Saturday 22 December 2012

Driftweed from the shore

Photo: Jon Haylett
There's a really useful by product of winter gales like the one raging at the moment....drift weed. The gales and the high tide combine to tear seaweed, mainly kelp, from the rocks and deposit it in neat swathes along the strand at high water mark. For centuries this bounty of the sea has been an essential organic manure and fertiliser for crofts along the sea shore. This "drift weed" rots down quickly, is a good source of nitrogen and potassium fertiliser and numerous trace elements and even hormones that appear to stimulate plant growth.

Because it breaks down rapidly its nitrogen and potassium are leached through the soil or the nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia.  For maximum effect fertilising effect it is best ploughed in as soon as possible. But its free so we use it as a mulch for the soft fruit, an excellent addition to the compost heap and it can even be used as a top dressing on hay fields.

Seaweed on the tide-line 3m wide and 50cm deep

The downside is that collection and transport are labour intensive and it contains bits of plastic, rope and rubber boots, usually left boots, which suggests that there's a rather careless one legged fisherman operating out there in the sound.

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