Here on the blustery west coast of BC, there’s one sure reward for withstanding the windstorms that pound the beaches from fall to spring: kelp.
It washes up in clumps in those coves where the wind and currents carry it, feeding little girls’ imaginations with its long, two-pronged leaf clumps on hollow bulbs, evoking mermaids in pigtails.
Kelp also happens to be about the best food there is for your soil and plants.
Not everyone has easy access to beaches, or time to go foraging, but you can still get kelp for your garden in a variety of forms, including dried meals and powders, or the concentrated liquid kelp fertilizer offered by me.
Though most people think of kelp as a kind of sea plant, it’s actually a large group of algae types, consisting of seven different families, thirty genera, and many different individual species.
It has a two-phase life cycle – in its sexual reproduction (or “gametophyte”) phase, we wouldn’t even recognize it as kelp.
One of the reasons kelp is so nutrient-dense, besides the inherently balanced micro-nutrient content of seawater, is that it needs especially nutrient-rich waters to grow and reproduce.
Like all organisms, it also thrives best in intact ecosystems. Increasing changes to the ocean environment, as well as over-harvesting of the kelp itself, have meant these mystical and productive ocean forests are beginning to be degraded.
There are now restoration projects being conducted to protect this group of keystone species, so they can continue to provide homes for sea dragons, shrimp, sea sponges, octopus, fish, and the many other organisms that inhabit kelp forests.
The kelp fertilizer offered by the Pantry is sustainably harvested here in BC.
Like pretty much everything that comes from the ocean, kelp is an amazing source of micronutrients. Micronutrients aren’t just the latest health fad, now applied to your garden. They really matter. Here’s why:
Soil scientists over time have agreed that the most limiting factor for plant growth will be whichever nutrient is most lacking, relative to the plant’s needs – or to be even more accurate, relative to the needs of the soil bacteria that feed the plants.
Most recently, researcher Ana Primavesi has found that the balanced availability of over 70 different mineral nutrients, often in very small quantities, has a dramatic impact on plant growth.
Unfortunately, the fertilizer industry has spent a lot of time and money convincing people that the only nutrients your garden needs are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K).
This just isn’t true, and the result is depleted soils, both in farmers’ fields and in urban backyards.
Trying to grow healthy plants in this damaged soil is like trying to bake good bread with just flour and water – you’ll end up with something, but it won’t compare to what you’d have if all of the ingredients were present in the right amounts.
It can take time to restore the micronutrient balance in our soils. That’s why kelp fertilizer, like other full-spectrum nutrient sources such as sea minerals and glacial rock dust, is always beneficial, whether applied directly to the soil, in foliar sprays, or used for soaking the root ball of plants when transplanting.
I especially like this last application, usually combined with Effective Microorganisms, as the biostimulant properties of kelp seem to reduce transplant shock and help plants to adapt more quickly to their new environment.
But kelp’s biostimulant properties go way beyond this. Human understanding hasn’t yet caught up to explaining all the complex interactions of various organic substances like auxins and cytokinins in kelp fertilizer, and their effects on plants and soil.
What we do know is that they have synergistic positive effects, and improve everything from soil structure, through plant growth at all stages of development, to taste and shelf life in fruits and vegetables.
This beautiful and valuable gift from the oceans is one of the nicest offerings you can give your garden, as microbes and plants alike are reborn each spring.
If you’re interested, here’s where you can check out my organic liquid kelp fertilizer.