Nettle, comfrey tea, organic food for free

Kitty Scully stops for a relaxing tea and creates an organic lawn fertiliser.

No more than our good selves, plants need a little pick me up every now and again. Why buy liquid fertilisers when you can grow and make your own organic fertilisers for free?

There are a plethora of ways to nourish, condition and improve both garden soil and soil contained in planters.

Incorporating compost, seaweed dust and well rotted manure releases nutrients slowly allowing the plant to avail of the nutrients as they need them.

However, liquid feeds are taken up immediately by the plant thus giving an instant boost to your veggies during the growing season. Liquid feeds are super easy to make and the most common ones are nettles, comfrey and seaweed.

Nettles grow wild and are the perfect tonic for nitrogen-loving leafy greens. Comfrey also grows wild and can be cultivated with minimum effort and is ideal for potassium loving fruit bearing plants

Nettle Tea/Feed

Step 1: Collect 1kg of nettle leaves (use gloves when picking them) .

Step 2: Put the nettle leaves in a hessian sack or any bag made from a porous material — an old potato sack is perfect for the job. If you put leaves straight into the water you will end up with with a highly unpleasant slime which will eventually end up clinging to your plants.

Step 3: Put the sack in a bin or bucket and add 20 litres of water. It will be absolutely stinking after a few weeks so it’s vital to use a tight fitting lid. Otherwise the neighbours will be talking!

Step 4: Wait about a month (or more if you can).

This tea is strong and therefore needs to be diluted before using. The rule of thumb is to use 10 parts water to one part nettle liquid. Draw off small amounts into the watering can and then fill it up with water so that your mix is the colour of weak tea.

All plants that are in need of a boost will appreciate a sup, but it’s particularly effective on those leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, chard, spinach, etc.

Comfrey Tea

It sounds like something that you would drink yourself when you are in need of comforting but in fact it’s a cold, putrid smelly liquid that stinks to high heaven BUT your veggie plants will absolutely love it. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a fast-growing, hardy, deep-rooting wonder herb that was traditionally grown for its virtue in wound healing.

These days organic gardeners grow it specifically so that they can harvest its leaves to use as a fertiliser, mulch or to add to compost heaps.

Due to its deep roots it acts a dynamic accumulator, harnessing nutrients from the soil and making them available through its leaves.

Bees love comfrey too, so no organic veggie garden should be without a patch but be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting as leaves and stems are covered in hairs that can act as a skin irritant.

It’s a cinch to grow and be warned, it’s more of a question of how to stop it growing than how to grow it. It is invasive so put it somewhere contained and in an unused part of the garden.

It will do well in most soils even under trees. Bocking 14 (Russian Comfrey) is the variety that is recommended to grow for liquid feed purposes.

This can be hard enough to find but make sure to ask in your local garden centre if you cannot locate a gardening friend that can give you a root cutting.

Comfrey leaves can be harvested from the plant three to four times a year and used to make a dynamite fertiliser which is rich in potash and therefore excellent for fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, courgettes, squashes etc.

The exact same process applies as with nettle tea but quantities are slightly different — 500g of leaves to approx 15 litres of water.

Be warned that both these feeds are concentrated and must be diluted and they are highly smelly so I wouldn’t recommend using them on indoor plants, especially before a dinner party! If you live on the coast, the same process can be applied to seaweed, simply replace the nettles with seaweed.

You can also make manure, compost, equisetum (horsetail) and dock tea by following the same steps.

It is not recommended to use feeds on young seedlings as you do not want to push plants too fast but once they get established, they will benefit from a liquid feed every 10 to 14 days.


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