Real Men Sow

A Soil Improver Change for 2014: Seaweed and Kitchen Compost

raisedbeds

Yesterday, I just about beat the downpour to rake some goodness over my raised beds.

This year is a first for me – I have always used farmyard manure to replenish my soil. I don’t know if this is tradition, but it’s just a routine I’ve always followed. End of the season, dig over, fill up my poor dad’s box trailer with well-rotted manure from the local stables, and chuck it on the plot.

I’ve experimented on small beds with other soil improvers, like green manure (not all that successfully, but probably my fault) and seaweed (really successful for the root crops I grew in the bed) but I’ve never gone exclusively non-farmyard.

This year however, I’ve decided to have a change. I’m purely using seaweed and kitchen compost.

Seaweed
Seaweed has been used as a soil improver for many years, and contains many valuable plant nutrients, such as nitrogen. You can buy dried and liquidised seaweed from garden centres, but of course I’m not going to pay for it when I’m fortunate enough to live near the coast…

My house is a few hundred yards from the River Crouch, where bladderwrack is plentiful. The tides were high at the weekend, which was very handy as the seaweed was pushed right up on to the waterside. Gathering the seaweed into bags was a doddle. I parked my car next to the beach, filled five bags and didn’t even get my feet wet or muddy. All this took less than half an hour.

I covered two of my raised beds in the seaweed, and spread three big bags of kitchen compost on the other. I am currently in the enviable position of swimming in kitchen compost.

Kitchen Compost
My mum is a prolific composter, and has been emptying all her bins over the past couple of months in readiness for her house move. She has stored bags and bags of the stuff in several locations since. Happily, one off these places is my garden. :)

Mum always bags her compost up to help finish off the rotting, and ties the top with string. The compost warms in the plastic, and speeds up the final decomposition.

I’m very interested to see how the compost does in comparison to the seaweed, and the horse manure before it. I’ve never used compost as manure on a whole bed before, just as mulch around the base of plants.

Breaking Up the Eggshells and More Protection for the Soil
One tip I must pass on to mum though (get me!): eggs don’t compost down as fast as everything else, so need breaking up into little bits first before they’re thrown into the bin. At the moment I’ve got a lovely, crumbly topping, interspersed with eggshells! Oh well, might keep the slugs off.

The layer of leaf mould I’d laid on my topsoil in Autumn is now rotting into the soil, so getting the compost and seaweed down is timely. This will offer the soil some more protection over the remainder of winter.

Cheapy Chipping Options?
The next job is to install weed suppressant liner around the beds so can I add shingle or chipping paths. So far, everything in my new kitchen garden has been begged, free or reclaimed, but I’ll have to buy the liner and possibly the chippings.

I am still working on a frugal alternatives for liner and chippings, but if anyone has any wallet-friendly suggestions I’d love to hear them.

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11 Comments

  1. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening!January 6, 2014 at 7:30 pmReply

    What about corrugated cardboard for weed suppression? Cover with mulch of almost any kind and it should be a good barrier. I used cardboard covered by three inches or so of wood chips and although a few perennial weeds poked through, it was the most weed-free my paths have ever been. :)

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 7, 2014 at 1:40 pmReplyAuthor

      Hey Alan, thanks, that certainly fits the financial specification! I like the idea of using a more environmentally friendly membrane rather than the plastic too.

  2. DanJanuary 6, 2014 at 8:49 pmReply

    I was planning on putting mainly kitchen compost onto my veg beds this year, last year I used manure. Last year wasn’t the greatest for me (although that was my fault in the main) so I will see how kitchen compost works for me this year. I have used cardboard at the bottom of beds before as a weed suppressant but never on a path. Might be worth a try.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 7, 2014 at 1:42 pmReplyAuthor

      Good luck Dan, and thanks for your comment. Look forward to reading more of your blog.

  3. sidJanuary 6, 2014 at 8:53 pmReply

    After drying ouqt over a few days, I give my eggshells a spin in the liquidizer before adding them to the compost. The worms don’t have to wait too long before they get their calcium fix.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 7, 2014 at 1:42 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks Sid, that’s a great tip. :)

  4. theovergrownplotJanuary 7, 2014 at 12:40 pmReply

    I didn’t realise you could put seaweed straight on. I suppose that makes sense as it’s not full of urine etc. and would only release nutrients slowly as it breaksdown in the soil. Good plan. I’m gonna get me some.

  5. Jono

    JonoJanuary 7, 2014 at 1:45 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey OGP – when I was researching sea weed, I found that the RHS said it could just go straight on. The salt doesn’t affect the soil and is easily washed off by rain etc.

    Funny about the urine – last year I put horse manure on my garden veg beds and it stunk. The neighbours didn’t say anything, but they must have smelt it. I like the seaweed as no such problems with that, just a faint smell of the river for half an hour or so!

    Let me know how you get on.

  6. StuJanuary 11, 2014 at 10:49 amReply

    Good to know the salt content isn’t a problem, I did wonder.

    First time doing anything like this for me, so thinking I might have a wander out to some of the various local farms, they often have bagged manure for sale at the gate for 50p or so.

  7. lizJanuary 13, 2014 at 7:23 pmReply

    What? and the neighbors are not complaining about the smell of seaweed? I tried that once and it smelled pretty bad, must have been because it was in the middle of summer, huh? I think that cardboard is an excellent way to cover up the ground to keep weeds from growing and is cheap! Also, if you put coffee grounds on top that is also a good smell and you can get them for free. I have found that they inhibit weeds also if put on thick enough, althought they like to follow you in the house. :-)

  8. Rhys JaggarNovember 3, 2014 at 10:43 amReply

    We got absolutely giant parsnips this year using manure-free compsot.

    The spuds did really well overlaying horse manure in November 2013. So did the autumn raspberries and the asparagus.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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