So, we decided to try making some more. We went to Fort Bragg, California, for the fourth of July Celebrations and on our last two days there collected an ice chest full of kelp and seaweed. We weren’t selective because all of it breaks down into wonderful nutrients, though some are a bit more nutrient dense than others. Bull kelp is known for being very nutrient dense. Unfortunately, there had not been any storms at sea, so there wasn’t a lot of kelp on the beach to choose from anyway.
Most seaweed, as well as kelp (which is a type of seaweed) is actually algae. Why is decomposed/fermented algae good for your crops? You see, unlike plants grown in your backyard garden or at the local farm, which can only take in nutrients available to the approximately 1 square foot of root space it has available in the soil, seaweed is able to take in a vast array of nutrients as the ocean currents pass over and through them. So, while your garden soil may be deficient in boron or calcium, or have too many salts and remains that way without intervention, the ocean currents that feed the seaweed are constantly moving, churning and renewing, giving them a greater variety and volume of nutrients, which can then be fermented/decomposed into liquid gold for your plants.
Sounds great, right?
In our quest to be able to grow a lot of our own food, having nutrient rich soil in our garden and orchard is a must. So, along with composting, we decided to make our own natural and organic fertilizer!
The seaweed came in many colors this time – so gorgeous! I spent about half an hour cleaning the sand, sand fleas, and other critters out of the seaweed, then soaked it all in cold, clean water for about a day. This helps to leach a lot of the ocean salt out of the seaweed.
The seaweed was then placed into a 50 gallon barrel, with enough clean water to cover. We put a screen on top to keep the flies out and – voila!! – the hard part was done!
WORD OF CAUTION: You MUST stir the seaweed in the barrel at least every day. Two or three times a day is better. Why? Because you want the decomposition to be aerobic, not anaerobic. Aerobic decomposition smells kinda bad. Anaerobic decomposition downright stinks – really bad!
Ray had an old wooden boat oar that we used to stir our fermenting brew and it came in very handy, as I was able to really give it a good stir around and easily scrape the bottom with it. All I had the last time was a stick, which worked but was pretty inefficient.
Unfortunately there was a few days when we were not at the homestead to stir the brew, it was mid summer and the temperatures were soaring. When we came home I swear we could smell it before we even hit our street!
Ugh – phew.
Think… old fashioned hair permanent mixed with cow barn in the middle of a prune dehydrator. Whew it was bad. So, believe me, you want to mix the brew EVERY DAY!
When is it done? When it no longer stinks!! Our first batch got to the point that it really didn’t stink, but this batch was different. Let me tell you, I couldn’t wait for the day we would bottle it, and the truth is we may have bottled it up just a bit sooner than we should. But after we let it decompose anaerobically by neglect, it never did get to that “ocean breeze” smell that it’s supposed to get to. Stirring it very well several times a day for the next week or so did make it smell a bit better, but it really never did completely stop stinking.
When we went to the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa this year, we talked with a guy who knew about making kelp fertilizer, and explained how stinky it was when we hadn’t stirred it for a few days. He suggested putting a fish tank aerator at the bottom of the barrel, run by a solar powered pump! Great idea! We still have to stir the brew, but at least it will be constantly aerated. We are going to try that the next time we do this.
Eventually, after about two months, I decanted the fertilizer into gallon sized jugs. We ended up with just about 12 gallons. The solids that were left at the bottom of the barrel were sandwiched into our compost pile, which I hope to use next spring in my new garden.
I already used the fertilizer when I planted my broccoli and brussels sprout seeds a month or so ago, and holy moly, this stuff works! One of the great things about seaweed fertilizer
is that it contains something called gibberellic acid, which is a substance that helps seeds germinate. I don’t want to brag, but my seeds were up in three days. Three days!
The next time we visit the ocean and bring back some seaweed to make more fertilizer, we will be trying the fish tank aerator, and I will let you know how this works out. Hopefully it will ease the smell and make it so that home brewed seaweed fertilizer is a lot more fun to make! 😉
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