This festive season, fight the evil of air pollution with the goodness of nature.
By Ruchika Wadhwa Bhalla
Every child looks forward to Diwali, the festival associated with sweets, lights and crackers, and the nip in the air that heralds the arrival of winters. In recent years, with increasing awareness about air pollution and the nose-diving air quality in North India, especially in Delhi, there is a call to shun crackers which cause noise and light pollution. So why not ask your child to celebrate a green Diwali this year by using another kind of bombs-seed bombs, also called green bombs or green grenades?
There is a good reason to do so. Ever since mankind learnt to walk upright, Mother Nature has been fulfilling all our demands without complaints. And it will never ask for anything in return, even if we continue to encroach on its territory till there are no more resources left to exploit.
Trees and plants are the first victims of urbanisation, but this isn’t sustainable for long. What are we going to leave behind for our future generations? A concrete man-made wasteland where trees are endangered species?
Let’s take things into our hands this Diwali and save nature by bombing it! This may seem paradoxical, but it isn’t when you consider that the bombs being talked about are seed bombs. These hold the potential to heal nature by carpeting it with plants and trees easily and effectively. Seed bombs or seed balls are much in vogue in Indian cities these days. People of all ages have joined various NGOs and seed bombing groups to green their surroundings.
What are seed bombs?
Seed bombs are small balls which consist of live seeds packed inside a compressed bundle of clay and compost. The technique of throwing these into nature to germinate and grow is known as seed bombing. When these little nuggets of clay, compost and native seeds are tossed into barren spaces, open plots of land, stream banks, meadows, roadside strips, etc, and get nourished by rains and dew, the seeds germinate to grow into a plant. Experts have coined a catchy name for this-“guerrilla gardening”.
Seed bombs are nothing new, though. They represent an ancient method of seed dispersal to regenerate riverbanks or land after flooding. Japanese called them Tsuchi Dango, meaning ‘earth dumplings’. Seed bombing was even practiced by ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilisations to grow plants in areas flooded by rivers. This successful method of natural farming was reintroduced in 1938 by a Japanese microbiologist and natural farming pioneer, Masanobu Fukuoka, who believed that it is nature which decides what will grow on the planet.
The chances of survival or germination of a seed is almost double in seed bombing compared to the traditional reforestation method of transplanting a plant sapling! Compared to transplants, seed bombs are cheap and cover a large area of land. This low-cost method saves one from the daunting task of digging pits in areas that have lost their green cover.
The”throw-and-grow”seed bombs contain some hundred seedlings in a nutrient-rich and protective natural clay ball the size of a large walnut. When favourable growing conditions arrive during rains, spring or early autumn, the seeds inside the clay ball get out of slumber to germinate and sprout into a new life. These little saplings go from strength to strength upon receiving regular rainfall and sunshine in natural surroundings. Typically, it takes about three to four weeks for the seeds to germinate and break out of the clay ball.
Packaged seed balls are now commonly available in several online stores and make excellent gift items for the holiday season. Making these yourself at home is easy too. Take care to use seeds that belong to local plants (flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit-bearing trees, etc.) which naturally grow in the region.
How to make seed balls at home
Organic compost made of dried leaves must be added to the mud while making clay balls. Mix five parts of mud with one part of compost and one part of seeds. Make sure you encase the seeds inside the mud and compost for protection. Add some water to knead the absorbent mixture into a ball (moisture is essential for the seeds to germinate). This provides nutrient rich but stable growing medium for the seeds. The seed ball then must be dried for a day or two to avoid fungal growth. The dried outer coating protects seeds from seed-eaters like mice and birds.
The best way to plant a seed ball is not to bury it in a pit, but embed it halfway through in a cup-shaped hole in the ground so that its upper half remains visible. You can also fling them over fences and out of car windows into neglected, open spaces. Once the plant germinates, it consumes the nutrients in the seed bomb to stay alive for a few weeks, after which it can tap other sources of water and nutrients as it gets bigger and stronger, firmly taking roots in the soil.
Seed bombing is a great way to involve kids in the fight to protect and nurture the environment. It allows even people not into gardening to contribute to making the land green. Seed bombs make for a perfect gift for parties and festivals. They are something that guests can actually use and be happy for contributing something for nature, compared to plastic trinkets that are stashed in drawers and eventually discarded.
So why not make a beginning this Diwali and help fight the evil of air pollution with the goodness of nature?
(The writer is an environmental entrepreneur and Chief Green Evangelist at We Decor8, a Gurgaon-based firm specialising in green décor and urban farming.)