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Posts Tagged ‘Compost’

4-Mike-and-Seaweed

Mike Gathering Seaweed

Seaweed, fresh from the ocean, is a great amendment for garden soil as well as an addition to compost. Here in Rhode Island, known as the “Ocean State” with over 400 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, seaweed is easily found along the shoreline.

Once or twice a year, Mike and I pack the SUV with muck buckets and a rake and drive to our favorite seaweed gathering site – First Beach in Newport, RI (also known as Easton’s Beach). Growing up in Newport, I spent many days here with friends, lounging on the sand. We seldom swam because chances were that the water would be thick with seaweed, a daily plague of this particular beach.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we drove to the beach a few weeks ago and saw nothing but pristine sand. Not a slimy piece of seaweed to be found anywhere. It’s an hour’s drive from where we now live and we didn’t want to go home with empty buckets. I thought of the many areas we might find seaweed and remembered a place that might have enough seaweed to fill our buckets.

2-Newport-Bridge

View of Newport Bridge from King’s Park

So we headed down to Newport’s 5th Ward, where I grew up, and drove to King’s Park which indeed had the seaweed we were looking for. The beach at King’s Park looks out over Newport Harbor and has a great view of the Newport Bridge as well as the shoreline along lower Thames Street. However, it’s not the kind of beach that attracts tourists. If you didn’t know it was there, right on Wellington Ave. next to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, you would drive right by it on your way to the Ocean Drive which meanders around the coast and up to Bellevue Avenue and its many mansions.

5-Ida-Lewis-Yacht-Club

Ida Lewis Yacht Club

We had the small strip of beach completely to ourselves and as Mike gathered the seaweed that had washed ashore, I admired the yachts moored in the harbor. I also had a view of Goat Island that once was home to the Navy Torpedo Station before it was transformed into a tourist destination with a hotel and condominiums.  Pointing out to the harbor stood the statue of General Rochambeau who, in 1780, landed in Newport with his troops after the British had withdrawn.

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View of Goat Island in the Distance

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Statue of General Rochambeau

Being at King’s Park brought back childhood memories when I used to walk to the Park from home on hot summer days. I realized that I hadn’t been back since I was 9 or 10 years old, but what a perfect place, I thought, to gather seaweed and recall times past. If you travel to Newport, you might want to discover this out-of-the-way spot with its great scenic views and free parking.

1-Bucket-of-Seaweed

Seaweed Ready for the Compost Bin

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2-deserted-beach-and-mikeNo 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.

5-seaweed-and-shellsLate 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.

6-mike-gathering-seaweedAfter 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.

3-gathering-seaweedWe 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.

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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.

1-children-on-beachMike 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.”

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