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Pimp the Pavement: A Brief History of Seedbombing

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    Remember "Miss Rumphius," the Lupine Lady? The children's fiction book by Barbara Cooney (Puffin 1982) recounts the story of Miss Alice Rumphius, a woman who sought to make the world more beautiful by spreading lupine seeds in the wild. Flash back to New York in the 1970s and meet Liz Christy and her Green Guerillas group, who took to beautifying crumbling Manhattan neighborhoods by tossing "seed grenades" into abandoned lots. The first seed grenades, a term coined by Christy, were made from controversial ingredients: condoms filled with local wildflower seeds, water, and fertilizer. They were thrown over fences onto New York City's wastelands in order to "green up" neglected urban land. Seed bombing, as it's known today, is definitely punk, but it's also a cheap and effective way for you, me, and everyone we know to transform an eyesore into a resource.

The seed bomb growing method has been practiced globally for centuries. The idea germinated in Japan with the ancient practice of "tsuchi dango," which translates as "earth dumpling." The idea was re-invented in the 20th Century by the Japanese farmer and philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka, an advocate of Do-Nothing Farming and author of the classic, "One-Straw Revolution."

Today seed bombs are wrapped in compost and clay, which protects the seeds while providing needed moisture, nutrients, and structure for seed germination and growth. The seed bomb protects seeds from being eaten by wildlife, so few seeds are needed when compared to broadcast seeding. As much as 80 percent of broadcast seeds, those scattered on the surface of the soil, can be lost before germination.

Some argue seed bombs could be used for large-scale interventions in places damaged by man-made or natural disasters, such as wild-fires and floods. Scientists have learned that certain types of plants absorb toxins from the soil without dying and can thus be used as a mechanism to reduce chemical ground pollution. So why not use seed bombs to restore our forests and purify our soil?

In 2010, Greenaid, a Los Angeles-based organization founded by designers Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud, began converting vintage gumball machines into seed bomb dispensers. Drop fifty cents in one of their recycled candy machines and you get a seed bomb. Greenaid describes it as "Change for Change." Check out their website to find a dispenser near you. Surprisingly, they're all over the country.


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