Using Kelp for Drought Resistance

Learn how using kelp in your garden can help your plants and soil become drought-resistant and thrive during dry seasons.

| April 2018

  • Kelp has high volumes of natural plant growth hormones.
    Photo by Pixabay/nicholebohner
  • “Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert and Dry Times” by Maureen Gilmer includes a list of vegetable best suited for desert gardens and droughts.
    Photo courtesy of Sasquatch Books

Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert and Dry Times (Sasquatch Books, 2015) by Maureen Gilmer proves that even in times of drought, or in the middle of the desert, gardeners can still help their plants thrive. Gilmer’s guide focuses on four different low-water conditions across the United States; water conservation, drought, high deserts, and low deserts. In the following excerpt, she discusses the benefits of utilizing kelp during a drought.

Fish emulsion has always been the liquid fertilizer of choice for organic gardeners. Liquid plant foods are better for dry and desert gardens because limited moisture means pelleted or dry fertilizer products dissolve too slowly. Without enough water, they can’t be carried into the root zone, but diluted fish emulsion travels quickly into the soil for much easier and more immediate uptake.

Many swear by this fertilizer by-product of the fishing industry due to consistently superior performance despite the relatively low nitrogen content (just 2 percent). In recent years, that mystery was solved by science. Researchers discovered that fish emulsion contains a good deal of kelp. This marine plant contains high concentrations of cytokinins, which are plant growth hormones. They are akin to steroids that help build muscle in humans. Kelp inadvertently integrated with fishing by-products was bringing cytokinins into the root zone of plants, where it was stimulating cell division. Plants fed with fish emulsion therefore were performing better. This tells us that vegetable plants everywhere can reap big benefits from fish emulsion. Better yet, use straight kelp fertilizer in liquid form. Adding this concentration of kelp helps your plants recover from wilt more easily and produce a much larger root system that is able to reach deeper to access more soil moisture during hot or very dry periods.


These nutrients are needed for plant growth but in much smaller amounts; sometimes just a trace is required. The most important are boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.


The three chief macronutrients in soil are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen is responsible for stem and leaf growth and is vital to leaf crops. Phosphorus and potassium are linked to roots, flowers, and fruit production vital to most vegetable plants.

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© 2015 By Maureen Gilmer. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening without Wasting Water by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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