land that has gone to the "weeds"!

seed bomb

Photos Gina Ferazzi/LA Times

I hope this will inspire you to think about areas in your neighborhood you can seed bomb.  It really is a fun way to interact with your environment, and as long as the plants you are bombing are natives, you won't be doing any harm!

Have you ever guerrilla gardened?  Is there an area in your community that could use some attention?  Let's meet in the comments and see if we can't beautify the world, one seed bomb at a time!

Next week I have a fun project to share with you all!  Until then, happy gardening!!!

Caroline Finnegan owns Ladybug Landscaping, a full service organic landscaping company. based in CT. She is a NOFA accredited landcare professional and when not designing gardens can be found rearranging her furniture or out at a flea market finding new goodies. She almost always has dirt under her nails.

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  • I’ve always loved the idea of seed bombs. I feel like I heard about some project here in New Orleans recently where people were doing guerrilla gardening with sunflowers, since they help to detoxify the soil. I’d love to start doing something like that….

  • Thank you so much for sharing this info, I’m off to email my gardening family and friends. I wish I had a backyard or even stayed in one place long enough to start a garden.

    ~ Kristen

  • I used to use the method of making up a little wallpaper paste (it has a mould inhibitor so you may not like it for organics) and putting my seeds in that, then pitting all into a plastic bag with the corner cut off and just squeezing the results all down the row of potting mix. Good idea if you are sowing a lot of seeds.


    Be careful; in your part of the world (as in mine) you may get into a LOT of trouble planting things which by-laws forbid – even if you think they are pretty.

    Some people love to see and smell wild ginger but where I live, you’d be hauled into court for sowing those seeds. Do check it out before detonating those seed bombs.

  • Hi Mallory – go for it! May 1 was International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day and there were quite a few press releases etc. sent out. so that may have been where you heard about it. After reading your comment I went on a bit of an information hunt about plants that can help to detoxify the soil and I’ll be sure to post some more info here when I hear back from my scientist friends. I think this would be a great project for the Roosters to get behind!

  • Hi Lynda- thank you for calling attention to this. I did mention in the article that I use native plants, and using native plants will not cause harm. But , yes, folks do have to be very responsible about what seeds they use to seedbomb. I approach seed bombing from the point of helping local wildlife thrive more so than making a space “beautiful” for human eyes. Great advice for any seedbomber is to do some research and do no harm!