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The Green Life: (Seed) Bombs Away!

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December 15, 2011

(Seed) Bombs Away!

Seed bombersCity buildings block the sunlight. Paved streets come in gray and grayer. In upscale neighborhoods, lawns lie exquisitely landscaped. On another side of town, empty lots ache for cultivation. Somewhere in between, a grandmother's tiny corner plot delights passersby with sunflowers and geraniums. In any part of a city, plant life softens the hard edges of structures.

Greening a city doesn’t require gardening skills, tools, gloves — or even a garden. The old Japanese farming technique of tsuchi dango (literally “earth dumplings”) has evolved over a century and across continents into today's "seed bombs." Eco-activists can buy them online or from a gumball machine or roll up a homemade batch themselves. One Japanese farmer went so far as to patent his formula.

These grenades of Gaia consist of clay soil, compost, and seeds. Sometimes paper is added to reinforce the eco-weapons' armor shell. Mix the ingredients together with some water and roll them by hand into spheres — or mold any shapes you like. Leave them to dry; then pile up a seed-bomb arsenal.

The hardened clay protects the seeds inside from heat, birds, and insects until the weather supports sprouting. As rain and moisture wear away the clay, the seeds start to germinate. The type of seed matters: Drought-tolerant ones last longer, and only native plants should be used. Even in the grayest metropolis, introducing nonnative plants can disrupt an ecosystem’s balance.

"Bombers" spread their seeds all over the world, across the fields of India and Tanzania and the fenced-in streetscapes of Brooklyn and London. A few causes move beyond mere urban greening to help the homeless and developmentally challenged. Not surprisingly, the Occupy movement is scattering seed bombs too.

And with each small sphere, cities get greener, seed by guerrilla seed.

--Carolyn Cotney / image: One Green Street

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