Frequently Asked Questions

Soil preparation and composting

If liquid seaweed feed is a good general fertiliser can one take fresh seaweed from a beach to use as an over-wintering soil mulch ?


Is an excellent practice, especially if it's 'weathered' over winter - after you collect it into a heap or into a compost bin - as that helps to leach out any excess salt in the weaweed.

Seaweed is a first class mulch and is a wonderful compost as it contains not only the basic nutrients for plants, but it also contains a wide range of minerals not commonly found in green land grown vegetation.
 It is also high in iodine and other trace elements. This is the reason why it's used widely in tomato plant food.

Seaweed is among the best gifts nature makes available for the gardener. Seaweed will benefit your garden at any time of year, but it is especially useful as a mulch to protect plants during hot, dry weather. In our garden, many over the centuries have come to rely on seaweed as a valuable, yet free, source of fertilizer, mulch and organic pest control all in one natural material.


1. Saves water, keeps soil moist at ground level

The purpose of any mulch is to keep garden soil from drying out at the surface. And by preventing moisture from evaporating, mulch reduces the need for watering. The practice of mulching is essential in areas where conditions are hot and dry.

2. Eliminates the need to weed

Mulch covers the soil and blocks new weeds from sprouting. Because the soil beneath the mulch remains moist, any weeds which do manage to sprout through the mulch are easy to pick.

3. Repels slugs and other pests

Slugs are immediately repelled by two things – salt and sharp-edged materials. Seaweed has a natural salt content which repels slugs, and within a few days of application it dries and becomes quite crispy. Slugs do not like “crispy” surfaces, as the sharp salty edges cut into the soft body tissue. While some mulches may provide hiding spots for slugs, earwigs and other pests, seaweed mulch does not have this disadvantage.

4. Enriches the soil

 Seaweed is a broad spectrum fertilizer that is rich in beneficial trace minerals and hormones that stimulate plant growth. Seaweed is high in carbohydrates which are essential building blocks in growing plants, and low in cellulose so it breaks down readily. Seaweed shares no diseases with land plants.

5. Boosts lethargic plants

Seaweed fertilizer contains an abundance of fully chelated (ready to use) micro-nutrients which can be readily absorbed by plants without any further chemical decomposition needed.

6. Helps lighten the soil

Compacted soil can benefit as seaweed mulch breaks down. As the material becomes incorporated into the soil, aeration is improved and the soil becomes more crumbly and moist.

7. Does not contain weed seeds, unlike bark mulch

Seaweed does not bring any foreign weed seeds into your garden.

8. Added bonus

 It’s usually free! As long as you put in the effort to harvest and transport it to your veg. plot.

What should I do with earthworms in my compost bin?
Earthworms are a gardeners best friends. Without worms, our soil would become sterile & useless.
Earthworms have been called ‘ecosystem engineers’. Much like human engineers, earthworms change the structure of their environments. Different types of earthworms can make both horizontal and vertical burrows, some of which can be very deep in soils. These burrows create pores through which oxygen and water can enter and carbon dioxide can leave the soil.Earthworm casts (their faeces) are also very important in soils and are responsible for some of the fine crumb structure of soils.
Earthworms play an important role in breaking down dead organic matter in a process known as decomposition. This is what the earthworms living in your compost bin are doing and earthworms living in soils also decompose organic matter. Decomposition releases nutrients locked up in dead plants and animals and makes them available for use by living plants. Earthworms do this by eating organic matter and breaking it down into smaller pieces allowing bacteria and fungi to feed on it and release the nutrients.

Earthworms are also responsible for mixing soil layers and incorporating organic matter into the soil. Charles Darwin referred to earthworms as ‘nature’s ploughs’ because of this mixing of soil and organic matter. This mixing improves the fertility of the soil by allowing the organic matter to be dispersed through the soil and the nutrients held in it to become available to bacteria, fungi and plants.

If your compost bin is full of worms it's an excellent sign that the compost is healthy. When you use the compost you'll be introducing them to your soil, where they'll continue with their fine work - so whatever you do take care of them!

Some gardeners actually buy a variety of earthworms called "Tiger" worms (because of their ringed markings) that they introduce to their compost in order to help with the decomposition. This is why wormeries are also used to help enrich compost material before it is used for plants.

Remember "an earthworm is the gardener's best friend"!

What kind of soil is best to grow veg. in?

The simple answer? A good one!

Vegetables however will tolerate a wide range of soil types, they will grow in a many types of soils, from light sandy types to heavy clays, it's their fertility that is important! they are more sensitive to soil pH (acidity or alkaline levels) nutrients and moisture levels than soil types.

Planting vegetables into a medium loam is the ideal environment for growing healthy and vigorous plants.

Medium loam is an average soil type with a good balance between being very productive - good nutrient content and ability to hold moisture and air, whilst giving it the minimum of attention - feeding, adding compost, improving drainage etc.

But... worry yourself not, as ever, you're looking to achieve the ideal over time, whilst working adequately with what you have until you can achieve your ideal.

Vegetables growing in poor, starved soils will never do well. Why? Because just like you after a hard day on your veg plot - they're hungry. Digging in plenty of well rotted manure or compost is the best way to make your soil fertile.

Using a receptacle about the size of a bucket aim to add about a couple of these per square metre/yard per year. Several things happen here:

  • The compost/manure is broken down by soil bacteria (millions of them in a teaspoon of soil) into humus from which plant nutrients are released.
  • Humus, in turn, makes light (sandy) soils more moisture retentive and improves the drainage of heavy (clay) soils.
  • Humus increases the amount of air in the soil.
  • Encourages worm activity which are essential for soil fertility.
Why is it important to rotate my vegetable crops each season?

The reason for growing particular varieties of vegetable plants in different parts of your vegetable garden each season is that soil pests, like eelworm and clubroot for example, are hard to control. They tend to attack vegetable plants from the same botanical family (eg. clubroot affects cauliflower and cabbage which belong to the Brassica family).

When they are grown over a number of years in the same area of your vegetable garden, you can get a very serious build-up of these pests and diseases.

The four major groups of vegetables to rotate are:

1    Brassicas - brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflowers, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, turnips, swedes etc.) 2    Onions - garlic, leeks, shallots etc.
3    Potatoes and Tomatoes
4    Legumes - beans, peas.

It is good vegetable gardening practice - where possible, to grow these vegetables in the same area only one year in three, some commentators would advocate four. This will minimise the build up of unwanted vegetable garden dwellers and maximise your vegetable crops.

Remember this is something to aim for but may not always be achievable. Don't give up or become despondent you will succeed with what you have in place for growing vegetables - just be aware, observe and take precautions.

Is it possible to compost in a pit underground?

Yes it is, and very successfully too.

What you probably need is what's called "Trench Composting".

Through autumn and winter, recycle your kitchen waste by putting it into a trench or pit. Dig a trench one spade wide and one spade deep (approx 30 x 30cm), fill the trench with alternating layers of kitchen waste and garden soil. When full, cover with the remaining soil and leave to settle for one to two months before sowing or planting.

This system is ideal for growing runner beans, peas, courgettes and pumpkins. Obviously your trench will have to be wider and deeper than one spade. Width would be approx. 18" (45cm) and the depth about two spits (two spades).

What kind of omposting is best for me?

Composting can be the best thing you can do for your garden. The advantages of feeding the microbial soil life with a steady supply of organic materials has benifits that chemical fertilizers can not match. The options available to you are many.

  • hot compost,
  • cold compost,
  • leaf mold,
  • Interbay Mulch.

Many roads to the same end result, which is well rotted, rich organic material to enhance and feed the soil. 

You can also use the finished, composted material to brew "teas" to water the plants with. Recent research has been showing this to be a very powerful tool to naturaly protect your plants from a wide variety of diseases and blights.

A few of the major composting methods that are employed by home gardeners are:

Cold Compost Pile: A pile which is made up of greens and browns and then left alone to rot in place for several months to several years.

Hot or Active Compost Pile: A pile which is made up of greens and browns and then turned and aerated often to incorporate air, water, and/or fresh ingredients. Require more effort but often results in finished compost within a several weeks to a few months.

Sheet Composting or "Lasagna" Bed: Also known as Interbay Mulch. A specific sort of compost pile in which green and brown materials are built up in lasagna style layers over a present or future garden bed site. 

Pit or Trench Composting: A method where you bury organic material directly in the ground, sometimes along side of plantings, in a shallow trench.

Many folks are intimidated and think composting is a difficult process. It is not, Nature has been doing it for quite some time. But you do have to follow some basics to be successful. 

The “best” way to go about it depends on many factors. If you ask yourself some questions about your specific needs it can help you to focus and determine what would be most successful for your specific situation. The amount and diversity of organic material you have available to compost determines your needs somewhat, as well as the quality of the finished product.



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