When we get a storm on the Islands a lot of seaweed tends to get broken off the rocks, and beaches on the windward side end up with piles of seaweed stacked up around the high water mark.
Of course as most of the storms happen in winter and this is when most seaweed comes in, sometimes resulting in a huge amount piled up four or five feet high.
This photo was taken on Lawrences beach at the end of November. It gave us rich pickings for the farm, where we lay out on the fields to improve soil fertility and organic matter levels. Even so it’s unlikely we picked up more than 5% of this huge amount of seaweed – there must have been hundreds of tonnes deposited in one day.
People often ask if we compost seaweed first before putting it on the fields. The simple answer is ‘no’ – for two reasons. Firstly it would be hugely time consuming and difficult to do so.
Secondly there is really no need. If you lay on seaweed in the winter, about 4-6 inches thick, soon the rain will help to break it down so that you are left with a layer about 1-2 inches thick within a couple of months. The rain helps to wash out the salt, and you are left with an excellent layer of organic matter.
We use November and December as the main ‘seaweeding months’, that way the soil is ready to cultivate in February or March in time for new season crops.
This has been a good year for seaweed, and at time of writing we are very close to finishing all the seaweed we need for 2019.
Given that we need around 50 trailer loads a year, each of around 1.5 tonnes, that’s a lot of seaweed to handle. Every single bit of it is loaded and unloaded by hand!