In June 2016, we were asked to set up a garden activity for kids for a Zespri event at the newly landscaped Empress Lawn. We were expecting participants to be children between ages 3 to 10. The age when they would be brimming with those where, what and why questions. We wanted a hands-on activity that was tactile and would pique their curiosity. And so we knew the ancient natural farming technique called Tsuchi Dango (Earth Dumpling in Japanese) or seedballs would be a fun and engaging activity.
Tsuchi Dango coined by Japanese microbiologist Masanobu Fukuoka is a simple natural farming idea. Inspired by and ancient and efficient natural farming technique that used seedballs as a way to cast seeds in large plots of land without needing to till or sow seeds. It is a method that protects the seeds (from being eaten by birds and insects or blown away by the wind) and nourishes (humus, compost, clay and soil mix are included to create a microsystem suitable for germination and seedlings). We love making seedballs so we thought why not share this method with families.
Seedballs are a simple concept and that is why used this idea as a group activity. Before the event, we experimented on different recipes of the Tsuchi Dango. Together with Nova, Nina and Gita we tested out various proportions of soil, clay, seeds and water. Considerations made for the seedballs include figuring out the ideal amount of water and the size of "earth dumpling" that would be manageable for kids. We also wanted the children to have freedom to shape their dumplings. From a gardening point of view we had to be mindful to have the right mixture between clay and soil and a complimentary combination of seeds.
The kids took back what they made to grow. We gave them and their parents instructions but were certain they may not remember the names of all the seeds in the seedballs. And so we decided to call the activity Seedprise! We hope they were delighted by the array of vegetables that grew from their little seedball.