Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Home-made organic fertiliser

Nettle fertiliser brewing
When you have as many plants as we do, you simply have to make your own fertiliser. It would be astronomically expensive to keep everything fed otherwise, especially hungry plants such as tomatoes, peppers and squashes.

Making nutrient-rich 'tea' for your plants is simple: Stuff a water barrel full of comfrey leaves, nettles or seaweed, fill with water and leave to infuse for a month or so. You'll be able to smell when it's ready - it's very fertilisery! This fertiliser is very concentrated - to use it, dilute it 1:10 with water. One full barrel lasts a long time.

Comfrey tea on tap
It's a good idea to either line the barrel with an old sheet or have a removable lid so that you can easily remove the broken-down plant debris once you've used up the liquid. This leftover material is good for the compost. Comfrey in particular makes a great compost accelerator; any leftover fresh leaves can also be used to enrich the compost or as mulch.

Time to harvest the comfrey
After initially using up our many nettles to make fertiliser, we have now switched to using comfrey. Nettle makes a nitrogen-rich fertiliser, but comfrey, with its extremely long tap roots, delivers a more balanced mixture. Comfrey has the additional advantage that it produces biomass at an incredible rate and you can harvest it several times a year.

Another indispensable fertiliser for the garden is well-rotted manure. Try to find a free source from a local farmer or stables. If it's fresh you'll need to let it mature as fresh manure can actually take nutrients from the soil rather than add them. We use it in all our container-grown plants (tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers, chillies, peppers, okra, melons) at the bottom of the pots underneath the compost as well as dig it into some of the beds (but not the onion, garlic or leek beds!).

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