Creating a Life of Plenty

Gardening Self Sufficiency: Make your own liquid fertilizer


Comfrey Tea Composit

There is no end to the organic and non organic liquid fertilizers on the market today.  They come in varying nutrient amounts and in a multitude of containers.  They are also terribly expensive.  You can grow and make your own liquid fertilizer from a beautiful and abundant plant, Comfrey!

Just in time for the flowering of tomatoes, peppers and squashes comfrey matures enough to be harvested to make manure tea.  It couldn’t be easier and to be honest, it couldn’t be smelly-er!

Comfrey tea is rich in nitrogen and potassium; it is a nutritious side-dressing for fruiting vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and berries use nitrogen to support leaf growth and potassium to promote flowers and fruit. The nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio of dried comfrey leaves is 1.8-0.5-5.3; comfrey also contains calcium. Comfrey leaves are storehouses for nutrients brought up by the plants fantastic root structure, making them perfect for brewing the leaves to extract all those nutrients for use in the garden.

Comfrey is a perennial herb that is easily grown in average soil; it will thrive in sun or partial shade. Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is the best choice but there are other comfrey varieties that will work, I like the look and compact growing habit of Dwarf white comfrey. Plant comfrey in spring or autumn and let the plant become established before harvesting leaves for tea making the following year. Space comfrey plants at least 30 inches apart; mature plants will grow to about 2 feet tall from a basal leaf cluster. Leaves are best harvested just as flower stalks rise. Comfrey can be invasive; it is best to grow comfrey where it can remain undisturbed for as long as 20 years.   (a comfrey corner of the garden).

• Harvest comfrey leaves from established plants (at least one year old); wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants and shoes: comfrey leaves can irritate the skin. From an established plant you can get 3 or 4 cut-and-come-again harvests each year.

• Use a bucket or other container to make comfrey tea. We bought a beverage dispenser from a local restaurant supply store.  Place stones or gravel up to the spigot on the inside to prevent leaves from clogging the container.  Fill the container about half to three-quarters full of comfrey leaves. Place a wooden block or brick on top of the leaves to press them down. Fill the container with water and place a lid on top.

• Comfrey leaves are quick to rot. The water will turn into a dark, foul-smelling manure tea in about 20 days and will brew darker and darker if left for as long as 6 weeks. The lid will keep flies out.

• Draw the tea from the container and dilute it by at least 50 percent; some gardeners dilute comfrey tea by 10 times before side-dressing plants. If you put a tap at the bottom of the container, you can add leaves and water to the top to keep new tea brewing for months.

• Apply comfrey tea as a side-dressing or foliar spray; comfrey tea is potent so a little will go a long way. Use comfrey tea as a side dressing every 10 to 14 days from flower set through the development of fruits. If you choose to use it as a spray for folliage, quit applying comfrey tea at least a month before harvest. Comfrey tea diluted is an excellent fertilizer for container vegetables.  An added benefit of using comfrey tea as a foliar spray is that it may help to slow the growth of powdery mildew spores on plant leaves.

If you already have comfrey growing in your garden, you have a free source of nutrient rich leaves to brew a fantastic fertilizer.  The mucky leaves can also be composted after brewing your tea or can be applied as a mulch around plants.

Happy Gardening!

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