Thursday, 29 August 2013

My Comfrey Tea Method

Lately I've been chatting about comfrey tea with fellow gardeners so much that I thought it was time to share.

I started using comfrey leaves and making my tea purely by what made sense to me and I later started to research methods after the event and mine is slightly different to the main recipe on the internet which seems to me to be shove about a whole comfrey plant worth of leaves in a bucket, weigh down with a brick and add water.  Wait for 4 weeks.  Then dilute 1 part to 9 parts in your watering can.  Add feed to plants that need lots of potash and nitrogen.

However, as usual, I didn't research the method at all before starting.  I had my bucket and I added a generous handful of comfrey leaves and filled the bucket.  I waited about a week or so and the top of the water in the bucket was looking a little metallic, presumably from the nutrients from the leaves.  I started using a cheeky bit from the bucket at this early stage.  The water was clear but it seemed to be having an effect with only this small amount of time.  Mark Ridsdill Smith was right - its strong stuff!

Each week, I added a generous handful of leaves and the solution got stronger and stronger as the weeks progressed.

I now have the habit of feeding the whole garden with 1 part comfrey tea and 9 parts water in my watering can.  I then add a big handful of comfrey leaves and add water (rain water if I have it available).  Let it stew for a week and then use it to feed the garden again.

It's really strong stuff and I'm starting to see some really gutsy plants - especially rhubarb which has done a summer sprout of new leaf and the pumpkins.

Please be warned that some people find the smell a bit repulsive.  It doesn't bother me all that much but when it's really ripe and full of nutrients, it smells a bit like something's died in it.  A good location to keep your bucket is the far end of the garden (as far away from your house as possible).  When I feed the plants, I never notice the smell near the plants.

Comfrey contains potash which is great for your flowering plants, fruiting plants and it also has nitrogen too for your leafy vegetables, so I pretty much give it to everything.

I grow comfrey in the garden but I prefer to use foraged comfrey leaves as I believe the plants in the wild have found a place with their favourite nutrients and these might not necessarily be in such large supply in my garden's soil. However, it's great having a backup source in the garden just in case I forget to go foraging on the way home from work.

I'm now considering making tea out of those tough perrenial weeds that you don't want to add to your compost.

How do you make yours?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Growing chillies in the bathroom

OK so the title to this post might strike you as slightly odd which is understandable.

Its not the first place you think of to grow food so the bathroom may seem a little unusual as a food growing location.  Back in March, when I was trying to work out where to grow my chillies, I thought I would give it a go.

In years gone by I've grown chillies in the plastic greenhouse on our patio which works a treat.  Place chillies in plastic green house, water chillies and zip it up.  You'll come back the next day to see condensation throughout - but I've always found that the chillies enjoy the humidity and don't need watering too often to maintain it.  So that was my previous tried and tested method.  But this year the plastic had holes so I had to think of something else.

I needed a Plan B...  Next best thing I came up with was the windowsill in my bathroom.  The way the room is arranged is that the windowsill is smack bang next to the shower.  Usually we have two showers a day in my household and this hot and steamy environment has been working a treat for the chillies.  They've been cropping all the way to their ripe red selves from May onwards this year.  The first to ripen was an F1 cayenne pepper (I usually don't do F1 varieties preferring open pollinated varieties as you can save the seed from these - but these were free!), followed by pretty in purple (from Real Seeds), Bulgarian carrot and Numex chilli.  Pretty in purple have been the most prolific this year.

What we've really been pleased about with this method was how early in the season they started to crop.  Usually I haven't managed to get them to crop before August (not to their fully ripened colour).  What strikes me is that the bathroom being a typical run of the mill bathroom and not a purpose built chilli hot house has frosted glass.  It only lets in so much sunshine.  But they are cropping beautifully despite that.  I believe that they need heat and humidity more that sunshine but sunshine obviously helps.  If we've had a good sunny day, all the chillies use up all the water in their soil and are bone dry at the end of the day, if it's cloudy the soil in their pots remains moist.

And as the temperature in our bathroom is roughly between 20 - 25 degrees C I'm hoping that we will be getting chillies well into the autumn months - now that will make my new hubby Matt very happy indeed ... bring on the curry recipes!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

My blogging absence and my wedding

It's been a while since I last blogged and the reason was I was getting married.

What a lot of work and time it takes to organise.  I had to really take myself off from my usual volunteer commitments.

When I say organise... I made a lot of things for this wedding: my dress (hard work to turn around within 6 months), my bridesmaid made her own dress, the bunting for the venue decorations, presents for the flower girls, the invitations...  So on top of the usual wedding preparations there was a lot of additional.  If you are thinking of making a wedding dress - this is a huge amount of work.  It will make you exhausted for the number of hours you put in and it is not far off blood, sweat and tears.  I think I should add that this was the first dress I've ever made so there was added pressure of steep learning curves, mastering easing and a whole host of other things.  However, walking up the aisle in a dress that you've made really is priceless and well worth all that effort - I felt so proud of all our hard work.

My garden really missed me and I missed gardening but there was a gardening element to the wedding of course... My friend Tim Watts kindly gave me a wedding present before the event - my bouquet, button holes for family, ushers, bridesmaid and mini bouquets for our two lovely flower girls (they're both nearly 2 years old).   He put me in touch with the wonderful florist Jenny John Flowers.  The brief I gave her was cottage garden - no big show piece flowers - really natural feel with umbells if possible and lots of little different flowers.  We picked the flowers 2 days before the wedding in Urban Veg (where I volunteer) - big thank you to Clare Savage.  What Jenny came up with on the day was so beautiful I couldn't have been happier.  She even managed to include a californian poppy - these grew in Grandpa's garden and I love them.  This was not easy as they are so delicate and have such a short flowering length.  I also had several herbs in there: mint, fennel, lavender and I'm sure there was much more besides.  Big thank you to Jenny John for putting together such beautiful bouquets.

PS.  I had help with the dress from 2 lovely friends: Janet Astle and Dawn Foster-Denham.

If you want a peak at some photos our photographer blogged about our day