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Seaweed in your garden: a good fertilizer and potential pest control

Many people around the world for centuries have known that seaweeds are an excellent fertilizer. Recently people have been reporting another benefit of using seaweeds in their garden, pest control.

When these reports started rolling in, researchers began experimenting on apple orchards, and so far have some conflicting data. One experiment in Washington found mite populations reduced when seaweed extracts were applied to the apples. However, in Vermont, another team found no difference in mite population but did report a reduction of maggots.

While the research remains inconclusive, many garden enthusiasts swear by it. Some claim that the timing of application is important, depending on where you are geographically and the type of pests you encounter.

Liquid seaweed is a common store item that can be used as fertilizer and pest control.

Further research into the mechanisms of these deterrents is needed. If conclusive, seaweeds could be an excellent organic pesticide for home or industrial use.

Old stories told by a retired priest on how to live off seaweed.

Fiona Bird, author of Seaweed in the Kitchen, tells a fascinating story about an old priest that grew up on seaweed.

Canon Angus MacQueen, born in 1923 lived on the isle of Barr UK. MacQueen recounts stories of living off the land and sea. For instance the importance of seaweed as a fertilizer. The seaweed used as manure is kelp, Laminaria digitata, and Laminaria hyperborea. The Islanders refer to as “tangle“. He was also quoted saying “After a year or two you became an expert on what to eat and what not to eat. What to eat, was nice things, like the baby seaweed on the tangle (kelp) – the dulse. We grew throughout the summer months feeding ourselves on seaweed.”

The entire story can be read here, and is a wonderful look into old-time farm/island living and shows how important seaweeds were to these people for centuries.

Happy seaweed day!

Today, February 6th, is national seaweed day (海苔の日 ) in Japan!

In 1966 the National Lionfish and Shellfishes Cooperative Federation Association declared February 6 the day of seaweed. This date was chosen as it marks the beginning of the nori season (early spring).

So go out and grab some of your favorite seaweed snacks to celebrate!

Seaweed folklore: Predicting rain

Over the weekend, people in the USA sought weather advice from a rodent. Groundhog day (Feb. 2nd) is a superstitious tradition where if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. 

There are many different superstitions across cultures to predict weather, some have a kernel of truth while others are outright ridiculous.

Did you know that seaweeds have been used to predict rain? The tradition is to hang dried seaweed outside with a nail. If the seaweed stays dry the weather will be sunny and dry. If the seaweed is wet and flexible, as if it had just been from the ocean, then rain is coming.

The origin of this tradition is unknown, but the kernel of truth is valid. Seaweeds are able to dehydrate and re-hydrate over and over. If there is enough moisture in the air the dried seaweed will re-hydrate. It turns out that moisture in the air can be a decent indicator of rain.

If you want to read about some other interesting weather predicting traditions there is a good article here

Looking for an art and craft idea? How about seaweed holiday ornaments?

If you are looking for a fun arts and craft idea, try playing with some seaweed. Why go to a craft store and spend all that money when you can take a walk to the beach instead? Thin seaweeds can be dried in as little as one day, and will keep for years as long as they don’t get wet.

Arrange any seaweed in a shape and dry, it’s that easy! If you wish to hang your art you can glue to a poster or poke a hole for a string.

To dry seaweed, simply arrange it on anything from trays to cookie sheets to screens. You can also dry large kelp by hanging them over railings or on laundry lines. Place them in a warm room, in the sun, or in a warm oven. Thick kelp can even be shaped with some coat hangers for a more elaborate configuration.

You can also press seaweed just as you would flowers. Here's how (for seaweeds less than 0.5 inch thick seaweed):

Materials:

  • seaweed
    shallow pan
    freshwater or sea water
    heavy paper
    wax paper or plastic film
    old newspapers

    cardboard
    waterproof marking pen

Fill the pan with water and place the heavy paper in the pan. Then place the seaweed on top of the paper and carefully lift out the paper and seaweed.

Layer materials in this order: cardboard, newspaper, heavy paper with seaweed, wax paper, newspaper, cardboard. Repeat this process with other seaweeds, placing them on top of the first. Then you can move the whole pile to a flat place and put some weight, like rocks or a few bricks, on top. Change the newspapers and wax paper daily (to prevent molding) until the seaweed is dry. Some seaweeds contain a natural adhesive that will keep them stuck to the paper--others may need to be mounted with some glue.

Know you local regulations

Before you take seaweed from the beach, familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations. For instance, in CA with a fishing licence you may take up to 10 lbs of seaweed, except from protected areas or protected species. Children under 16 don’t require a licence.