Frequently Asked Questions

General questions

Does one have to have permission to remove seaweed and if so from whom

Several of the 12,000+ varieties of seaweed in the ocean have been shown to be valuable additions to the organic garden and can be abundantly available free for those living near the coast. However, caution should be observed when collecting seaweed, particularly from areas that are liable to pollution, such as downriver (including estuaries) of industrial activities as seaweed is susceptible to contamination.

It is NOT an automatic public right to take seaweed from a beach. However it is a time honoured practice amongst gardeners (and farmers in some areas - especially amongst island communities).

Your right to harvest it depends on who owns the particular section of foreshore (the intertidal zone is otherwise known as the foreshore) you intend taking seaweed from. If it is privately owned, you can, and obviously should, ask permission first. The other consideration is whether there are any conservation orders in force in the area you want to take seaweed.

On 'public' beaches it's always a good idea to enquire first with your local council. In some areas there may be local by-laws in place that limit the practice. Most councils will be able to tell you who owns the foreshore.

Usually the response is that you can take as much as you like of detached (not growing) seaweed, for personal use on your allotment or in your garden to grow fruit & veg. for your own use - as long as you don't intend setting up a commercial enterprise and start selling your seaweed products to other gardeners for profit!

The same applies to rivers. Contrary to popular myth you only need an extraction licence if you intend taking over 10,000 gallons at a time. The odd water butt or watering can full is fine. River autorities are far more concerned about what you may put IN the rivers.

It's always a more comfortable experience when taking seaweed if you are content in the knowledge that you have asked first - you often get quizzical looks and awkward questions from spectators, if the beach that you are working on is populated by other less enlightened beach goers!

Out of interest, approximately half of the UK foreshore and around half of the tidal riverbeds are owned by the Crown and managed by The Crown Estate.

From a personal point of view (and this is only a PERSONAL comment) who on earth would prosecute someone for taking a few loads of seaweed from a shore for growing healthy food in one's own garden? It isn't quite in the same league as the practice of littering our beaches with plastic rubbish! However, the law is the law and you shouldn't take anything that doesn't belong to you (whether it's seawedd or anything else) without first seeking information regarding who it belongs to. The local council should be your first port of call. For peace of mind.


I have obtained some scaffolding boards to make a couple of raised beds but I should like to put some protective paint on them before making them up. All the wood paints I have looked at are not suitable because of containing nasties that would leech into the soil and ultimatlely poison anything growing there. What can I use that's safe?
Linseed oil is the classic wood treatment made from natural flax seed.
Linseed oil has excellent preservative properties and water resistance.  However, it is very slow drying and in cold or damp weather it may not even be worth applying it because it can just remain sticky for weeks.  As a result many available linseed oils are not pure raw linseed oil but a mixture with solvents such as mineral spirits, often called ‘boiled linseed oil’ to speed up the drying, which makes them much less natural.  Even worse, other linseed oils contain many of the ‘nasties’ such as heavy metals used in pressure treated (tantalised) timber.  So you have to be VERY sure you know what you are buying and remember that as a natural material, it doesn’t protect the wood from UV sunlight or mildew. [Also it is very flammable and rags used to apply it have been known to spontaneously combust - so  beware!]


So the choices are REALLY narrowed down. The fussier the grower is about contaminants the lesser the choice is, it would seem! I've seen raised beds that have been built using old railway sleepers that are saturated with creosote. They last a lifetime, BUT, as creosote is now unavailable - because Governments have banned it's use due to it's toxicity - you have to wonder what horrible nasties are leached into the food grown in raised beds made from sleepers. Years ago some gardeners, in their innocent ignorance have even used things like waste engine oil diluted with white spirits or even worse, with petrol! Don't forget that was in an age when gardeners were heady (literally sometimes!) with the marvels of chemicals. Victorian gardeners even used arsenic based mixtures for their gardens. Other things like D.D.T. were commonly used with disasterous consequencies. It makes you shudder!


A product that has caught my eye is a Canadian wood treatment that uses natural ingredients that are apparently 100% safe. The preservative comes in powder form & you mix it with water - amazingly, it's also very cheap and one application is supposed to last a lifetime! You can buy it on-line.


For more information click on this link:
What's the best way to transplant my seedlings?

First, make sure your plants are hardened off.  Also make sure they are well watered before you transplant so they're completely hydrated before the move. This will reduce shock.

Where possible, transplant in the evening, on a cloudy day, in the shade, or before a rain shower. Avoid transplanting in full sun or windy days which creates optimum stress on plants.

If you feel you must use fertiliser, go easy! Use half the recommended rate. You can always add more later. Consider that humans can take one tiny pill from a doctor which can make us feel better... a little goes a long way. Children can get sick eating too many vitamins... more is not better. If you have healthy soil, you don't need fertilizer. But if you still feel the need, then consider a treat of compost tea, fish emulsion, seaweed emulsion, etc a few days after they've adjusted to their new home. And again, not too much!

When transplanting, be gentle with the root system. Try to maintain the integrity of the soil structure to prevent shock, better safe than sorry (you experienced gardeners know the tolerance - this is for newbies). If you've got a four pack, don't take them all out and leave the roots sitting out in the sun or wind. Transplant one at a time. If you're planting into pots, keep the pots in the shade for a couple of days so your plants can adjust to their new environment.

Turn the pot upside down in your hand with the plant stem held in place between your middle & third finger. If the rootball does not slip out of the pot tap the edge of the pot against something convenient. BE GENTLE at all times.

Make sure the hole you have made is wide and deep enough. Slip the root ball into it and firm around the plant. This is important the plant should be planted FIRMLY in the ground with no air gaps (it's not as complicated as it sounds!).

Water immediately after transplanting. This will help the roots settle into their new home.

Will wildflowers grow in an area where there is only rocks and dirt (no good soil)?

I'm not sure what you mean by  "only dirt" (no good soil). Soill is "good" if it has nutrients, has an acceptable pH level (not too alkaline and not too acidic).

Soils high in nitrogen are said to favour docks (as well as nettles). So it should not be automatically assumed that dock infestation equals poor soil. In fact docks do NOT like over acidic (or sour) soil. This is the type of soil usually associated with poor growth as most plants do not thrive in very acidic soils - with the exception of things like heather or blueberries!

Most wild flowers are tolerant of a wide range of soils, although most prefer a neutral pH level (just below 7)  - some in fact favour poor soils. Any wild flower is usually very tolerant - hence the reason they can survive in the wild - without special cultivation.

Wildflowers are species of flowers that have shown themselves to be hardy and self-reproducing, with little attention form the gardener. Although they will grow wild or on their own, they are not necessarily native plants. Wildflower gardens are considered a low cost alternative to high maintenance gardening. Many wildflowers prefer poor soil and neglect, making them ideal for tough to maintain areas of your property.

So in short - don't assume that your dock infested area of "dirt" will not support wildflowers - if docks like it the chances are wildflowers will too! However dig up the docks because you don't want them competing with your flowers.

I hope that helps!




How do I prune raspberries?

Summer-fruiting raspberries behave like blackberries, fruiting on one-year-old canes that are cut out by pruning after harvest. Use new growth young canes (about 8 per plant) to take the place of the fruited ones.

Autumn-fruiting varieties, however, are cut to the ground in late winter to make way for new canes that will grow from the base and fruit the same year.

See our Raspberry Fact-File at

What is the average size of an UK allotment?

10 rods (or poles) in olden times. This converts to approximately 305sq yards or 250sq metres.

The National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) recognise a standard plot in law as 250sm.



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