Compost by the sea

Beach after storms tossed seaweed onto the shore
I watched as the old man picked up seaweed along the beach. He moved gingerly, picking up the seaweed with long tongs, the kind generally used to pick up trash. As he put the seaweed in one of his two five-gallon buckets, I looked up and down the shoreline.

Surely he wasn't trying to clear the beach of all the seaweed?  I was curious and so I politely asked him what he was going to do with the seaweed.

"It's for my compost pile."

Of course.  Compost.  I immediately contemplated picking up some seaweed for my own compost pile, eight hundred miles away.

Then I realized I had nothing to put the seaweed in.

And it might start to smell on the drive home.

And when I stopped at a rest stop along the highway, I might have some explaining to do about the smell coming from my car.

Of course, we all agree compost piles shouldn't really smell bad if created properly.  We would also agree that a plastic trash bag filled with seaweed, thrown inside the trunk of a car,  and carted hundreds of miles away is not the proper way to create compost.

The proper way is to mix it up with locally sourced plant debris - some brown plant debris, some green plant debris, but no disease or insect infested plant debris. And no seed laden weeds. Also, no meat products of any kind or pet poo in your compost pile. That's just asking for trouble.

Turn the piles if you have the opportunity and the inclination to do so, or leave them be and wait.  Eventually,  all kinds of little critters, ranging from microscopic organisms to big, fat earthworms, will feast on that organic matter, turning it into compost.  Beautiful, rich, earthy smelling compost. I call it black gold.

My three compost bins are pretty full these days. I had a busy fall last year and didn't get to harvest the black gold that is waiting for me under this year's contributions. By now, the compost is probably reaching a platinum level.

I look forward to digging in to those bins when the days get a little cooler, harvesting the compost and spreading it about the garden. Then I'll promptly fill the bins back up with the gleanings of the garden after a good hard frost. The garden is lush, so my compost bins will be full in no time at all, even without the seaweed I briefly contemplated bringing home as a souvenir of my vacation.


  1. Oh I loved the idea of your compost turning to platinum! We live close by the beach and i love to collect seaweed, it gets the compost humming.

  2. I was at the beach a couple of weeks ago. If I lived nearby, I would use seaweed in my compost.

  3. I have yet to use seaweed for my compost heap even though I do live in 'The Ocean State'. I am a good 40 miles from the beach. Perhaps it is time for a beach run.

  4. What a great idea! All the trips I took down the Jersey shore this year ... I never thought of bringing home some seaweed.

  5. Seaweed is a great item for compost, and when I lived in Maine I used it, but now I have to settle for liquid seaweed. Still, good stuff.

  6. British organic gardening guru Joy Larkcom is a big believer in collecting seaweed for her Irish garden. Read more here:

  7. Well, actually adding some seaweed might not always be such a wayward idea. Seaweed, kelp etc. contain salts or essential minerals that our depleted soils often lack. There have been experiments with watering tomatoes with slightly sea salted water and they grew better and healthier. As for the weed-free compost - there are two compost philosophies, hot or cold. You prefer, as I do, the "cold" variety which allows earth worms to "spawn" which are needed to do the work of the plough. But to compost seed-infested debris, one could use the hot variety and kill all living things except the thermophile bacteria who do the work, then later recycle the "pasteurized" compost into the normal soil where it will be re-inhabited by all the other critters again but will not cause weed growth anymore.


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