Lost Gardens of Heligan IV: seaweed

2018-10-03 12.20.33OK so this is going to be the last Heligan posting, but we were intrigued to see (and to smell) some tons of raw seaweed being used as a mulch – as the photo shows – on the asparagus beds, but on the allium beds as well.

IMG_3790We quizzed the gardeners about the practice and they were really enthusiastic and said that they apply a layer about four inches thick in the autumn and by spring it’s rotted down to a thin crisp layer that’s easily dug in – ‘though probably not on the asparagus! They don’t wash the salt off or weather it in any way.  I can see the wisdom of seaweed on the asparagus which is a maritime plant and probably likes a bit of salt but I hadn’t even thought of salt on alliums until we met an Australian gardener there who said that she knows that salt is sometimes applied to alliums ‘because they like it’. I’m really not convinced that applying any salt in its pure form would be a good idea but I’m happy to go with the Heligan gardeners with their seaweed mulch.  I’ve also read somewhere that the growers of Jersey Royal potatoes claim that some of their unique flavour comes from the seaweed they use as fertilizer. So we’re sufficiently enthused to try it for ourselves. We’re going to gather some in the next couple of weeks – with the landowner’s permission – and apply it to our much smaller asparagus bed.  I’ll post in the spring with an update.

We just got back from our allotment and I’ve finished planting all the garlic (5 varieties) and the shallots (2).


Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

3 thoughts on “Lost Gardens of Heligan IV: seaweed”

    1. Hi Pete – it’s whatever fetches up on a local beach – we saw bladderwrack and kelp but there are probably others. We dressed our asparagus bed with a six inch layer of mixed seaweed we gathered on a Welsh beach. By the end of the winter it had virtually disappeared. I read somewhere that the salt content can be an issue if overused, and that the Jersey Royal growers had been forced to stop using it. Maybe that’s why their potatoes don’t taste as good as they once did!

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