No matter where you are in Rhode Island, you cannot be more than 45 minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean. One of the many advantages of being a gardener in the Ocean State is easy access to seaweed whenever the need or mood arises.
Late every fall after Thanksgiving, Mike starts his winter compost pile. In addition to loads of shredded leaves, he adds potato, apple and banana peels and other raw vegetative waste plus coffee grinds and tea bags. Then he mixes in a special ingredient — seaweed. We call seaweed “seafood” for roses — or any other plant — because it contains a wealth of nutrients plants need, including all the major and minor nutrients but no weeds, weed seeds, insects or diseases.
The Rhode Island state constitution guarantees each citizen the right to gather seaweed below the high water mark from any beach. So, on a bright and sunny day in December we traveled the 45 minutes to Newport where I grew up, planning to arrive at the time when the tidal tables, published daily in the newspaper, indicated low tide. One of our favorite seaweed stashes is at Easton’s Beach also known as 1st Beach to locals. Low tide was at 11 AM and when we arrived at noon, we saw the parking lot full of occupied cars with people eating lunch and enjoying the view. The beach itself, though, was deserted.
After unloading his muck buckets and grabbing his rake, Mike and I walked down to the beach, and while dressed for a December day in New England, we were pleasantly surprised that the day was warm and the raw wind that blows in off the Atlantic in late fall was non-existent.
Usually we harvest seaweed after an ocean storm churns up and washes in the crème de crème of seaweed. But no storms were predicted for the imminent future, so we hoped that enough seaweed had washed ashore with the incoming tide.
We indeed found clumps of seaweed covered with fine beach sand deposited along the high water mark which made it easy for Mike to spear with his special short-handled beach rake, shaking off the excess sand and tossing it into the bucket.
Meanwhile, I watched as the beach filled up with people walking their dogs, children running along the water’s edge and stopping to stare out into the vastness of the Atlantic and a lone surfer measuring the waves.
Mike filled several buckets with seaweed, along with some quahog and scallop shells, all the while chatting with folks walking by and explaining to them, when asked, why he was “cleaning the beach.” After an hour, we packed up, a little reluctant to leave, realizing that we had chosen the perfect day to go “seaweeding.”