This is great for little kids who love gardening, as Mattie does.
The idea of combining seeds with clay is far from new – the clay can help protect the seeds from being eaten by birds, washing or blowing somewhere other than where you planted them, etc. The compost added to it provides an extra kick of nutrients for the new plant once the seeds sprout.
If you want to use clay to plant seeds, but don’t have kids, or have kids who wouldn’t be interested, or just don’t want to go through the mess of rolling out clay, you can do one of two things. Either 1) mix the seeds in with the dry ingredients, before adding water, and just roll it into small (about 1″ diameter) balls, or 2) roll the clay into balls and then press/roll those balls in a seed mix. You’ll have better survival if the seeds are closer to the surface of the clay, but both methods will work.
NB: Make sure that if your seed needs any kind of scarification, you do that before using them for the clay cookies.
• 2 cups dry clay powder (I recommend Bentonite clay for use in most soils, at least in the Northeast US)
• 1 cup potting soil or dry compost
• 1/2 cup water (more if needed)
• Seeds – choose these for your growing zone, your yard, and your plant preferences! We used a hummingbird blend that included Bachelor’s Button, Siberian Wallflower, Shasta Daisy, Plains Coreopsis, Cosmo mix, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Larkspur, Purple Coneflower, Blanketflower, Indian Blanketflower, Alyssum, Corn Poppy, Black Eyed Susan, and Scarlet Sage
• Silicone baking mat or wax paper
• Mixing bowl and spoon
• Rolling pin if you’re feeling like being precise
• Cookie cutters in whatever shapes you want – smaller is better. We did small flowers (cutters from a bento lunch kit we have), a heart, and small teddy bears (about 1/2 inch in length). Do whatever kiddo thinks “flower cookies” should look like, and have fun 🙂
- Line a large baking tray or other flat surface with silicone mats, a plastic tablecloth, or wax paper. We used cookie sheets because we did the clay mixing and rolling outside and then brought them inside to dry – and I highly recommend doing this outside, as clay can be a bit messy when kids are involved!
- Mix the clay powder and soil or compost powder in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix until a smooth ball forms – compress it, massage it, kneed it, etc to get the consistency right, and add more water if it doesn’t want to stick together.
- Place the clay ball on your mat or wax paper, and either roll or press out to 1/4 inch thickness. Again, this is an activity you can do with a three year old – Mattie and I smashed it with our fists until it looked thinner than a deck of cards and called it good.
- Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the rolled-out clay and soil, and then press firmly with your fingers and palms to make sure they’re slightly embedded in the surface of the clay.
- Use the cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the clay – press very firmly, and unlike biscuits and cookies, it’s perfectly fine (preferable, even) to wiggle the cookie cutter like crazy to make sure it cuts through the clay.
- Hopefully, when you lift the cookie cutter the clay will still be in it – gently press it out onto a corner of the mat or paper. If it sticks to the mat, just cut shapes out from around it or peel away the clay surrounding it to get to your shape.
- Smash all of the extra bits together, roll out, and cut more shapes.
- Let the shapes dry overnight, or ideally for 3-4 days (but toddler patience might only last for one sleep, and that’s fine too) – then plant them! Planting instructions would depend on what kinds of seeds you chose, but for us, we loosened the soil in a sunny patch of land and Mattie got to play around with either planting them, laying them on top of the soil, or tossing them onto the ground willy-nilly. Water according to the needs of the plants you’ve just started from seed