One if by land, two if by sea: The amazing benefits of kelp

by Steven Bell

What do you think of when you hear the word kelp?  What I imagine are those funny furry rascals the sea otter who live in the oceanic kelp forests.  While sea otters have probably done the most to make this interesting organism known, did you know it is a vast natural renewable resource found in some unlikely places in our lives?  For example an extract from kelp known as alginate is used in a variety of foods as a thickening agent.  Jams, jellies, soups and even the “pimento”, which is not actually a pepper in most cases, but instead a mixture of alginate and color/flavoring, in your favorite olives contain kelp.  Alginate powder is also used frequently in general dentistry and orthodontics for making impressions of the upper and lower arches.

Now we know that we have all probably eaten kelp at least a few times, let’s find out exactly what kelp is.  Interestingly, it’s made up of a complex association of brown algae (not a plant though it does contain chlorophyll) that forms into a plant-like colony with specialized structures similar in shape to their truly foliated relatives.  The individual kelp “plants” grow very quickly (some species as much as 18 inches in a single day) in great quantities forming kelp forests (home to the sea otter and many other marine organisms).

These marine forests provide an abundant renewable resource because, much like land plants, part of the kelp can be harvested leaving the bulk of the plant in place for regeneration.  Harvesting is made easy because kelp only grows in shallow nutrient rich waters and contains specialized structures called pneumatocysts (air filled bladder) which keeps the bulk of the kelp biomass near the surface where it can be easily collected.

So, what does kelp have to offer the gardener?  Kelp extract from the species Ecklonia maxima boosts plant productivity to make your lawn and garden more healthy and vibrant.  It does this in two ways – it is a mineral supplement and functions as a biostimulant.  To make a product for use in the garden, kelp is harvested and processed to collect and concentrate its growth hormone-rich cytoplasm (the insides of the cell without the cell structural organs and fibrous particles).  This material is then known as kelp extract – the remainder finds its way into the products mentioned above.

As kelp grows in the ocean it collects minerals and nutrients into its biomass, which are not generally found in abundance on land.  These nutrients such as calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese , sulphur, zinc and many other trace minerals are vital to plant growth.  Adding kelp to a garden provides plants with these minerals making them healthier and more productive.  It’s analogous to us taking vitamins to maintain our health.

Kelp is also full of two of the three most important plant growth hormones – auxins and cytokinins.  When applied to plants they are stimulated to grow both leaves and roots which is a great benefit to growers and homeowners.  It means that your plants can look great and be healthy to resist disease without the addition of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers.  Research has shown that kelp-treated crops develop larger root systems.  Following stress by drought, kelp-treated crops in one experiment we better able to recover than those not treated.  Strong evidence of the kelp’s benefit has been seen at a number of golf courses.  For instance, in Long Island the incidence of “dollar spot” (a blighting disease) has been greatly reduced by the application of kelp extract and compost tea- meaning that fewer harmful chemicals are necessary.

In organic systems, healthy plants are resilient plants and healthy plants grow in healthy soil.  When soil is treated with kelp extract, it too benefits from the additional nutrients, helping to create a vibrant soil ecology.  Soil that teems with life holds moisture and retains nutrients so that these resources are available to plants in an elegant circle.

As staunch advocates for the soil-food web, Farmer D Organics has partnered with Georgia-based Going Green Organics to bring you two new kelp based products for your lawn and garden.

Going Green Organics 4-1-2 Liquid Organic Fertilizer

Anchovy Fish & Ecklonia Kelp Fertilizer

Form: Liquid Concentrate

1 Quart Hose-End Sprayer

Brief Description: GGO’s 4-1-2 Liquid Organic Fertilizer is a blend of a quality Marine Anchovy Fish Emulsion containing natural organic nitrogen (N-4), potassium (P-1) and phosphate (K-2), trace elements, amino acids, vitamins, lipids, enzymes and a unique Ecklonia Kelp concentrate. It offers the benefits of both components; the fertilizing properties of the fish emulsion and the growth stimulation of Ecklonia kelp concentrate- rich in auxin and cytokinin-like plant growth stimulants.

Purpose of Applications: To improve soil health, fertilize and stimulate turf, plants, flowering, shrub and tree growth. To increase crop yields and tolerance to environmental stress.

Product Contents: Organic, concentrated Ecklonia kelp cytoplasm and Anchovy marine fish.

Location Usage: Turf, trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetable production, farm production.

Application Rate:

Lawn and gardens foliar spray and soil drench: 1 Gallon per Acre or in 1:200 dilution using the hose-end sprayer package or commercial hose-end sprayer.  For use in commercial hose end sprayer Place GGO’s 4-1-2 Liquid Organic Fertilizer in spray container and dial cap to 1:200 mix ratio and apply.

Frequency: Foliar spray: 1:200 Dilutions apply 2-3 applications spaced monthly, starting early season.

Going Green Organics EkloGrow®

Ecklonia Kelp Plant Growth Stimulant

Form: Liquid Concentrate

Description: GGO’s EkloGrow® is a plant growth biostimulant proven to increases crop yields, root strength and plant growth.

Purpose of Applications: To improve soil health, fertilize and stimulate turf, plants, flowers, shrubs and tree growth. To increase crop yields and tolerance to environmental stress.

Product Contents: Organic, concentrated Ecklonia kelp cytoplasm.

Usage: Turf, trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetable production, farm production.

Application Rate: Lawn and garden foliar Spray- 1 quart/acre applied with diluted 1:500 with hose-end sprayer or mixed in tank to correct ratio.

Soil soak: 1:200 dilution with hose-end sprayer or mixed in tank to correct ratio.

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Farmer D Organics Garden Centers
2154 Briarcliff Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329
Phone: (404) 325-0128
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