Have you ever been at the beach and picked up some seaweed and squished it in your fingers?
It feels kind of… well… not quite slimy but kind of like coarse jelly, if there is such a thing.
It’s because that’s exactly what seaweed is. As a matter of fact, this jelly-like plant species is great for gardening in Australia!
Seaweeds are rich in a gel called alginate. All over the world seaweed is harvested for alginate – it is widely used in food, pharmaceuticals, industry, and gardening! In food it is known as agar-agar or agar gum, or sometimes just agar. In fact, this is what makes seaweed one of the most effective ways to save water in your garden.
I can guarantee that you have products in your house right now that contain alginate. It is found in slimming and weight loss preparations, as thickening agents for soups, jellies and ice-cream, in cosmetics, drinks and pharmaceutical preparations.
That delicious ice cream dessert in the freezer… probably contains alginate.
That soothing heartburn medicine… probably contains alginate.
Toothpaste, salad dressing, yoghurt, tinned foods… have you been to the dentists lately and had a dental impression taken? Yep… alginate.
So how is alginate good for our soil and our plants? And why do gardeners use them?
Take a good pinch of Seaperia Meal and wet it on a saucer with your gardening hose. Straight away you’ll see the alginate going to work soaking up the water - your meal will start to become like jelly. That's what I did for the top photo.
Now imagine all of those little grains dug through your soil. Each one becomes a little blob of water holding jelly – organic jelly that is packed with trace elements and all those health-giving complex carbs that really get things humming.
Plant roots seek out the mineral packed jelly and your soil life benefits from the extra moisture plus the slow release of minerals.
Seaperia Meal can hold up to 30 times its own weight in water, and being natural and organic, as it breaks down it benefits plants and soil.
Now compare this to an artificial wetting agent or other plant watering device. You know the ones… tiny white or clear crystals that soak up water instantly.
Water crystals are composed of polyacrylamide derived from alcohol or petroleum distillates. Polyacrylamides are commonly used on an industrial scale in irrigation water to (in theory) conserve and improve the absorption of water by soils and to reduce soil erosion. However they are known carcinogens and are not an allowable input on certified organic farms.
Almost all plants have mycorrhizal fungal associations in their root systems and these fungi serve as accessories to the plant root system, greatly extending the capacity to absorb water. Mycorrhizae also help nourish their host plant, and they help defend their host from disease. In return, host plants supply these fungi with carbohydrates and nutrients. Initial evidence at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney shows that artificial water crystals disrupt this mycorrhizal activity in the soil.
As with almost every artificial input you can name, water crystals are gardening tools that eventually have the opposite effect to what they are actually meant to do. Instead of being moist and friable, over time the soil becomes water repellent, hard and dry, which is terrible for water efficiency.
Now… let’s see how we’re going over here where using garden tools we’ve dug our Seaperia Meal through our soil!
Well… our soil is moist and fertile, our microbes, worms and mycorrhizal fungi are happy and our plants are blooming! All due to the best natural gardening equipment that money can buy!
So in conclusion….
The ultimate water saving tip: Dig Seaperia Meal through your soil, spray Seaperia Soluble on your plants
Leave those artificial water crystals on the shelf! And wallah! You're now being water wise with seaweed. Welcome to the garden gurus club!
One more tip for your small backyard ideas...
If you have problems with water not soaking in to your garden soil, especially if you're balcony gardening it could be time to change your mulch. Sometimes if you use the same type of mulch continuously, especially wood chip or pine bark, the hard-core carbon eating fungi will take over. These fungi can cause water wastage, so as you try to irrigate the water just runs off and the soil stays dry.
It’s best to vary the types of mulch you use.
And keep using Seaperia Soluble because with every spray you add a little alginate to your topsoil. No need to use Jim's Gardening services when you have Seaperia! Next time you're picking up water crystals for your backyard garden ideas choose seaweed instead!
References: The Evolution of Soil Wetting Agents for Managing Water Repellency in Soils. D. Moore, S. J. Kostka, M. Franklin, L. L. Lennert, and R. A. Moore.
Blog post by Liz