Ask a Master Gardener: What are seed bombs?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 30, 2013 

Question: I have heard something about "seed bombs." What are they?

Answer: The idea for seed bombs became popular in urban areas on the East coast of the U.S. Neighbors tired of looking at vacant lots and starting planting them in flowers and vegetables. The idea of a seed bomb is to make something that will allow you to plant seeds simply by throwing them.

They are now sold in many places, and people are encouraged to throw them on vacant land, as well as along streets and highways. They're simple to make. You need clay, seeds and fertilizer. Enclose a small amount of the seed and fertilizer in a ball made of clay. Don't make the clay covering too thick, and let it dry for a week.

Making seed balls is great fun for kids. And they make good presents. So have fun!

Q: I hate having to make choices between edible plants or ornamental plants, but my yard space is so small. What do you suggest?

A: Your problem may not be as big as you think. Many edible plants are ornamental. Just think of multicolored lettuces, colorful chard and kale, rhubarb or artichokes. Then there are the more shrub-like ones, such as blueberries and aronia, or chokecherry. You can plant edibles throughout your garden, and you'll have both good eating as well as pretty viewing.

Using the example of a blueberry plant, these multipurpose plants are wonderful in gardens. Attractive ornamentals, they produce lovely profusions of white or pink blossoms, followed by delicious (and healthy) berries, and take on stunning fall color.

It's easy to include them in existing landscapes, as they're acid-loving, with the same requirements as rhododendrons, azaleas and heathers. Plant a few different types, to extend your harvest. And be sure to mulch them and keep them well-watered.

One other tip for those gardeners who are space-challenged: Go up! Many plants love to climb, and some that are more reticent can be trained to do so. Not only does growing plants upward save space, it also will keep fruit off the soil, give it more sunlight, and generally make a better-looking product. Cucumbers and trailing squash are two good candidates for a trellis.

Q: I might have a problem with not enough pollinators for my fruit trees. Anything I can do about this, for next year?

A: Yes. First, I'm sure you've heard that the bee population is under siege. As they are the primary pollinators of fruit, it can be a problem.

Most important, limit your use of pesticides - most are deadly to bees. They are also polluting our waters. So try the newer types of pest controls, and learn to live with minimal damage.

A good and fun way to encourage pollinators to your fruit trees is to plant flowers that will bloom at the same time as your trees, making your trees more attractive to the bees. Plant these flowers under or quite near the trees, and watch the bees come in droves.

If you happen to have a plum tree, there's another solution to lack of pollinators. It happens with plums because they're one of the first fruit trees to set bloom early in the spring. It can be quite cold in early spring, and that may keep the pollinators away, still keeping to their protected lairs.

The solution is mason bees. Unlike most other pollinators, they emerge early in the spring, and will be the most likely pollinators of your plums. Mason bees and their housing are sold in most nurseries. There are several good books about them, and the nursery people will have a wealth of information for you.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN

Ask a Master Gardener will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com.

Master Gardener Kathleen Bander is a resident of Bellingham and life-long gardener. For more information on Whatcom County Master Gardeners, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg

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