A friend brought me a pamphlet called “Gardening and Direct Ecological Action,” published by the Vangardeners, an offshoot of the Olympia Assembly.
They advocate “guerrilla gardening” as part of an anarchist agenda that asserts that “food should be free and available to everyone.” Guerilla gardening, they write, is a form of “direct action because it makes change happen without the need for hierarchy, authorities, or capitalist practices.”
One of the tactics this group promotes is “seed bombing.” This means mixing soil, clay, and seeds into little balls and throwing them wherever you imagine they might grow. It’s basically drive-by gardening.
I think anarchists just like to throw things.
First, the idea of seed bombing made me laugh. Then it made me curious. Various internet sources claim that it originated as an ancient Japanese practice. They called them “earth dumplings.” The idea was revived in the 20th century by a Japanese farmer and writer who thought vegetables grown in the wild along riverbanks were stronger and more nourishing than those grown in gardens. (One can only speculate about why Japanese gardeners had given up seed bombing for hundreds of years before that guy showed up.)
Apparently, starting in the 1960s, wave after wave of activists have continued to “invent” seed bombing anew.
The idea of seed bombing certainly has a strong appeal to those who want everything to be free – free of shoveling, weeding, and watering in particular. It’s worth noting that in New York, for instance, throwing seed bombs over chain link fences in the 1960s did not feed the people, or produce any photos of flower-filled vacant lots, as its proponents predicted. Fortunately, a community garden movement soon sprang up that involved shoveling, weeding, and watering to achieve those goals.
More recently, seed bombing has not only been rediscovered by the latest generation of anarchists; it’s now evolved from a radical act to a church activity. Cruising YouTube, I was treated to a video showing a group of nice ladies rolling seed balls between their palms and setting them out in neat rows on cookie sheets. Then they gather them in baskets and fling them into a grassy field. Tellingly, there is no follow-up video of their success. And curiously, the church lady video was followed in the YouTube queue by a Monty Python clip. I couldn’t decide which was funnier.
Needless to say, there is no hard data on the success rate of seed bombing. But the Gardening Know How website offers a clue in this post: “Were you disappointed in the germination results when you planted seed balls? . . . The concept sounds promising, but gardeners are reporting low germination rates when using this method.” It goes on to offer tips, one of which is to place the seed balls in the ground rather than throwing them. (Then they would be seed land mines, not bombs, right?)
If you can’t throw it, anarchists probably won’t like it. And they probably don’t want to be caught doing anything that a church lady would do.
But the ultimate disappointment for the anarchists is not the church ladies or the article on a mainstream gardening website. It’s that you can now buy seed bombs on Amazon.
Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at jill@theJOLTnews.com
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