Thursday, 17 May 2012

Are we sitting comfrey?

Thursday 17th May 2012

The bees love it. The veg plants love it. I love it.

Comfrey grows at an astonishing rate and tolerates being cut right back four of five times a year. This gives a huge yield of greenery from the comfrey bed.

OK, I hear you say, but what do you do with it? Eat it?

The value of comfrey lies in its deep roots which are incredibly efficient at tapping into nutrients. It can be simply added to the compost heap or used as a mulch, or the leaves can be steeped in a barrel or bath of water to give a very good plant feed.

But I plan to produce something much more potent. So, for this purpose, today I cannibalised a broken old pallet and built my Comfrey and Nettle Juice Extraction Unit.
Into the bin go chopped up leaves, weighed down (and covered when I make a more suitable weight) and at some point a thick, smelly black sludge will start to drip out of the bottom into waiting bucket. This is plant feed liquid gold and a little bit goes a very long way.

Until now I had forgotten, too, that the wilted leaves can be fed to chickens. I must try that very soon.

Only half of my comfrey bed would fit into the plastic bin, so I have left the rest and as yet there is no room for nettles in there either. I will hopefully get into a routine of topping it up every week. Meanwhile I will let some of the comfrey flower for the bees and the nettles, as long as they're growing in the right places, provide a wonderful home for all sorts of beneficial insects. I won't let all the comfrey flower, as I believe that flowering takes up a lot of energy which would otherwise be put into the leaves.

And before anybody points out that comfrey can all too easily turn into a most unwelcome and ubiquitous weed, I purchased Russian Comfrey Bocking 14 variety, available from the Organic Gardening Catalogue. This was developed in the 1950s by Lawrence D Hills, a leading early figure in the organic gardening movement. Bocking 14 is sterile, so can only be spread by root division. This I will be doing next year, as I want to have little patches of this wonderplant all around the veg patch and fruit area.

And a big patch near the chickens too, so that I don't forget to include it in their feed.

Meanwhile the asparagus shoots reach for the skies.
So tempting just to eat a few, but not this year.

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