Seaweed for the vegetable garden
Time and tide wait for no man
Seven sacks tied tightly with blue baling twine lie on their sides in the back of the car, their plastic pressed taut by giant bladder kelp. Recent storms had strewn a swathe of the kelp along Timaru’s Patiti Point beach. Armful size piles had made fast work of stuffing it into large sacks. Such good tidings this time!
giant bladder kelp
There’s a tiny virtue in our re-use of the plastic bags. They’re ‘MainFeed’ poultry mash ones, shiny and particularly well-sealed, but as a precaution, I put a tarp over the boot floor and folded down back seats. The freshness of this year’s bounty in stark contrast to most years, when decomposing heaps of mainly bull kelp squished in your hands and slithered into the sacks on trails of slime.
It took a couple of hours on a benign late August morning: cool, dry, and a whisper of a sou’west breeze. During that time, three people had put us, and their strolls, on pause.
Well out of earshot, a man chatted to June for what seemed an age. It transpired that he was a retired beef and sheep farmer, and not long married to his second wife. To keep her happy, and I guess, busy, he had bought her a motel business. Now he finds: “All she wants to do is shop!” The release from Covid-19 lockdowns seeing her clock-up many extra hours and dollars.
They’ve not got a vegetable garden. Where would they find the time?
The middle-aged woman who wanted to know if I was collecting seaweed for the garden, pointed out a big mound of kelp in the direction she had come from. “We’ve run out of sacks,” I said.
Glancing at my sacks and the ones by June farther down the beach: “You must have a big vegetable garden? Is it for the potassium and magnesium?” I assured her that our vegetable garden was indeed big.
“And iodine,” I said. “All those trace elements that New Zealand soils tend to be deficient in.” Before she moved off, I asked her whether she had a vegetable garden.
“No – it’s the one thing I’m not good at.” Where would she find the time?
By this time, June and the ex-farmer had finished their conversation. Soon after, a woman came up to her, interested to learn that some of the seaweed was destined for the asparagus bed.
our asparagus bed
“When we moved to Timaru we were going to put in an asparagus bed. Then we found out it would take the asparagus crowns three or four years to establish, and decided it wouldn’t be worth it. We were only planning to stay three years, but we’ve now been here seven,” she said. Where would they find the time?
June told her I’d made one twenty-eight years ago. I dug out soil and clay to a depth of half a metre first, and added more depth to the rich soil profile by surrounding it with 30 centimetre high boards.
one of our leeks – another seaweed loving ‘gross feeder’
Those ‘gross feeders’ (as they say), in their well-drained raised bed full of friable soil, have yielded good crops of asparagus over the years. The times when we’ve not got in seaweed the asparagus has suffered. In those years, where would we have found the time?
That’s all from Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.