Seed balls, or seed bombs, are an ancient technique for propagating new plants without opening up the soil with cultivation tools, such as a plough. The Japanese ‘natural farming’ pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka rediscovered seed bombs in 1938, calling them ‘earth dumplings’.
The architecture of seed bombs is simple: seeds are combined with clay and compost, the mixture moistened with water and rolled into balls.These are allowed to dry in the sun, then cast out into fields at an appropriate time of the year, depending on the seed mixture and rainfall.
As in bonsai, a practice in which planting a tree off-centre in the pot is believed to make space for the divine, seed bombing allows for what Fukuoka calls ‘semi-wilderness’. Nature decides what will grow, where and when germination will occur, be that within the next few days or several seasons away. According to Fukuoka, plants grown in this way become particularly strong.
Seed Bomb Recipe
The following ingredient ratios are taken from Fukuoka’s suggestion:
5 parts dry, powdered clay (preferably red) 3 parts dry, fine sifted organic compost
1 part seeds
1–2 parts water (to moisten as needed)
Beyond this basic recipe, it’s possible to add other elements depending on your circumstances and desired outcomes. For example, a portion of fibres – such as paper mash with love letters or sigils to be charged by the soil – can be added to give the seed bombs greater tensile and spiritual strength. Innoculating the bombs with native forest soil invites populations of diverse fungi along for the flight, to support woody perennial development. Natural farming, after Fukuoka, is based on recognising the complexity of living organisms that shape the ecosystem, while putting it to use in a symbiotic, spontaneous way.
Jenna Sutela is a Finnish artist based in Berlin. She works with biological and computational systems, including the human microbiome and artificial neural networks to create sculptures, images and music. Sutela’s work has been presented at museums and art contexts internationally, including Haus der Kunst, Munich (2022); Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin (2022); Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2022); Shanghai Biennale (2021); Liverpool Biennial (2021); Kunsthall Trondheim (2020); Serpentine Galleries, London (2019); and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2019). She was a Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) in 2019-21.
This practice is from the Ignota Diary. 2023's limited edition is still available – get yours while you can!