Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bounty from Comfrey

Comfrey has so many uses. Perhaps the most important, is using it as a liquid fertilizer during the growing season. This is not a new method “from across the pond”. For many decades British gardeners have used a liquid form of comfrey for a soil drench during the summer. [The photograph is a closeup of a comfrey flower.]

Many British gardeners have a “vat” in their garden,. The process of turning the leaves into a comfrey fertilizer is simple. Take any container without holes in the bottom-add a faucet for easy collection of the liquid-fill it with comfrey leaves.

[Make sure to gather only the leaf, NOT the crown of the plant as it might make it through the process and root. England is full of roadside patches of comfrey as bits of the root have spread it everywhere – one of their most noxious weeds. The founder in the US of the style called the French-biodynamic gardening was Alan Chadwick. He cultivated gardens in many parts of California. I visited one such abandoned garden and found it to be littered with comfrey and lemon balm. The comfrey spread as bits of the roots lasted through composting, and were unknowingly released to every raised planting bed and pathway in the garden.]

Place a heavy object on top of the mass. Wait for ten days or more for the leaves to ferment and turn into a thick slurry. Don’t add water. I made that mistake in the1970s and the foul stench was overwhelming.

I saw a creative comfrey “tea” maker in England. It was a six inch diameter PVC tube with a small faucet screwed into bottom with a heavy metal cap to settle and compress the rotting comfrey. The comfrey solution can last for several months if kept in dark, cool place. But why not just use it fresh in the garden?

There is wide range of ideas as to the NPK content of the leaf. One account rates the leaves a proportion of 1.8-0.5-5.3. This is compared to kelp meal with a NPK ratio of 1.0-0.5-2.5. Some say after forming the slurry the NPK can increase to 8-2.6-20. Quite a range. Dilute the slurry ten to 20 times with water. Now the NPK can be as high as a NPK of 0.5-0.4-3.8. - a high amount of soluble potash for enhanced flower and fruit.

This is the original “compost tea”. And it’s virtually free.

Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

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