Roses at Rockingham Castle
Ireland: Joy Larkcom’s garden

Ireland: Collecting Seaweed with Joy Larkcom

Gathering seaweed in Cork with Joy Larkcom and Don Pollard

We’re spending a few days with Joy Larkcom, the long reigning Queen of organic gardening. (She’ll hate me for writing that!). Here in west Cork, in Ireland, she and her husband Don have created their second organic food garden (the previous one was back in England, in Norfolk) and one of the reasons for the generous crops of delicious produce – is seaweed. So yesterday we went to collect some.

It's washed up on a little sandy beach not far away, sometimes in great mounds up to (6ft/1.8m) high, so we headed off with a trailer hitched behind the car to collect it. Joy reckons there’s at least twenty different species of seaweed washed up on the beach and they all go into the plastic sacks for loading into the trailer.

“It seems to be really nutritious for plants as it absorbs so many minor elements from the sea water,” Joy explained. “It’s brilliant for mulching but you need to have it very thick, about 6in/15cm; the colours are glorious when you first spread it.”

Higher up the beach we also found a few plants of wild sea kale, Crambe maritima, a classic but uncommon plant of these shores which grows in sand and shingle just above the high tide line. They were looking a bit ragged at this late stage of the season but were also being invaded by wild brambles (blackberries) so we spent a few minutes carefully loosening the soil and removing the brambles without disturbing the sea kale.

Don Pollard spreading seaweed mulch on cordon gooseberries

Out in the garden the seaweed goes on the fruit bushes and flower borders (not just veggies, plenty of flowers here too) and even on the greenhouse borders. “It has a lovely sea smell,” says Joy, “and after we’ve spread it in the greenhouse I really like to take a nap in there and smell the ocean!”

Of course seaweed comes mixed with a little sand, no bad thing on heavy soil. In some parts of the west of Ireland, over the decades, soil has been created almost entirely from seaweed, potato tops and animal manure. Just imagine what wonderful crops that grows!

Don't for get to check out Joy's many superb books published in North America and published in Britain.