Nearly all the worms in both bins have died and the few remainng look sluggish and unwell. I have to admit that the experiment has been an absolute failure and I have decisively disproved my own theory by clearly demonstrating that worms and kelp do not go well together.
I now believe that raw kelp is not suited to be combined with worm farming. However, for those living near the coast, kelp will always remain a very useful, free and easily collected resource, that is of great nutritional value for your garden plants and is moreover an important provider of trace elements for promoting rapid healthy plant growth. Just keep the composting processes separate and then you can always combine the mature kelp and worm products later, when ready for planting or mulching.
Although disappointing, it has been an interesting experiment, but I would not advise anyone to repeat it – you will be wasting your time.
When last inspected, the 100% kelp worm farm was showing signs of extreme distress, so I relented and mixed in some dry garden leaves and shredded cardboard with the kelp in the bin. The worm farm is now looking a little healthier. After the additions, I guess the kelp content by mass is currently about 70%. The kelp residue is now looking less gooey and does not smell that much any more and the worms are more visible and becoming lively.
The other bin with, set up with only 50% kelp still seems much more healthy. The worms seem to be increasing and are active and normal looking.
I now believe that the raw kelp is just too rich to be used on its own, and it would either be better to pre-compost the kelp, before adding it to the worm farm, or otherwise just use it as a minority supplement to be added to an established worm bin (say 30%). I also wonder whether sun drying the kelp to get rid of the moisture content first, before adding it to the bin might be less overwhelming to the worms and give them time to adjust, as the fresh kelp en mass is really very slimy and yecky and quickly becomes smelly.
Anyway I shall persist with current proportions for the meantime to see what transpires in the longer term..
LH Bin – No Kelp……. Center Bin – 50% Kelp……. RH Bin – 100% Kelp
1. Collected two sacks of cast-up fresh kelp from Glencairn Beach (10 minutes)
2. Washed sand and salt off kelp with garden hose pipe (10 minutes) – licked kelp – no remaining salt taste.
3. Used garden shredder to macerate kelp (45 minutes) Kelp stalks are easy to deal with, but fronds are very slippery and clogged up the machine after a while, so that slowed down the operation somewhat, while I cleared the cutting blades.
4. I yielded about 5 kgs (10 lb) of pulverized kelp – far too much for my start-up bins. The rest I’ll use directly in the garden. In years past I always used fresh kelp when planting shrubs and trees and they thrived magnificently. I put the kelp at the bottom of the planting hole and covered it with a few inches of soil, so that it didn’t come into direct contact with the roots.
4. Before putting in the kelp. I had previously set up the two new (kelp) bins. To start them off, I put in a few hundred worms in each bin, with the worms initially feeding on normal kitchen waste. To these two bins I now added a few handfuls of the shredded kelp, mixed with some shredded newspaper (10 minutes).
As a further aside – I accidentally spilled some shredded kelp onto the lawn and my doberman, Rex chomped it all up with gusto – so I’ll have to remember to keep him away from any beds in which I use fresh kelp. It won’t do him any harm – they use kelp extract as a tonic for dogs – especially for controlling skin problems, such as eczema.
Commercial Kelp Supplement for Animals
Please check back for further progress reports – and your comments will always be most welcome.
A VALUABLE FREE SOURCE OF PLANT NUTRIMENTS AND TRACE ELEMENTS
I have decided to revive a kelp experiment that I dropped some time back, when I had to temporarily move away from the coast.
Kelp in the Garden
Kelp is a generic term for several species of larger coastal seaweeds. Besides having many commercial uses such as food and medicinal supplements, for both humans and animals, these seaweeds are valuable to gardeners as a rich source of plant nutriments and trace elements .
Historically, kelp has been used by farmers for centuries to enrich the fertility of their lands. Farmers on barren, rocky Scottish islands, with no real natural earth at all, have been able to build up enough soil over time, to create extensive, highly productive gardens by simply mixing kelp with sea sand. Ancient Romans were also known to have used this abundant sea weed to manure their fields.
When composted, kelp breaks down to provide a highly nitrogenous organic fertilizer with a good potash component, though rather low in potassium (which can be obtained from organic bone meal). Moreover, modern analysis has shown kelp to be an extremely rich source of the trace elements that are usually missing to various degrees in normal soils.
To promote healthy plant growth, besides the macro nutriments containing the common elements (nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulphur, and magnesium), plants also need tiny quantities of rarer elements, found in various natural minerals and compounds, to promote their well being and healthy growth. These rarer elements are very often lacking to varying degrees in most garden soils.
Gardeners have often experienced lack-luster growth, coupled with a persistent yellowing of the leaves of plants and shrubs, and this in spite of having carefully provided the right mix of balanced fertilizers and compost. This phenomenon is usually a telltale sign of mineral deficiency in the soil and is not simply a disease or lack of adequate nutrition. There is a sure fire way to get over this problem – add trace elements.
Trace elements, in the form of concentrated syrups, can be bought from any nursery. One of the most popular of these supplements ( as it is entirely organic), is concentrated kelp extract. These products are diluted with water and then can be used either as a foliar spray, or poured directly around the roots of plants. Trace element supplements are rather expensive, but Gardeners claim spectacular results.
Kelp and Worms
As we know, the products of vermiculture (worm manure and worm tea) are also very rich sources of plant nutriments and the bacteria they carry with them into the soils have the added advantage of fixing atmospheric nitrogen around the roots of the plants. So the thought occurred to me – Why not feed your worms with kelp and thus enhance the well known beneficial results of worm farming, with the added benefit of the nutriments and trace elements and minerals derived from composting kelp? The possibility of creating a “Supranure” is exciting to say the least, especially as kelp is thrown up on the beaches in my area, is easily collected and best of all, it is free.
I have started my experiment with three separate worm farms (each having 3 tiered bins). The first farm is a control, fed solely with normal kitchen and garden waste. The second is to be fed with 50% kitchen scraps and mixed with 50% shredded fresh kelp. The last worm farm, once established, is to be fed only with fresh shredded kelp.
10 lbs of FRESH SHREDDED KELP
I intend to observe progress regularly and report on in these pages over the next few months.