Fish Waste Compost Proves Beneficial to South Carolina Garden Co-op
JOHNS ISLAND, South Carolina – A summer of applying fish waste compost to various vegetable crops may have proven beneficial to crop performance and yields for a co-op in South Carolina.
Dale Snyder and George Taylor, co-owners of Sweetgrass Garden Co-op, Inc., on Johns Island, used a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Producer Grant to determine how well fish waste compost stacked up against vegetable compost and neutral compost.
“Fish waste compost is a great source of nitrogen and we felt we could turn it into good organic compost,” said Snyder.
Applying fish waste compost to such vegetables as tomatoes and cucumbers yielded promising results, said Snyder.
“We suspect Fusarium wilt hit our 450 tomato plants. The disease killed all of them, but the plants treated with the fish waste compost were hit by the disease later in the season, and resisted the disease longer,” said Snyder. “In addition, our cucumber yields were about 30 percent higher in plants that had the fish waste compost applied to them compared to vegetable compost or the neutral compost.”
Although Snyder and Taylor are not sure why the crops treated with the fish waste compost seemed to perform better, they are pleased that perhaps they’ve found another product available for use in sustainable ag practices.
In addition, the co-owners have also found a way to mask the fish smell by adding fish waste to layers of straw, leaves and dirt in compost bins – a process called lasagna layering. The bins are then covered all around with another 4 inches of dirt. Snyder explains the process in greater detail in this video.
“With the trend of gardening and producing your own food growing, it’s important to find sustainable solutions to farming,” said Snyder. “We’ve been blessed to have all of these amazing resources come our way, including the SARE grant. It’s put a whole new light on our efforts and given us inspiration. We feel we are on the right track to developing good, sustainable practices while providing for our community.”
Last year, the two friends started the Sweetgrass Garden Co-op, Inc. – two acres of land that just until 10 years ago had been farmed since the Civil War. They decided to put the land back into farming by growing vegetables and donating the food to local food banks and ministries for the needy.
Over the summer, they grew over 1,000 pounds of cucumber, squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant and other vegetables and donated the bounty to the Lowcountry Food Bank in Charleston. Cool-season crops are already in the ground. In addition, Snyder has planted blueberry bushes and fruit trees, harvested over 75 gallons of pecans from a single mature pecan tree on the property, and taken advantage of the benefits of vermicomposting and honeybee pollination.
“We want to be a sustainable model for creating a charitable farm with very little money,” said Snyder.
To learn more about the efforts, refer to the article, “ Turning Fish Waste into Gardening Gold.”
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable AgricultureResearch and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food andAgriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperativeagreements with the University ofGeorgia, Fort Valley StateUniversity, and the KerrCenter for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants toadvance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.