As quite a few of you know, an ancient technique of spreading desired seeds is to incorporate them into a ball of soft clay about the size of a large marble, carry a bag of those balls with you, and disperse them through areas you're hoping to populate with desired species. For those of you here in Portland who have never seen these, you can pick them up at many garden stores or, for that matter, out of a vending machine at the IPRC. These folks in the U.K. have gone a bit mad with their approach but their advice on species and such is entirely solid.
Like a lot of folks around here I've been throwing these for years. But I worry about the places that need them most. Like a lot of cities, many of our abandoned lots are rocky. In some cases the landowner has even intentionally spread gravel over whatever was there when the previous building(s) got torn down. So I worry that my sweet little seed balls don't give those species much of a start. Not only that, but many of us live in circumstances where it's not so easy to compost much of the organic waste matter we generate.
So we've got a problem that call out for more organic matter and another problem that comes down to having organic matter that's going to waste. Hmmmm. A few times now I've just taken some kitchen waste, maybe some shredded paper, and some source of desired seeds, and put them into small paper bags. The goals are to make it heavy enough to fly well, dark enough or mottled enough to not look like litter, to be able to fly at least somewhat on a desired path, and able to survive being left alone and help seeds propagate into plants.
Heavy enough: The first few times I tried this the bag was too big for the stuff inside. try throwing a paper bag over a fence. See how well that works. Bad, bad, bad. Don't even talk to me about windy days. One approach to this is to add more biomass to the bag. Another is the weigh down the bag through things like pouring wax onto the paper. (In little spots so you don't trap things inside.) Or you can just fold up the bag so it's smaller for its weight.
Dark enough: lots of bags are either white (very bad) or pale brown (still not so good). Brown bags get better in typically wet Oregon weather pretty fast but they still look like litter. Which not only encourages your fellow citizens to think of that area as a trash disposal, it creates the risk of somebody picking up your carefully built seed package and (nnoooo!) throwing it all into landfill. One way to deal with this is tearing the top of the bag a bit so it disintegrates faster and spraying it (ideally unevenly) with green and brown dyes (made of course, from non-toxic organic sources).
Next comes that predictable flight path thing. It can be very embarrassing to start out feeling all smug with your collection of bags, throw five or six of them into a huge lot or down an embankment, and see them all carried by the wind to some awful and impractical corner or, even worse, get blown onto the street. I have, frankly, no real ideas about this other than the ways mentioned above to increase density.
Able to survive on their own: Now classic seedballs are an elegant little thing. Seeds and soil together. But not really very much soil, frankly. How can you maximize the odds that your sweet little babies will grow up to be viable? Again, biology isn't my strongpoint. I'm a mechanical stuff guy. Seems to me that certain kinds of "waste" biomass would be best for this. Damned if I know what.
And that's where I am. Frankly, I've puttered around with this now and again for a couple years now and, as my frustrated tone and anecdotes probably make evident, haven't done so well. So I'm asking y'all. How can this be made to work? How can tidy little packets be made such that a few can be kept in one's bag and opportunistically thrown out to enrich our world?
I look forward to seeing your thoughts.