Jun 25, 2012

Seaweed Fertilizer~ A Gift from the Sea

I don't put my toes in the ocean nearly as often as I should despite the fact that we live only a ten minute drive away. I always seem to be chained to my computer. With the kids home for the summer and also chained to the house, I decided to take my daughter to the beach early yesterday morning (there would be zero parking later in the day). I love walking on the beach first thing in the morning, watching the shell gatherers and fishers. The dolphins feed in the surf and low-flying squadrons of pelicans silently patrol the waters.

I was shocked when we got down to the water's edge. The beach was covered in seaweed. Usually, Tybee beach is free of the stuff, which I always lament because it can be a great food source and makes great fertilizer. This was a rare event. We took a few small bags home with us with the intention of coming back later and filling the car. I spoke with the Tybee Marine Science Center when we got back home and they told me it was Sargassum. It had been disturbed and re-routed in Atlantic storms and appeared on the beach the day before.

We came back in the early evening with buckets and garbage bags to gather more. My daughter threatened that, if anyone she knew saw us, she'd never speak to me again. We scooped as much seaweed as we could before it started raining and dragged it all back to the car. It was a good thing the ride home was only 10 minutes because seaweed is...ah...fragrant.

This batch will all be garden fertilizer because dear daughter threatened to disown me if I made her eat something we picked off a beach. Someday, she'll eat some and won't even know it. Yes, I'm that kind of mother. I got her to eat eggplants for years by calling them aubergines. That only worked until she started taking French in school...

If Tropical Storm Debby ever leaves, I will half fill a 55 gallon barrel with the seaweed and top it up with water. The barrel has a tap on the bottom which I'll use to strain off the "seaweed tea". It will ferment in the barrel for about two months before I start using it. Over time, I'll top it up with fresh seaweed and more water. It should be enough to last the garden for a whole year. The seaweed tea is diluted with water using 5 parts water to 1 part tea before being sprayed on plant leaves or used as a soil soak.

What's so great about seaweed fertilizer? If you only look at its NPK value (0-0-1), it doesn't look so hot. But seaweed carries more than 60 minerals and micronutrients that are important to healthy soil. It remineralizes the soil and provides potassium to help plants take up other nutrients. And it is expensive in stores. Why not use the bounty of the nearby sea?

2 comments:

Brad Sylvester said...

Does salt build-up in the soil become a problem over time when using fresh seaweed for this?

312east5th said...

Just came across your blog on the backyard chickens page on facebook! So glad I did. What great advice you have.