Monday, 20 March 2017

A New Comfrey Bed

18th March 2017
Re-reading the works of Lawrence D Hills (founder of the UK organic movement) has inspired me to make better use of my comfrey plants.
My established comfrey plants are coming up fast.

Half a comfrey plant will make many more.
They are of the variety Russian Bocking 14, which importantly does not self-seed all over the place. Instead you multiply it by dividing the rootstock. This is the time of year to perform this operation, just as the leaves of established plants are poking their heads up into the spring air.

It is achieved by simply plunging a spade into an existing plant. The considerable rootstock is surprisingly juicy and crisp. I like to leave at least half of the old plant in its place, but the other half can be subdivided into a dozen new plants easily. In theory, each small part of root will become a new plant, but I like to use a part of root which is throwing up new leaves. I think this may be the difference between a root cutting and an offset, though I may be wrong! Anyway, you can't really go wrong with comfrey.

I guess the only thing would be to establish a bed where you don't want it to be in a few years time, for the depth of the roots and the ease with which they grow into new plants when chopped up means that getting it out of the ground is almost impossible (repeated doses of weedkiller would have to be the solution I guess)

Today I used three of my established plants to create a new bed of 50 plants! The parent plants will be back to their best very quickly and by next year the young plants will have caught up with them.

Why do I need this much comfrey? Mainly as a natural fertiliser and as a compost component. Comfrey has extraordinarily deep roots which bring nutrients from way down. The leaves can be cut half a dozen times a year and if you let it flower it is much appreciated by the bees. I have planted a few in odd corners which I allow to flower, but the main beds I try to keep on top of cutting.

Comfrey leaves can be put straight into the ground under transplanted seedlings or laid on top as a mulch. They can be added to the compost heap or steeped in water to make a tomato feed soup. If I can grow enough, I intend to feed it to the chickens too as a once a week treat.

It took me most of the morning to create my new bed (much of which was taken up extracting dock roots and creeping thistle from the new site) which is down in the spare veg patch, next to the compost bins there.

While we are on the subject of compost, I now have a new source of horse manure. Next door have a fancy poo hoover and today I took delivery of my first poo, all nicely chopped up. It will be a fantastic addition to the compost bins, adding goodness and considerably speeding up the rate at which they turn garden rubbish into black gold.

Much of last year's mature compost went onto the veg beds at the beginning of winter. More specifically it went onto the beds where this year I will grow potatoes. It has been rotting down and being incorporated into the soil by the worms.
Today I took Mr Rotavator onto those beds and managed to turn them. Mr Rotavator has been a bit poorly of late. His engine has been running far too fast and threatening to explode! I have poked around a little bit and today he seemed to run fine which was a relief as now is not a good time for him to throw a sickie!
New potatoes and rows of turnip seedlings
doing well in the polytunnel
Double protection for the carrot seedlings
I was hoping to get my early spuds into the ground, but the heavens opened and drove me into the polytunnel. In there the extra early potatoes have already reached the surface. We should have scrummy new potatoes just as last year's stored tubers have run their course.
I sowed a new row of turnips too and resowed the carrots. For the second year in a row they seemed to disappear as soon as they germinated. I have taken the precaution of cloching the new ones in case it is too cold for the seedlings at night time. I have scattered some organic slug pellets in there too to cover that option.

The rain never stopped for the rest of the day. I did all the work I could think of to do in the tunnel and then retreated indoors.

The evening was spent at a Race Night (lots of gambling, drinking and eating, all in moderation of course) to raise money for Sue's school. They raised over £1000 which is not bad for a small village school. The money will be used to pay for the children to go to the pantomime later in the year. I reckon it should be Jack and The Beanstalk or Mother Goose.

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