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Ok so I am dating myself! I watched Sigmund and the Seamonsters when I was a kid. This posting is not about seamonsters, but seaweed and the use of it in the garden. It’s just that when I am gathering it the clumps remind me of the show.  Living in Salisbury, Massachusetts I have easy access to this wondrous gift from the sea! Well easy as in I am about two miles from the ocean, but I can’t get it off Salisbury’s beach. It would seem that we keep our beach free of seaweed and I have to drive over the border to Hampton, New Hampshire and harvest it on their beach. The hardships I have to endure!

I have been told by a few people that harvesting seaweed is illegal and from people that I feel should be in the know. I have not been able to find any statutes that say just that. I did find the following pertaining to New Hampshire: http://www.stupidlaws.com/it-is-illegal-to-pick-seaweed-up-off-of-the-beach/

Collecting Seaweed
Section 207:48
In Night. If any person shall carry away or collect for the purpose of carrying away any seaweed or rockweed from the seashore below high-water mark, between daylight in the evening and daylight in the morning, he shall be guilty of a violation.
Source. 1973, 532:10, eff. Nov. 1, 1973.

One of my friends from Greater Seacoast Permaculture Group was approached by a police officer and all he said to her was take it all and thank you for cleaning up the beach. She was a bit deflated as she was ready to do battle!


When harvesting please take what has washed up on the beach and do not take that which is attached to rocks in the tidal pools. These are habitats for many sea animals. It is also best to harvest at low tide and right after a storm. The first time I went to harvest I headed to the beach (when I say this, I mean my town’s beach Salisbury) and went down to the sand only to discovered to my dismay, no seaweed! The town takes great care to keep the beach clean. So I then start driving up the coast and cross over into New Hampshire (remember I live on the NH border).

Now NH does not really have much of a coast, I believe only 27 miles of it and most of that is rocky and very hard to get to. I drive to Hampton which is the second town from the border and one of three that have any beach to speak of (Seabrook, Hampton and Rye).  Hampton is the easiest to harvest from and I found a bounty at the very end of the beach. I had five five gallon buckets and it took me about 15 minutes to fill the buckets and head home. What I had ocean306kelfly_003_repnot been aware of was the friends that would be coming with it! As I was driving I happened to glance up and could not see out the back window! It was something out of Creature Double Feature (again dating myself)! I will admit, I kind of freaked out! There were flies all over the back window. Apparently there are Seaweed Flies, also known as Kelp flies. I pulled over and opened the back of the car and released a cloud of them. When I got home I just left the doors open for a couple of hours. Probably would of been a good idea to next time use lids on the buckets.

I’m a Permaculturist and when gardening we work with the Earth, use only manual tools (no machines only for very large jobs) and dig once. My plan was to make raised beds and use the seaweed in one of the layers. I dug double trenches, also called bastard trenching (called this because it is a bastard to do!!!).  I set the soil aside and started layering:

  • rotting logs
  • maple leaves
  • coffee grounds
  • eggshells
  • alpaca manure
  • seaweed
  • then the soil from the hole


The mix above breaks down and forms a great foundation that does not need to be dug again only fed. I have already picked up the alpaca manure and this next weekend I am giving a class on harvesting seaweed for the North Shore Permaculture Group. I will layer the manure then compost and finally the seaweed as mulch. Seaweed is very beneficial to the soil and the plants that will be growing from it. Always always always remember the most important factor in gardening is the soil! Being from Massachusetts I grew up on the stories of how the Native Americas taught the Pilgrims how to plant with seaweed and fish.

  • Enriches the soil: Seaweed is a broad spectrum fertilizer that is rich in beneficial trace minerals and hormones that stimulate plant growth. Seaweed is high in carbohydrates which are essential building blocks in growing plants, and low in cellulose so it breaks down readily. Seaweed shares no diseases with land plants.
  • Boosts lethargic plants: Seaweed fertilizer contains an abundance of fully chelated (ready to use) micro-nutrients which can be readily absorbed by plants without any further chemical decomposition needed. eartheasy.com
  • To use for a mulch you need apply multiple times and rather a deep coverage as it will shrink.
  • Using seaweed for container gardening I would make a tea this would lessen the impact of too much salt in a small local:
    • Fill a five gallon bucket with seaweed and cover with water and let sit in a sunny location for a few days. Strain the liquid out and use in your containers.