Kelp is any of a variety of large, brown seaweeds that grow underwater and on rocky shores. Kelps are found in cold waters throughout the world.
Kelps vary widely in size and form. One type of kelp, called giant kelp, may have hundreds of branches, each of which has hundreds of leaves. Giant kelp may reach over 200 feet in length and will create entire forests of kelp. Other kelp consists of only a single branch and may be less than 3 feet long. But what they all share is that it is hard to tell the stems from the leaves.
The role of kelp in agriculture dates back thousands of years, and has been an integral part of coastal farming. It can be said with honesty that kelp is the most effective additive next to quality fertilizer.
The kelp that has the most importance for our needs is a kelp that grows in the cold Canadian waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it is called Ascophyllum Nodosum. There are many kelps that have great benefits for agriculture but this particular kelp has the gold medal.
Ascophyllum is harvested by collecting from either the rocky shores or using a type of dredge or seine to catch it. It is then washed with fresh water to rid it of excess sea salt and then it is dried and powdered. It is very important that they harvest it at just the right time to ensure that the cytokinin levels are at their peak (cytokinins are growth hormones responsible for cell division in plants).
Kelp contains many wonderful things such as over 70 minerals and trace elements, growth hormones, vitamins, enzymes, and proteins.
It has been proven that kelp or what is in kelp can accelerate growth, increase fruiting and flowering, provide resistance to disease, insects and frost. There are a couple of things that are important in regards to the benefits of kelp and how they work. The first one is all of the trace elements and minerals which are aided by a carbohydrate mannitol that chelates or makes available certain minerals. One of the problems of modern farming is enabling the plant to take up all of the nutrients to complete a healthy life cycle. Chelates are very important in allowing plants to take up certain essential elements. What researchers have discovered is that with so many trace elements and minerals as well as vitamins and enzymes not to mention growth hormones, kelp aids in building and or supporting the plants natural immune system. If you can keep a plants immune system high it will have the ability to resist disease, insects, frost, and drought.
The second important and perhaps the most important aspect of kelp is the growth hormones. Kelp contains ample quantities of auxins, gibberellins, and cytokinins. All growth hormones play a part in how a plant functions, and are more accurately called growth regulators. Kelp has very high amounts of a particular hormone, cytokinin. Cytokinins are responsible for cell division, cell enlargement, differentiation of cells, development of chloroplasts as well as a delay in aging.
When kelp is used regularly you will notice that the overall health of the plant will increase and that when applied at certain times major growth will occur.
There are many ways to use kelp with foliar spraying being the most effective. You can improve specific growth stages by applying kelp with a specific response in mind. For example, if your tomatoes or peas are starting to bud, you can apply kelp to promote additional buds. If you require more root growth then you would apply it to the root zone after transplanting. Cytokinins respond within what ever stage that the plant is in. Spray in vegetative then you will experience more vegetative growth, spray in flower then you will experience more flowering etc.
There are several forms that kelp comes in and some forms offer more benefits than others. Granular kelp is often mixed in with other fertilizers and doesn’t contain as high concentrations of cytokinins as liquid concentrate. If you are looking to supplement your present fertilizer regime then you would probably add powdered kelp. If however you are trying to promote more flowering or budding sites then you would use a concentrated liquid kelp product such as Growth Max or Growth Plus which both have a cytokinin level of 400 ppm.
Foliar spraying is the most effective way of applying kelp, since leaves are up to 8 times more efficient in taking in of nutrients than through the root system. When foliar spraying try to apply in the early morning when the plant is the most active and the stomata are open to their fullest, avoid spraying before it rains, use high quality water with a pH of 6.0, and any foliar spray benefits from a non ionic wetting agent such as Mega Wet.
In conclusion, kelp can help germinate seeds quicker, improve taking of cuttings, encourage rooting, build immunity, add more color and flavor, give a longer shelf life, produce more and larger buds and flowers, counter any nutrient deficiencies, and fight off insects and disease. Kelp is truly mother natures gift to the modern gardener.