Encouraging wildlife into gardens and the wider environment is something close to our hearts. From pollination of plants to the fruit in British orchards and vegetables in allotments and veg plots around the UK, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects have a key role to play. Wild flowers can be a simple and beautiful way to encourage more wildlife to flourish, and with SEEDBALL, a fantastic product launched by Project Maya, it couldn’t be easier.
We’ve been chatting with Anna Evely all about Project Maya and SEEDBALL and the role it (and you!) can play in helping support British wildlife in your own back garden.
I am co-director and founder of Project Maya, a cutting edge sustainability project founded by scientists with a HUGE goal – to build a global network of reserves where people and planet are in harmony, and SEEDBALL is the amazing wildflower gardening enterprise that is helping to make this network a reality!
I would certainly say I am a bit of a Jack, or should that be Jill(?!) of all trades. I started out as a conservation scientist and have evolved into an eco campaigner and entrepreneur, as well as keeping some research on the go. I guess you could sum me up as a permaculturalist on a mission!
Seed balls are their own mini ecosystem. Clay, compost, wildflower seed and chilli powder are mixed together and formed into a marble sized ball. You can just scatter them; no need to plant or propagate!
Once scattered, the clay protects the seed from birds and the compost gives them a head start. Once enough water comes along to break down the ball the chilli powder acts as a further deterrent to seed predators like ants, and can even help to protect the young plants from slugs.
SEEDBALL was set up to help fund the purchase of Maya Reserves. We knew that to achieve our goal we wouldn’t be able to rely solely on grant funding or donations, so we wanted to launch a product. We wanted something super ethical, accessible, and that could really help UK conservation.Our gardens cover an area that is more than all of our national nature reserves combined (about 270,000 hectares), so we wanted to start there. Just imagine the impact if all those gardens were all filled with wildflowers!
At the same time we know lots of people are put off gardening, because of the perceived time, expense and effort it requires. Wildflowers seemed the perfect solution! Once established they are pretty much no maintenance, but they can be difficult grow from seed. We wanted to make growing easier and were inspired by the work of Japanese natural farming innovator Masanobu Fukuoko who demonstrated how by using seed balls, farming became much less work and caused much less damage to the environment.
Is SEEDBALL easy to use? Do people need any specific knowledge or gardening experience?
No knowledge required! Our whole aim is to make growing wildflowers from seed simpler and more accessible. All you need to do is throw, and watch them grow. Each marble sized ball contains about a hundred seeds, so in the spirit of survival of the fittest, the best plants will grow.Each mix has species suited to shade, sun, damp and dry conditions, so no matter where you throw you should get growth. There’s no need to become an expert as you are letting nature choose the best wildflower to grow in that spot. Plus, most of the species we have selected come back again each year, giving a better and better display with time! You don’t even need a large garden; you can scatter them in a patio pot, window box – even in a hanging basket.
We have six different varieties: a butterfly mix with wildflower species recommended by the butterfly conservation trust; a bee mix with species recommended by the bumblebee conservation society and an urban meadow mix, which we developed with the urban wildflower corridor organisation ‘River of Flowers’ to be a mix perfect for urban situations – beautiful blooms that are pollution tolerant.
We give £1 per urban meadow mix tin sold to River of Flowers to help them continue on in their amazing work. Our three mixes have flowers that take you from the beginning of Spring to the end of Autumn. Besides our mixes, we have three individual species tins – forget me not, oxeye daisy and poppy.
Do you use environmentally friendly packaging for your products?
As conservation scientists we wanted to make sure we were as environmentally friendly as possible. Our labels are made in the UK and our tins are manufactured by the last London tin maker and are highly recyclable and reusable. In fact, if you send us your empty tin and a self-addressed and stamped envelope, we’ll re-fill it for free!
In our seed balls our compost is peat free and our wildflower seeds are flora locale accredited. Check out our sustainability credentials for more info.
What are the benefits of encouraging wildlife into your garden?
UK (and global) nature is in trouble. A recent stocktake of UK nature suggests 60% of animal and plant species have declined in the past 50 years. We have lost 97% of our wildflower habitats and most of our bumblebee species have greatly declined, with two species extinct in the UK since the 1940’s, while honeybee numbers have dropped by 50% in the last 25 years.
Sadly, three-quarters of British butterflies are in decline too, both in terms of their total numbers and their distribution across the UK. Even the most common and widespread butterflies have seen a 24% decline in abundance over the past ten years. Globally over 60% of ecosystems and their biodiversity are degrading, and extinction rates are as much as 1000 times their pre-human levels. These massive declines are due mainly to loss of habitat and changes in habitat management.
As a world we are increasingly becoming more urbanised. As of 2007 more than half of the world’s populations live in cities covering just 2% of the landmass but consuming over 70% of the resources. As we become more urbanised there is less chance to interact with nature and our opportunities quickly become limited to gardens, window boxes, balconies or urban parks.
Encouraging wildlife into your garden, not only creates vital space for nature, but can also have significant health benefits. Recent research shows children’s exposure to ‘nature’ is essential for physical and emotional development. And, in order to care about the environment (and how to reduce that 70%!), people need to experience nature regularly to develop environmental awareness and sustainable behaviours. As people have less access to nature in urban settings, there are two options available: either take people to nature or bring nature into the cities. For us, the only sensible option is to bring wild, native nature, to the cities and into peoples gardens.
Do you have any plans for the future of SEEDBALL and Project Maya?
At the beginning of March we will be launching the new Project Maya website, which will have more information on Maya Reserves. And, we will be launching guidelines for any existing community space to become a reserve and join their voice with ours. Our hope is to have our first UK Maya Reserve by 2015.
SEEDBALL is going from strength to strength, thanks mainly to word of mouth. Our aim is to continue to expand our reach, bringing SEEDBALL to even more shops or garden centres near you. In the future we will be adding more mixes and increasing our reach to become a global brand!
You can order from us directly at www.seedball.co.uk, as well as on Amazon and a number of fabulous online shops. We’re also stocked in a growing number of high street shops and garden centres. It wont be long until SEEDBALL are at a place near you!