Buddleia has something of a stranglehold on our wastelands. The non-native species so beloved by butterflies and bees was introduced into the UK by Victorian plant-hunters and, ever since, has come to dominate our railway sidings, roadside verges and derelict urban plots.
But guerrilla gardeners have attempted to fight back in recent years by increasing the range of species taking seed on neglected sites with the use of the "seedbomb" – a fistful of compacted compost stuffed full of differing seeds which is tossed over a fence in the hope it will trigger a more diverse habitat on the other side. It's the ultimate hippy grenade with roots spreading back to before the days of the Diggers.
A new book called Seedbombs: Going Wild with Flowers by Josie Jeffery introduces this concept to modern readers, but the idea of seedbombing first germinated in Japan with the ancient practice of tsuchi dango, which translates as "earth dumpling". The idea was again popularised in the 20th century by Masanobu Fukuoka, an advocate of "Do Nothing Farming". And there have even been proposals in recent years to adopt the idea on an industrial scale to repopulate vast areas with trees.
Josie Jeffery's book takes the handicraft route, though, with lots of recipes and illustrations for how to make your own seedbombs at home. (Pre-made bombs can also be purchased online.) Here is her "seedbomb base" recipe with which you can add your own mix of seeds, be it wild flowers, trees or even vegetables:
Makes six sizeable seedbombs
* 5 tablespoons of seed compost
* 4 tablespoons of terracotta clay powder
* 1 teaspoon of seeds (Note: Base this on poppy seeds as a size guide and add half a teaspoon more as the seeds go up in size.)
* 1 teaspoon of chilli powder as a pest deterrent (optional)
* Sprinkles of water at intervals (the geek in me worked out it was about 20ml!)
* Liquid fertiliser, if NPK (Nitrogen/Phosphorus/Potassium) is absent in the compost
Jeffery has devoted a section of her book to "responsible seedbombing", with a strong emphasis on "making sure you get your aim straight – metaphorically as well as physically". Choosing a suitable site is as crucial as choosing suitable seeds, she says, accepting that some might view seedbombing as "vandalism".
Is the site protected as a conservation area?
Is the area privately owned? Make sure the land isn't used for agricultural puposes; you don't want to interfere with food crops.
Is the site abandoned and will it benefit from being beautified? Ensure the site is not due for imminent construction and that the plants will thrive there.
Do foster orphaned land and fill urban voids with flowers.
Do attract wildlife.
Don't throw seedbombs at people or windows. Ensure that nothing or nobody will be damaged or harmed by your flying seedbombs.
Don't throw them on land with inadequate growing conditions. If there is insufficient light and no obvious soil for the plants to anchor themselves, they will eventually perish.
Don't use seedbombs as a form or aggression or vandalism.
Personally, I think seedbombs are a delightful idea and, if done with the sort of forethought demanded by Jeffery, I really can't see why anyone would reasonably object.
But the precise legality of throwing seeds onto someone else's property, even if the site is derelict and showing all the signs of having long been abandoned, is still unclear. Could it be classified as littering? Or could a particularly intolerant and belligerent landowner press for a seedbomber to be held liable for vandalism or trespass through a civil action, as one lawyer I spoke suggested could, in theory, be possible, depending on the "injury" caused to the property?
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Top Image Credit: Jin-wook Hwang