DIY Seed Pellets
Seed pellets are an emerging, effective strategy for increasing germination and decreasing losses to predation in native seed revegetation projects. At Borderlands Restoration we are consistently evaluating our efforts to ensure that our methods are indeed the best practices. You can make your own seed pellets and record the results to help us in our examination.
Our goal in this process is to produce pelletized seed – small clay and compost balls filled with 2-5 seeds per ball. We are looking for irregular, lumpy, pea-sized (or smaller) pellets. Imperfection is a good thing, as nooks and crannies trap water and help the pellets dissolve!
-Finely sifted compost
-Cookie sheet or turkey tray
-Plastic Bucket w/Lid
-1/4″ or smaller sieve/screen
1. Create Pellet mixture
In a bucket, mix 1 part clay to one part compost. Mix two parts of this mixture to one part seed.
2. Hydrate mixture
Scoop a 1-2″ layer of the mix into a shallow tray or cookie sheet. Use a spray bottle and agitate the mixture with your fingers periodically to hydrate the mixture as uniformly as possible. It can help to have two workers here – one agitating and one spraying! Beware of over-hydrating the mixture – err on the drier side, as you can always add more water in the next step. The final result should be crumbly and start forming small pellets on its own.
3. Compact the pellets
When pellets begin to form naturally in your hydrated mix, it’s time to compact them. Transfer the mixture to a dry 5-gallon bucket and secure the lid tightly. Shake the bucket above your head, or roll it on the ground. These motions encourage clumping and compact the pellets so they are more resilient once they begin to dry.
Your final result in the buckets should be roughly uniform, pea-sized pellets. Likely there will also be larger pellets and smaller pellets and/or bits of compost. If the mixture was too wet, you will get larger balls instead of pellets that will need to be broken up into smaller pellets. If the mixture was too dry, the pellets will break apart in your hands as you handle them. Give a pea-sized pellet a light squeeze – if it falls apart, it’s too dry! Add some water and continue shaking.
4. Sift the smaller pieces out for re-pelletizing
Naturally, you will get some smaller debris and clay that don’t clump. Instead of adding more water and risking over-hydrating your mix, it’s good practice to sift out the smaller pieces and then begin the process anew. Use a 1/4″ or smaller sieve, add more dry clay to the smallest pieces and begin again from step 2.
5. Dry your pellets!
Put the finished pellets in a sunny spot and allow them to dry. This method ensures that the seeds don’t remain moist and germinate pre-maturely. At this point, you can store them through the dry season until the rains begin and you broadcast them in the desired location