Seaweed’s benefit is more than soil deep

By Richard Gardening

Published on Friday, July 18, 2014 - 14:30


Seaweed’s benefit is more than soil deep

Phillippa Lambert dwarfed by her echiums.


POWERFUL support for my autumn seaweed-spreading technique has come from something of an expert on the subject.

I advocate a good covering of seaweed on my vegetable plot each autumn because it kills weeds and deters re-growth in preparation for digging in in the spring, when most of its goodness has already leached into the soil.

But Dr David Brydon points to another benefit, which I had, perhaps densely, not considered.

I haven’t done it for a couple of years, opting instead for manure — and I must say that change has coincided with an explosion in the slug and snail population.

I hadn’t put the two together until his letter arrived, one of several advocating means of gastropod control.

Dr Brydon, from Newport, said seaweed is bad medicine for those greedy gastropods and that, of course, makes sense. I had not considered the lasting benefits of spreading and digging it in when it comes to snail and slug control.

He was a consultant to no less an establishment than the beautiful gardens of Heligan where chemicals are not employed, so he should know.

"There is only one successful organic treatment and that is seaweed," he said.

"The more salt and sand in it the better. I am not talking about sprinkling it around the base of the plant — that would be a complete waste of time.

"You have to cover the whole planting area at least 8ins deep in October/November, before the critters go too deep, and leave it on the surface all winter.

"By March the worms would have taken it all underground where the deeper slugs reside. Do this every winter and you will soon have a slug-free garden.

"We used to do this at Heligan. We would collect it from the local beach by the tractor load and the fruit/vegetable area is now virtually slug free. It is still applied each winter for its iodine and nitrogen content as organic fertiliser.

"Slugs and snails can also be trapped by placing upside-down plant pots, slates etc around the garden. Snails will hibernate inside or underneath and in the spring

they can be eliminated."

Adding to the slug saga, I have had some more handy hints, two of which I have not come across before.

I have heard before of snails not liking to 'tread’ on eggshells but Sally Jarvis, from Seaview, said she found pistachio shells an effective barrier to slugs.

"We like the roasted, salted type and I wonder if the shell-less gastropods don’t

like the salty, awkward obstacle course they present around my tender plants."

Patricia Price told me slugs and snails do not like porridge.

"Having tried many ideas, the only method that really works for me is porridge oats.

"Rings of porridge oats around the plants/seedlings you wish to protect appear to be the only battlement available.

"Some adventurous ones go beyond the porridge oats with a sad demise — most backtrack and 'run’ away."

Giants flourish all over the Island

NEWS has reached me from all points of the Island of echiums rivaling and exceeding giant sunflowers in stature.

In her St Lawrence haven, Phillippa Lambert is dwarfed by a 20ft specimen, surprising even her, and at Briary Court, Cowes, they have self-seeded all over the place and look magnificent.

But, in Longmead Road, Ryde, there is something to rival all — probably. My friend Wendy Hannington sent me a picture of Big Bird — and it is not difficult to determine how it got its name.

The Hannington accidental garden art is composed of an echium, which has grown through a pittosporum and was bent over at the end by the wind.

Keeping the invaders under control

IN THE latest in a series of 'Not Wanted’ features, Carol Flux, of Natural Enterprise, put a price on the head of Parrot’s Feather, told us what to do and appealed for gardeners not to help its further escape into the wild, where it smothers our natives.

Parrot’s Feather is one of those invasive, non-native species, introduced by man, that is having a detrimental impact on habitats and, through that, on wildlife and the economy because they cost so much to control.

Carol wrote: "Parrot’s Feather is native to South America. It is an attractive plant to look at and widely grown in garden ponds and, if it stayed there, it wouldn’t be such an issue.

"However, it has been a common escapee and is spreading throughout the Island’s countryside.

"Parrot’s Feather produces emergent shoots in addition to submerged ones, which give it the characteristic feathery appearance, hence its name.

"The stems are brittle and the plant propagates by growth from small stem fragments. Chemical control can be achieved by applying treatment to emergent growth but regular treatment is required. Spot treatment of small patches will prevent complete dominance and it is best controlled when treated early and regularly.

"There are also non-chemical treatment methods — cutting and dredging can be used very effectively in small areas — but all fragments should be removed to prevent re-growth and downstream spread.

"The Island’s Plant Positive project aims to push back a number of invasive species, including Parrot’s Feather, and recover lost habitats. We have produced downloadable factsheets which give advice on its identification and control. These are at

projects/73-plant-positive or for further details contact me on 201563."

By special request…

IN THE Old Rectory Garden at Whitwell tomorrow (Saturday), there will be a funny old garden feature — me.

For the audience it will probably be a fete worse than death having me opening it but I was conned by prominent resident of that parish Beryl Couchman. It is the first time I have accepted such a request but it will be good to attend a true village event.

I am doing just one more, as a reward for the persistence of organisers at Chillerton Show at Sheat Manor the following Saturday, before I retire from such things.

Gardening tips and tales can be sent to me at or to Brannon House, 123 Pyle Street, Newport PO3O 1ST.

Celebrating the long-lasting pleasures of cacti

TWO photographs were sent to me, so identical as to make me look twice.

Audrey Farman, from Shanklin, said, for the second year in a row, her cacti have each produced two or three blooms.

The pot stays outside all summer and lives in the shed over winter.

On the same day, Peter and Pamela Mundell sent me photographs of cacti which illustrate just what good value they are.

Peter, from Wootton Bridge, was given the mother plant by a work colleague 46 years ago.

The mother is no more but its descendants live on in all weathers in an unheated greenhouse, flowering freely each year with little or no attention.

The Mundells are especially fond of them because — as plants often are — they are a familiar part of the family setting and they have old photographs taken a good few years ago of their two boys beside the flowering mother when they were young.

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