Sea good­ness for your gar­den



Go to the beach and take a bucket with you. You’ll need at least one to carry back any seaweed that has washed up onto the sand. I use a large, flex­i­ble bucket with han­dles that can be pulled to­gether, thus partly clos­ing the top of the bucket which stops the seaweed from slop­ping out while I’m walk­ing up the beach across sand or stones. Fresh sea­weeds are de­light­ful to handle, smelling freshly of sea air and salt water, but older kelp and sea let­tuce can pong and you won’t en­joy hav­ing hands that smell like old sea cap­tains! Once your seaweed har­vest is safely home, you can use it in a num­ber of ways to im­prove the health of plants in your gar­den. Ap­plied di­rectly to the sur­face of the soil, seaweed acts as a mulch, sup­press­ing weeds and later break­ing down, first to a jelly, and then a liq­uid that plants can take up. Seaweed soups – either anaer­o­bic brews that moul­der away in a bar­rel un­mod­i­fied, or aer­ated mixes that have oxy­gen bub­bled through them to stim­u­late oxy­gen-lov­ing bac­te­ria to mul­ti­ply – are good for your gar­den, bring­ing with them as they do, oceanic nu­tri­ents rarely found on land.


Favourite va­ri­eties of pota­toes, if still in the ground, can be lifted now, in­spected and if found to be sound, set out to sprout in a shady spot and watched for progress. The soil into which they are des­tined to be moved can be cul­ti­vated now, weeded if weeds are an is­sue for you, and warmed up with a cloche if you want to get an ex­tra-early start on the sea­son.

If you want to in­crease your crop, other tubers, such as Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes (Helianthus tubero­sus) can be lifted and re­planted straight away into new ground. I’m mov­ing some of these in­cred­i­bly knob­bly root veg­eta­bles from a patch that has be­come too tightly-packed as time has gone by and would ben­e­fit from thin­ning out. I’m also re­duc­ing the bulk of my mashua (Tropae­olum tubero­sum) crop by har­vest­ing the plump tubers from the clumps they formed over the win­ter months. I’ve been eat­ing some and plant­ing the rest among a few shrubs that

I think would sup­port the climb­ing vines and also ben­e­fit from hav­ing a nas­tur­tium cousin grow­ing nearby. Nas­tur­tiums have pest-in­sect man­age­ment prop­er­ties that would be ap­pre­ci­ated by any other plants that suf­fer from the at­ten­tions of suck­ing and chew­ing in­sects.

*Mashua is a tuber­ous vine from the nas­tur­tium fam­ily that has only been grown here re­cently. It’s a vig­or­ous plant that scram­bles up fences in a way that sug­gests it might be­come a prob­lem, but as yet there are no re­ports of it be­ing weedy. The tubers are ed­i­ble and while they look like yams, they are not quite as fab­u­lous when roasted as the yams we all love but still very good. They’re great in stews and soups and the flow­ers and leaves are ed­i­ble like reg­u­lar nas­tur­tiums. There are three va­ri­eties with white, orange and yel­low flesh. They grow in any soil-type but do best where the soil is rich.


I’m a shocker for leav­ing my spades and forks stand­ing out in the weather. In re­cent days, I’ve been gath­er­ing them up and giv- This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, Get Grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener Magazine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for get grow­ing at: get­grow­ ing them the once-over with a scrub­bing brush and a square of sand­pa­per. My favourite tool, a grace­ful wooden-han­dled light spade, went missing for a month and when I found it, fallen into a clump of fen­nel, it was a lit­tle worse for wear, with rust on the blade and water stains on the handle. I buffed ev­ery­thing well and once again we are friends. The im­ple­ment pic­tured is an an­tique edge cut­ter and as I have no lawn, all but use­less, but I keep it be­cause it’s el­e­gant and if ever I re­dis­cover a love for lawns, I’ll be ready to keep their edges straight!


Clear leaves out of gutters if they have be­come choked over win­ter. Wet leaves ly­ing on the bot­tom of a metal gut­ter will cause it to rust and that red stuff never sleeps and will even­tu­ally turn your gut­ter into a shower rose. Nearby trees that are con­tribut­ing to the prob­lem can be pruned be­low the roof level to stop any fall­ing in, but if you don’t want to do that and don’t mind reg­u­lar trips up the lad­der to clear the leaves by hand, you can leave trees look­ing nat­u­ral. You can also in­stall mesh to keep leaves out – which sounds like a great idea and would prob­a­bly keep the nest­ing spar­rows out of my roof as well, bless their chirpy lit­tle hearts.


Af­ter a win­ter of rest­ing, egg lay­ing is hap­pen­ing again and the hens need to be pam­pered

in or­der to pro­duce their best work. I wan­der about the gar­den, choos­ing tasty tid­bits for my chick­ens; any flow­ers that are yel­low, fresh green leaves from any­thing in the grass fam­ily, bras­si­cas, fat hen, chick­weed; any­thing I know they’ll like and will help colour up the yolks of their eggs. I still feed grains to my hens, but in lesser amounts than in the past, as grains are expensive and there are plenty of al­ter­na­tive foods grow­ing right here. Chick­ens are pri­mar­ily in­sect eaters though, and scratch­ing for those makes them most happy. I let mine out into the wider gar­den for part of each day so that they can find what­ever they favour and at the same time, man­age the in­sect pests.


Set out your seed trays on shelves in your tun­nel­house and keep the floor clear and save your back at the same time. My tun­nel­house has hosted a range of shelves over the years, made from wire net­ting, trel­lis, bam­boo and this year, slats of thin wood. All have worked well, mak­ing the job of wa­ter­ing, weed­ing and in­spect­ing seedlings eas­ier. I don’t have any­thing on them just yet, but will rem­edy that sit­u­a­tion this com­ing week­end!

Look af­ter your tools, like this an­tique edge cut­ter.

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