I had planned to do this mid-September, but we finally got around to it during the warm days of New Year's weekend. While seaweed may not be at everyone's disposal, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by miles of this natural fertilizer. (Seaweed isn't usually one of the reasons I consider myself lucky to live where I live, but after a somewhat disappointing year of vegetable growing, I figured it was worth embracing.) I read up a little, here and here, and learned that seaweed enriches and lightens the soil, eventually improving seed germination and nutritional value. Plus it helps to repel pests, an area where we could use a lot of help.
I was expecting that transporting seaweed would be like an episode of Dirty Jobs, but it was actually quite easy and not so messy. Since it is Winter, there were no bugs, and the smell was minimal. The above sites advised taking from the top of the beach, where the seaweed is drier, and only taking a third of a clump from one area, to minimize disturbance to marine life. Some people recommend asking the town permission before taking the seaweed, but we didn't.
We took a large cooler and a milk crate to the beach during low tide, and filled them up.
Doesn't that look yummy? We wore gloves, in case you were wondering.
Once home, we had the option of spreading the seaweed directly into the garden, or mixing it into our compost bin. We decided to spread it like mulch; the recommendation was about 4-6 inches deep. We only had enough to cover half the garden, so it will be a controlled experiment. Or maybe we'll go back and get more.
The seaweed should start to decompose into the soil in a matter of days. If it doesn't, we'll cover it with leaves to speed up the process. While we were out in the garden, we noticed that some of the garlic is prematurely sprouting. This is the time of year when gardeners in the Northeast expect to be sitting by the fire reading seed catalogs, not gathering and spreading seaweed, so I don't blame the garlic for being confused. I guess we can't do much about it, but I hope we'll still get some of the nearly four dozen cloves to do what they're supposed to do come April.
Have you used seaweed or other unusual things in your garden? Do tell.